GOODNIGHT TO A REMARKABLE EQUESTRIAN ENTREPRENEUR

1664

A tack shop was part of business empire.

Jill Carenza, who has died aged 72 after a short illness, ran one of the biggest and busiest equine businesses in the country. 

She began it more than 60 years ago and was still teaching at Cotswold Riding every day until her final illness. 

Jill also initiated Carenza Clobber, the family run clothes and tack shop based at Stanton near Broadway in Gloucestershire. 

She was born Jill Sadler at Papermill Farm, Stanway, Gloucestershire, the youngest of four children and started riding almost as soon as she could walk. 

A consummate horsewoman, Jill Carenza excelled in every equestrian discipline including side-saddle.

She rode her pony to school from the age of five, by which time her mother – who was related to the legendary jockey Fred Archer - had died and she was brought up by her father and stepmother.

Her sister Ann had by then started giving riding lessons to local children and when she married, she asked her little sister, aged just 11, if she would take over. 

Jill jumped at the chance, and so began her long relationship not just with horses, but with business.  It was a matter of pride to her that she opened a bank account and had her first cheque book at such a young age. She continued to use cheques even in the era of internet banking. 

“Never turn away a client”

One of the lessons she learnt early was when a client rang up and asked if she could book a pony. But the teenage Jill was planning to go out with friends, so turned them down. 

Her father overheard the conversation and, when the call was over, he admonished Jill and told her to ring them back. “Never turn away a client,” he told her. And she never again did. 

There was the belief among those who knew her that you could call Jill at any time on any day and ask for a lesson, and she would be there.

Jill married at 19 and became a mother at 20. After a brief break to set up a pig and fruit farm, in 1975 she moved under her married name Gabb to The Vine in Stanton, where she lived for the rest of her life. 

She created a yard behind the large old house and began to provide bed and breakfast as part of her growing empire.

Riders from across the world

Her reputation grew fast not only locally and throughout this country but internationally. People came from all over the world to have lessons or go out on a hack through the beautiful Cotswold countryside on her wide range of horses which were suited to riders from very experienced to novices. 

Inevitably, as her stable of horses and clients increased, she outgrew the yard at The Vine. The solution was to build houses on the land where the yard was and invest the proceeds in new, custom-built stables on the outskirts of Stanton, at Washpool. 

Tack shop and team chasing

As well as running a vast and successful business, Jill Carenza found the time and energy for a successful riding career

As well as a cottage, offices and a kitchen, she opened a clothes and tack shop called Carenza Clobber – Jill had by then remarried and become a Carenza. This was set up and run by her daughter Kate and provided clients with another facility selling the tack and riding gear they needed. 

If all this sounds like more than a full-time job, Jill had by then become famed for her own involvement in every equine discipline – team-chasing (where she and the other Stanton Comedians became National Ladies Champions), point-to-point and eventing, competing at Badminton, Gatcombe and Blenheim.

Three-generation business

The number of horses at Cotswolds Riding grew rapidly and reached around a hundred. Some were liveries, but she owned many of them and made regular trips to the sales in Ireland to add to her stable. 

In recent years, she was accompanied not just by her daughter Kate but grandson Gus, whom she joked was young and fit enough to dash about inspecting prospective purchases and reporting back to his grandmother.

It wasn’t only Jill’s daughters who worked full- or part-time in the business. The grandchildren did too when they became old enough, not only working in the yard – exercising, mucking out, dealing with clients and taking out rides - but in the office. 

Even when they got other jobs, they would still be playing their part at weekends at Cotswolds Riding.

The horses stabled at Washpool were only part of the story. Jill was passionate about keeping them when they reached the end of their working lives. She used to say: “They have worked for me; they deserve a retirement.” She kept as many as 30 on the hill outside Stanton, fed and cared for.

‘Accelerated’ teaching methods

Jill was not only known as a brilliant riding instructor but for her unique ‘accelerated’ teaching methods. 

Not for her insisting that an inexperienced rider should be walked around on a lead rein. She encouraged them to canter and jump as soon as she considered they were capable. 

She treated everyone equally and countless riders today remember Jill’s patience when they were children. She also was happy to teach people with disabilities, knowing how much that did for them.

“Queen of the Hirelings”

A major part of the business is hiring out horses for hunting. Jill was known as “Queen of the Hirelings”. The local North Cotswold Hunt owes her particular debt, as the current joint-master, Oliver Dale, said when the meet observed a one-minute silence in her memory. 

Jill also provided hirelings for the Beaufort, VWH, Ledbury, Cotswold, Warwickshire, Heythrop, Cotswold Vale and Farmers’ Bloodhounds.

Business remains in the family

The business is now being run by her daughters Kate and Emily, who survive her along with her husband, Lui, daughters Sarah-Jane, and Charlotte, eight grandchildren and three step-children.

Jill’s funeral will be on 24 January at noon at St George’s, Didbrook, Gloucestershire with a live feed to a marquee at the Stanton Club. She will be brought back to Stanton for burial on a horse-drawn carriage.

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