Aylesbury Vale and the growth of the Paralympics part 2

Author: Steve Katon, 9th December 2022

In my last blogpost, I told you about the origins of the Finmere Show, which took place for the first time in 1959 under the name, The Sally Haynes Show.

The first show was a fundraiser for the young steeplechaser, Sally Haynes, who required modifications to her home after becoming paralysed following a horse jumping accident.

In this blog I’ll start sharing some stories gathered by the project from people who attended the show. Central to this project is the coming together of generations to share memories, photographs and stories about the Finmere Show and this incredible community effort that took place here on our doorsteps. Through informal sharing and investigation, we will ensure that Finmere’s contribution to the Paralympic Games is never forgotten.

In the mid 1970s, Karen Szczypek was an 8-year-old child living in Tingewick. She was horse mad so was thrilled when local character, Lady Elizabeth Keyes offered to take her to the show. Karen says,

The thing I remember most was the Donkey Derby. How some top jockeys rode bareback on donkeys around a course trying not to fall off. If they did, it was straight back on, trying to win. There was a lot of pushing and pulling between riders, all in good fun. It was absolutely one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Amazingly, Karen now works at Hill Leys looking after the horses, where the show was originally held!

Top jockeys on donkeys at the 1960 Finmere Show Donkey Derby

The Donkey Derby at the Finmere Show in 1960

Whoever we spoke to seems to remember the Donkey Derby, recalling the laughter and huge crowds the event brought. It was clear it provided some of the most popular entertainment at the show. Entry requirements were tough, participants were required to have competed in the Grand National or Epsom Derby to race in the Donkey Derby. The event saw jockeys attempting to control the donkeys, round the course of three ‘jumps’ made of straw bales – no mean feat and most of them were thrown off!