St Margaret’s has a fine history in equestrian going back to the early days when students rode their horses to and from school.
St Margaret’s School is steeped in equestrian history which closely follows the establishment of the school at its current site in Berwick in 1930. In 1931, Lord and Lady Somers visited Berwick and were escorted by 22 girls on their horses up the driveway of the school. It was then that Lady Somers suggested that the girls form a mounted Guide Company similar to that in Canada. In 1931, St Margaret’s registered the first Australian mounted Guide Company.
At this time, the girls who boarded at St Margaret’s owned horses, and the day girls rode to school up until the 1960’s. During the 30’s and 40’s, St Margaret’s School owned a horse, ‘Brownie’ and a cart which was named ‘Sprit of Progress’. In the early 1950’s, St Margaret’s School principle Elizabeth Woodyatt, asked Beth Sewell, Sports mistress, to form a pony club – ‘St Margaret’s Pony Club’. The club was open to not only St Margaret’s Students, but to all those in the Berwick area and was such a success that the club ceased to operate as a school activity and became the Berwick Pony Club. The St Margaret’s School students always participated in the local show.
Since the late 90’s, the Interschool Equestrian program across Victoria and has grown immensely, and St Margaret’s School students have participated in these competitions as talented and well-rounded horsewomen. An annual Victorian Interschool Equestrian event conducted by the Victorian Equestrian Centre in Upper Beaconsfield saw multiple teams from St Margaret’s involved each year and achieve great success, including champions on several occasions and runners up several times. The popularity of such team events was recognised and many more opportunities to compete came about, including the Interschool Horse trials conducted by Tintern for the first time in 2001, of which St Margaret’s has been successful on an individual level and placed well in the team’s event.
2000 saw the Olympics come to Australia and with that came the Olympic torch relay through Berwick the home of Edwin Flack. St Margaret’s were asked to be involved and with their rich history of Equestrian and Berwick being known as the area with the highest population of horses per capita, the school came up with a unique idea. Two of our riders escorted the flame up the main street all the way to Berwick Secondary College where it was then given a guard of honour by the remaining members of our team. All mounted on horseback in the school equestrian uniform. Wonderful memories for all that were involved for the day as well as a logistical effort only horse people could pull off!
The Victorian Interschool State Championships is conducted by Equestrian Victoria and held at the National Equestrian Centre in Werribee with over 1000 entrants each year. St Margaret’s has won this competition and placed on several occasions. The first Interschool National Championships was to be held in 2007, with two students selected to compete in Queensland, however the event was cancelled due to the Equine Flu breakout. The event has been running every year since 2008. Last year St Margaret’s had 7 riders selected for the Victorian state team and Genevieve Green captained them to Victory at the National championships held at the NEC Werribee.
St Margaret’s has conducted its own Interschool event for many years. It has evolved over time from a Gymkhana, a horse Show to what is today our Annual St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar Showjumping Championship, a highlight for not only our school riders but many from the surrounding schools.
The outstanding success the riders of St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar have achieved over the years would not have been possible if not for the tireless efforts of the families that work with the school to support these riders in their passion, dreams and love of Horses.