Jim Bellman, proprietor of the Dulwich Riding School has died after a long illness.

He founded the Riding School in 1962 and built it up from what was a demolition site into the high-class and well respected school that it became. Jim was born in Brixton, into a non-horsy background. A local horse dealer took him under his wing and proceeded to teach the eager young pupil everything he knew about the 'horse-game'. War service intervened for Jim and when he was demobbed he began selling fruit and vegetables from a horse and London Trolley around the streets of South London. He bought his horses and harness at the long defunct Horse Repository at the Elephant & Castle - he had a wonderful eye for spotting a horse in the rough; naturally buying for the lowest possible price! His horses used for the greengrocery round were always Welsh Cob or Dales type and these breeds always remained his favourites. When he married and had his children, he swapped the round for a permanent fruit stall in Electric Avenue, Brixton. He would retain the traditional coster dress of jacket, waistcoat and white choker tie for the rest of his life.

In the late 1950's he decided that he wanted to open a riding school and in 1961 he leased a plot of waste ground on Dulwich Common and had a row of five stables built - and so the Dulwich Riding School opened for business in April 1962. Over the years Jim and his staff built the riding school bit by bit, adding more stables and a much needed covered school. Jim was fortunate that he was always supported by a loyal and dedicated team of staff and students. Countless pupils passed through the school and many successes were gained in British Horse Society and Pony Club examinations. Several pupils went on to found their own riding schools, others have gone on to achieve success in the disciplines of dressage, horse driving trials, eventing, endurance riding and judging. Several stunt riders began their riding careers with Jim, before they started to fall off for a living!

British Native breeds provided the foundation for the School's horses and ponies and many of them would be in the riding school one day and winning at a major horse show the next. Jim often rescued (for a very low price!), so called impossible horses; he had the gift of getting them into shape, and bringing out the best. One £4 purchase went on to win the Children's class at the London Riding Horse Parade out of an entry of 52. The Dulwich Riding School also carried off the Team Prize at the same event on several occasions. Driving his horses was Jim's hobby - he was a familiar sight around the streets of Dulwich with a high-stepping Welsh Cob harnessed to a London Trolley.

Jim was a unique character, an old fashioned horse master who did not suffer fools gladly and was never afraid to speak his mind. He demanded and received the highest standards from his staff and his students and the wellbeing of his horses and ponies came before anything. Now he has gone, yet he will not be forgotten and it is hoped that his skills will be carried on the way he would have wished.

Pat Corner
Manager, Dulwich Riding School

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