My brother, sister and I were the third generation of my family to live at Crabbet Park.
We lived in a Sussex style cottage at Caxtons on the estate, where my father was Stallion Man for Lady Wentworth.
Our lives were ordered by the changing seasons and the care of the Arab stallions. In spring we would pick snowdrops which flowered in Caxtons House garden. In the woods and paddocks we would pick bunches of lent lilies, primroses, bluebells and cowslips, always taking bunches for our granny and great aunts.
In autumn we would pick blackberries, hazelnuts and chestnuts from the woods, always accompanied in the paddocks by curious mares and foals as to what we were doing, we had no fear of them or them of us.
I can remember one early morning, going to see the yearling colts in a meadow near our cottage, they looked to me so comfortably asleep on the ground, I could not resist climbing the fence and walking over to them and laying down amongst them with my arms around a colts neck. This very pleasant time was interrupted by the Stud Manager shouting at me, to come out of the field and I had brisk telling off about the dangers of frisky colts. My parents were duly warned that I was forbidden to enter the colts’ paddocks.
Another time when my parents were not at home my sister and I were called urgently by our Uncle Rodney that a gate had been left open in the paddocks and Indian Magic was on his way into the next paddock where Indian Gold was already becoming agitated and would fight, we must catch Indian Magic and lead him away and shut the offending gate.
I was aged nine years and my sister was six at the time, I had up to then, never put a head collar on a stallion on my own, luckily for us Indian Magic was a quiet and steady horse and knew me and my sister very well. He stopped when I called him and stood for me to pull his head down far enough to slip on the head collar and buckle it up. In the meantime the other stallion who was very excitable and fiery was racing up and down his side of the fence roaring challenges. My uncle waited away from the paddocks as he feared that the horses would take against him as he was a stranger to them both but he could still see us.
We led Indian Magic away to safety, shut the gate and left him to munch grass. I shook like a leaf afterwards when telling my mum and dad.
We went with my dad and mum to all the major Horse Shows, where our Crabbet Arabian horses won first prizes and the breed championships, very proud we were too of them and our dad`s hard work in preparing the horses for the shows and the appreciation of Lady Wentworth.
(Stella Berrisford, nee Stace)
Find out more about Crabbet Park in Liz Archer’s articles
Thanks to Stella Berrisford for the use of the photographs.