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Part 1 1946 - 1949
(Change in direction - Horse Of the Year Show)

To those lucky enough to have experienced the magic of Porlock it is a place that will never be forgotten. For many others it is a name with significant meaning.
In the year 2001 there are still many people in the Equestrian world who, if not lucky enough to have been there, have either been taught by someone who was at Porlock, or even taught by someone who was taught by someone who trained at Porlock!

Porlock Vale Riding Schools history started with a family business. This business, whose founder was Veterinary-Major J.A. Collings J. P, started in Exeter as a livery and harness horse company. This gentleman was one of the most famous Job Masters in the country in the early 19th century, providing perfectly matched, high stepping carriage horses.
In 1910, two sons of the old Major began to turn their attention to the hunter trade. In 1919, when coach horses began to be overtaken in popularity by the motor car, Mr J. C. Collings went to Porlock. Here he opened 8 stable yards throughout the village and surrounding area. These stables enabled visitors to the West Country to hire horses to hunt with the Devon & Somerset Staghounds, the Quantock Staghounds, the Exmoor Foxhounds, the Dulverton East and West Foxhounds, and other local foxhounds.

It was quite usual for the Collings firm to turn out at least one hundred hired horses a day to hunt with these packs, from stables scattered about the Exmoor area. During this time the foundations for what was to become Porlock Vale Riding School were laid.

The Collings family lived originally at Bridge House in the centre of Porlock and later moved to Hill House at both these houses several residential pupils were accomodated. At the beginning of the war in 1939 the Collings family were living at Hill House. The family income, which was derived entirely from the Riding School and the hiring out of horses for hacking and hunting, virtually disappeared.

The outbreak of war left Joe Collings with approximately 100 quality horses and ponies that he was no longer able to feed and maintain. Throughout this period Joe Collings maintained his quiet good humour and cheerfulness.

As soon as the war was over Joseph Anthony (Tony) Collings, Joe's son, came back to Porlock from the Somerset Light Infantry and took over. Captain Tony Collings who was a versatile and accumplished rider and a true judge of horses was well known, particularly before the war, as a follower of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and had won several point-to-points. On one particular horse, Grey Sky, he won 17 races, two of them on the same day.

Tony was also well known in the showing world for the number of awards that he won in the show ring and showjumping arena, more often than not with horses that he had broken and schooled himself. Tony made his first appearance in the show ring in 1922 at the age of 11 when he rode Mr. Putney's pony Beauty to second place in his class and third in the championship.

After leaving school at the age of 17 Tony took up Polo playing his debut game on the Polo grounds at Dunster Castle. At the end of the season he was given a handycap of 1 and became the youngest player on the Hurlingham list with this handycap.

Before Tony took up the challenge of Porlock Vale Riding School he was to learn a great deal more about horse management and riding school work from Col. Jack Hance.

(C) Jacqueline Peck 2000

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