South Western Dressage Club (SWDG) is a BHS-affiliated riding club covering Sherborne, Yeovil, Gillingham, Shaftsbury, Blandford and Wimborne, Westbury, South Somerset and West Dorset, stretching right down to the Dorset Coast and the Devon Border. We hold competitive events, guided hacks, demos, flatwork and jumping tuition plus specialist clinics.
SWDG Teams and individual members have been successful at Area Championships and at national level, winning or being placed in the National Riding Club Championships for Horse Trials and the Festival of the Horse Challenge during 2019.
SWDG was founded in the 1949 and was centred initially in the Blandford area. As it grew the club expanded its activities offering instruction and competition in all the riding disciplines. Access to the facilities of Wylye, and other venues, played a large part in the early careers of past club members who have gone on to great success in the eventing and dressage worlds, including Olympic teams.
SWDG stands for South Western Dressage Group and has come far from its original focus on dressage to encompass a wide range of equestrian disciplines.
This year (2019) South Western Dressage Group (SWDG) celebrate our 70th anniversary. Speaking to one of our oldest members, Jane Hodgkinson, she reminisced about what Riding Club life was like back in the late fifties and sixties. She said “In those days, very few people had their own horse transport, and those who did, gave lifts to others. Most competitions were held at the Crown Meadows in Blandford – everything on grass. There were no juniors in those days – if you were under 21 you joined the Pony Club. I thoroughly enjoyed my active years with the Riding Club, and I spent many years as Treasurer – we had such fun and I have made many friends.”
Over the years, SWDG have had success in qualifying for many Championships including the International Riding Clubs Championship which took place in Ireland in 2002. One of our team members, Lucy Pinney was overall winner and said that they all had the most amazing time. We have also had a rider included in the 2* Rural Riders competition as well as winning the Juniors Novice Dressage to Music Championships. We are still keen to field teams both Juniors and Seniors, but equally like to encourage those who don’t want to compete and most importantly, encourage long lasting friendships.
Over the years SWDG has considered changing its name to encourage more people to join who aren’t necessarily pure dressage enthusiasts! But we remain SWDG! We have several original cups, and these are treasured by the Club – not least because of some of the names of previous winners! These include the former Olympic eventing gold medallist, Mary Gordon-Watson riding Cornishman no less! Other Olympians who started out with SWDG – Diana Mason and Lorna Johnstone -represented GB in dressage. Amazing to think we have had riders of such calibre starting out at Riding Club level – an inspiration to us all!