Team Bleekman is very much a family affair.
Edward and Clarissa (Clissy) Bleekman have been together at Whorridge Farm since 1986 when they met at Boekelo CCI. Clissy’s parents Michael and Wendy Strachan moved to Whorridge from Chertsey, Surrey in 1953 with their 3 children – Christopher, then 14; Sally, 8 and Clissy, 2. Michael and Wendy started the Culmbridge herd of Friesian cows and the successful dairy farm of 95 acres was perfect for continuing their love of horses – pre war Wendy had hunted with the Bramham Moor, Michael had kept his hunter at the RA stables at Larkhill and had ridden point to pointing. Christopher was fonder of cars than horses – aiming at the RAC rally rather than Badminton – but Sally and Clissy took to the Pony Club like ducks to water!
Whorridge was – and still is – an ideal site for producing horses. Sited in the Culm Valley, 5 minutes from the M5 (junction 28). We have level fields with the river running through them – great water jump practise! Our fields behind the house and yard are steep and excellent for fittening hill work – as are the roads around us. Our neighbour Graham Vallis lets us ride out to the roads over his fields which also have a brilliant hill. We can see the sea at Exmouth from the top of one of our road work hills! Not only do we have a wonderful schooling field of 10 acres directly infront of the house, with a great variety of cross country fences and show jumps, we also have a small indoor school which is invaluable, particularly in the winter!
We have a neighbour, Chris Down, who is a National Hunt trainer and we can use his gallops which are just a stones throw away – brilliant – and our horse walker never seems out of work. Also we have the possible use of a local 30 x 70 metre arena and do frequently go to Bicton arena to school in their lovely arena over their full course of BS fences.
When Sally left school she started a “horse business” with breaking and schooling liveries to fund her eventing. ‘Parlour Maid’ took Sally to and around Badminton – and when Clissy left school she joined Sally.
Sally married and moved to Canada, and Clissy – with Wendy and Michael’s help – carried on to a successful event career.
Over the next twenty years home produced horses competed internationally with Clarissa – they brought back team gold and silver medals from the 1977 and 1979 European Championships at Burghley and Luhmuhlen (Merry Sovereign); the team gold medal in the 1986 World Championships at Gawler, Australia (Delphy Dazzle) and many other team and individual trophies. Seven different horses completed Badminton a total of fifteen times, finishing in the frame on several occasions and Delphy Kingfisher was leading event horse of the year in 1981: Lifeline went on to win the the Working Hunter of the Year at Wembley with Gail Hancock in 1987, and Chatsby to 10th place in the 1994 World Equestrian Games with David Green.
Through the eighties and nineties great sponsors were invaluable to Clissy – Wadham Stringer were the first, followed by Intercept Alarms and Gateway Foodmarkets/ Somerfield.
When Edward arrived at Whorridge together they thought of standing stallions and starting a Stud Farm. Edward’s career had been running parallel to Clarissa’s before coming to England with a long involvement with the Venderbosh family’s stud in Holland and working in the USA with racehorses. Stud work and bringing on young horses has always been his first love and with their super staff he and Clarissa still combine breaking, schooling and selling on youngsters with their stud work.
The world record goes on – we are proud that in our first year the stud produced Primmore’s Pride – who gave Pippa Funnel two of the three wins needed to take the Rolex Grand Slam World record prize of $250,000 in 2003.
Our stallions keep producing International and National winners – and some lovely rides for the next generation of Bleekmans! Since starting their BE careers the Bleekman sisters have brought home four European medals for Great Britain, and hope to carry on with team success; though with a fairly major change - Althea and Janou now ride for The Netherlands when competing Internationally, as did mum Clissy after marrying Edward.
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lick on to our stud pages for more info!