There was a surprise for Pony Club stalwart Beryl Millam when she was presented with its ‘Daks unsung hero’ award at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
Her career has ranged from caring for Grand National legend Aldaniti to a lifetime teaching children and after the presentation she told the Observer she wouldn’t change a thing: “I have met so many people and been to so many places. The children have been a great part of my life over many years and I love teaching them - just to see a big grin on their faces when they achieve something is a reward in itself.”
Beryl, who now lives in Billingshurst, came to West Sussex in her late teens and has been involved in Pony Club ever since.
She helped with the training of the Chiddingfold Branch Mounted Games team that qualified for one of the first Prince Philip Cup Championships at Horse of the Year Show and has been training the teams ever since.
In the late 1960s she went to work for the Embiricos family at Barkfold in Kirdford, where they ran a National Hunt stud. She also helped with the childrens’ ponies and horses and, through this, became involved with the Lord Leconfield Pony Club branch.
Mr and Mrs Embiricos owned Aldaniti who, in 1981, won the Grand National ridden by Bob Champion.
Everyone knows the story of Bob recovering from cancer and Aldaniti from a serious leg injury. But it was Beryl as head groom, who looked after the horse during his long convalescence before returning to be trained for the National. When the story was turned into the film ‘Champions’ Beryl worked with producers to perfect it.
In 1987 Aldaniti was ridden over five weeks for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust from Buckingham Palace to the Grand National at Aintree with Beryl escorting Aldaniti throughout. She has helped to raise over £935,000 for the Trust.
Her citation read: “The many events Aldaniti attended would have been unthinkable without Beryl. She was always a great team member and a joy to work with, a heart of gold. She has a wonderful rapport with children. Their parents have a high standard of tack and turnout, having learnt themselves,the ’Beryl way’.”
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