Janet Clarke (1936 - 2021)
Janet Clarke, who has died aged 85, was a much-loved Micheldever resident and respected horsewoman.
She was brought up in Worthing, the youngest of three girls, and it was riding ponies on the sands of Worthing beach which sparked her love of horses. Leaving school at 16 she studied for the British Horse Society qualification. Later, she worked all over the country and in Ireland at the yards of various professional event riders and racehorse trainers.
Janet’s successful career took her to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, as groom for the Irish team, and to the Munich Olympics in 1972, as groom to the Australian team.
During the 1950s she worked for the famous event rider, Captain John Shedden, who was the winner of the first Badminton Horse Trials in 1949. She was fortunate to be able to compete on his horses and had numerous photographs which were testament to her show-jumping and cross-country riding skills.
She recalled competing in a one-day event alongside the professional event rider Anneli Drummond-Hay, the winner of the first Burghley Horse Trials in 1961 and multiple winner of Badminton. On that particular day, Janet’s horse fell at the water jump, and Janet got a soaking. However, she didn’t feel quite so bad when she later heard that Anneli Drummond-Hay had also fallen at the same fence!
She was a brave and fearless rider, competing in eventing, dressage, show-jumping, cross-country and showing and had won many cups and trophies.
She hunted with the Hampshire Hunt for many years and is remembered not only for her excellent horsemanship, but also her kindness and helpfulness, particularly to new members of the hunt. “She was a lovely lady who made a friend of everyone who knew her,” said a spokesman for the hunt.
It was her job as a groom to the Rowsell family at West Stoke Farm in the 1970s which brought her to live at Waterloo Cottages in Micheldever. Early one morning, whilst still in her nightdress and dressing gown, she went out to feed her horse. She heard someone laughing and turned to see a local farmer sitting on his tractor over the fence laughing at her. When she asked him why, he said he'd never seen anyone tending their animals in a nightie before! And that is how she met Tom, whom she later married in 1978.
As well as riding horses she also bred several of her own, including her last horse, Crumpet….or Crumps, as she was affectionately known, a magnificent 16+ hand grey. Until recently Janet was regularly seen riding Crumps around Micheldever.
There was very little that Janet didn’t know about horses and she was always generous with her advice to others about all things equine.
Janet had many friends and she loved to stop and chat while out walking her Jack Russell, Tolly. About 12 years ago, when Janet was mourning the loss of her previous dog, an abandoned dog was found in Micheldever. He was found by Andrew Tollyfield, hence the name “Tolly” and was taken in by Janet. Tolly was a somewhat “feisty” dog, as no doubt Les the village postman would confirm, but he was also very loving and affectionate and Janet absolutely doted on him.
She had recently started to become a little forgetful and occasionally she lost her false teeth, insisting that Tolly had eaten them! It was suggested to her that while dogs might chew plastic things, they rarely swallow them. “Oh no”, Janet insisted “He’s eaten them before!” A few days later she found them under her car seat. Why she had taken her teeth out in the car, no one ever knew.
She enjoyed being a Judge at the Micheldever fete dog show but was, perhaps, not the most impartial of judges. In one of the categories were two beautifully presented whippets wearing ribbons round their necks, surely deserving of a prize. But Janet was not persuaded. “I don’t like whippets”, she muttered and moved on to the next dog.
Janet was well known for her sense of humour, warmth, kindness, independence, and, just occasionally, her stubbornness!
She will be remembered by many with love, fondness and a smile.