In 1959 the first Finmere Show was held at Hill Leys, Finmere, to fundraise for steeplechase rider, Sally Haynes, who at 19 years of age had a spinal injury due to a horse riding accident at a point-to-point meet. The show was organised by her friends and family, many of whom were from the riding community of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Sally needed assistance with funding as she didn’t have insurance on the horse she had been racing.  After sustaining head injuries as well as a severe spinal injury, Sally managed to sit up on August 8th 1959, the day of the show. 

Sally Haynes at the 1964 Tokyo Games where she competed in archery

Sally Haynes at the 1964 Tokyo Games, she went on to become a Paralympian

The first Finmere show included top class steeple chasers and show jumpers, amongst them were Lester Piggott, David Broome, Gerry Scott, Eph Smith, Fred Winter, Harry Carr, Dave Dick, Bryan Marshall, Michael Scudamore, Alan Oliver, Wilf White, Sue Cohen and Dick Francis. Attracting over 6000 spectators, it was one of the largest one-day horse shows held in the country that year.

From then on, the Finmere show was planned as an annual event and ran until 2015 but instead of Sally receiving the money she asked if it could go to the Paraplegic Sports Fund at Stoke Mandeville Hospital because of the great care she had received at the hospital. Sally was Chairman from 1965-1977 and Show Co-ordinator from 1986-2008. In total the shows raised more than £50,000 for the fund. 

In 1960 Sally organised the show to raise the air fare for the 1960 Games in Rome, to transport around 50 wheelchair athletes. This show included an archery demonstration from patients at Stoke Mandeville hospital including Sally and Lady Susan Masham, a show jumping event, Gymkhana and Donkey Derby.

Top jockeys on donkeys at the 1960 Finmere Show Donkey DerbyThe Donkey Derby at the 1960 Finmere show.

Left to right: Bruce Hobbs, Michael Scudamore, Eph Smith, Dick Francis,
Michael Medwin, Tom Hudson, Dave Dick, Jan Ridd, Ted Edgar.

The show was very successful raising £3097. Dr Guttmann was presented with the cheque saying,

It is with a feeling of deep gratitude that I accept this wonderful gift of £3097 18s. on behalf of the Paraplegic Sports fund as a result of the tremendous effort you have made to help us.  He then spoke of the Rome Games, A great success which was beyond my own expectations … we have done slightly better than our able-bodied comrades, and British prestige could not be higher

   Dr Guttmann receiving a cheque from The Finmere Show committee 

The Finmere horse show committee, presenting Dr Guttmann with the cheque.

Left to right: Lionel Vick, Chairman, Jane Tredwell, Secretary, and Sally Haynes, Vice-chairman and Assistant Secretary.

The British team won 21 gold, 15 silver and 18 bronze medals at the 1960 Rome Games. Lady Marsham, who was also at the presentation and a former patient at Stoke Mandeville had won a gold medal for swimming and a bronze medal for table tennis.

The people of Aylesbury and the surrounding villages helped organise and fundraise at the Finmere show. It was very much a community effort with the involvement of local groups and businesses. The Public Relations Officer, David Gertler, was the owner of the Bucks Bullion Jewellers in Aylesbury and Brian De Frain (whose family owned The Bucks Herald) were friends of Sally and her family. 

The Finmere show became an annual event on the horse show calendar with prize money for the top show jumping competitions. Its reputation attracted some of the best horse riders in the country which in turn attracted a large number of paying spectators. Prince Philip was the patron of the show. 

The Donkey Derby provided the most popular entertainment at the Show drawing a large crowd. In order to take part in the Donkey Derby the participants had to have been in the Grand National or Epsom Derby. The jockeys had to control the donkeys, no mean feat, round the course of three ‘jumps’ made of straw bales - most of the them were thrown off!

At the 1968 Finmere show, Sir Ludwig addressed the crowd reminding them that it was at Stoke Mandeville Hospital that sport for the paralysed was started and that today the Stoke Mandeville Games was a world-wide movement, he thanked the hard-working committee of the Finmere show for raising considerable sums of money. 


  • The Bucks Herald
  • Buckingham Advertiser
  • The Oxford Diary

You can read Sally Haynes Paralympian story here