Celebrating horse riding in the Surrey Hills

23rd April 2018

The sun shone and the riders flocked to the picturesque church on the hill last weekend to take part in a special and unique event. Horseman’s Sunday was the occasion which saw horses and riders set off from destinations across the Surrey Hills to congregate at St Martha’s church, at the very top of St Martha’s Hill for a special equestrian service and opportunity for horses to be blessed and receive a commemorative rosette.

This historical service hasn’t been performed in Surrey since 2008 when it took place on Epsom Downs but was sadly cancelled from then on due to dwindling numbers. The Hyde Park Horseman’s Sunday event has been going strong since 1967 and attracts ever increasing crowds.

Around 35 horses descended on St Martha’s and congregated along the North wall where a crowd of spectators watched on in amazement. Reverend Stephanie Sokolowski of St Martha’s Church who conducted the service Comments;

“What a wonderful event this was. It was a delight to see so many horses and riders making the effort to climb up to the top of the hill and attend the service. I would love to see this event happen annually. It was an honour to bring the equestrian community together and to celebrate these beautiful animals”.

The event was co-ordinated by the Surrey Hills Board as part of their events programme to celebrate 60 years of the Surrey Hills being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Rob Fairbanks, Surrey Hills Board AONB Director comments; “This event was a great way to celebrate all recreational users of the Surrey Hills, walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders. We understand that Horseman’s Sunday events used to take place in the Surrey Hills in the past and many of the riders here today attended these events but sadly they no longer happen. It seemed the perfect opportunity in 2018 when we celebrate 60 years since the Surrey Hills was officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to resurrect this event.”

One of the rider’s Kathy, who attended, comments: “I would just like to say a big thank you for organising the event at St Martha’s Church today. It felt really special to be part of it and it was a memory that I will treasure. Many thanks to all involved in organising and running it.”

The Surrey Hills Board work closely with horse riders through their Equestrian working group which helps to promote, manage and enhance horse riding opportunities in the Surrey Hills. The group work actively to help clear and improve bridleways as well as deal with issues such as parking for horse boxes, raise awareness of horse safety and liaise with other users such as walkers and cyclists to encourage safe access for all across popular routes.