The Catherston Stud was started in 1949 by the late Lt Colonel and Mrs Jack Bullen who lived in the lovely Elizabethan Manor House, Catherston Leweston, set up in the hills overlooking the sea and the village of Charmouth in Dorset. With five farms making up the 1000 acre estate, two of which were farmed by Colonel Bullen, it left plenty of grazing near the house, as well as Stonebarrow (now owned by The National Trust) overlooking Lyme Regis Bay, for the stud grazing and, with two dairy herds and sheep, it was ideal for cross grazing.
Anne Bullen had an amazing 'eye for a horse' and could see the end product of any emaciated animal. She would scour the moors and buy, for little money, wild ponies that she considered she could tame, condition and sell on. With a total of six children, Anthony, Michael, Charlie, Jennie, Jane and Sarah, she had produced ready jockeys of all sizes!! Anne Bullen was a brilliant artist, who used her talents to illustrate numerous children's books including Pony Craft, which showed her genuine understanding of horses. She was a tireless worker and trainer and her understanding of balance and collection enabled her to train ponies on the lunge to go beautifully under saddle, with the riders just giving commands by voice.
The Exmoor gelding Skipper, although he only cost £15 off the moor, taught the first four Bullens to ride across country. He was difficult to ride, as he had not been taught to stop very well, but he was an amazing jumper and kept up with the big, galloping hunters in Hunter Trials in pairs and teams of three, as well as winning the Open on many occasions. Not bad for a 12.2hh pony! One of the most thrilling sights was to see Jennie riding her favourite pony, Silver Moon (Mossy) to check the mares and foals on Stonebarrow Hill which contained 60 acres of fenced grassland dropping away to the sea. She would whistle to Bubbly, who would round up his 25 mares and foals and then, with head snaking and his white mane floating in the wind, would bring them galloping down to Jennie who would inspect them for soundness and general wellbeing before she rode home to Catherston.
In late autumn all the mares and foals would be driven down to Catherston Manor. Bubbly would be caught, tacked up and used to drive his mares home where the foals would be weaned and the mares kept near the house for winter feeding. They would travel the 1½ miles from Stonebarrow, down to the A35 in to Charmouth and then turn up Catherston Lane to the home land. Reminiscent of a scene from the Wild West, the Bullen children, all mounted on ponies of assorted sizes, together with various staff, 'directed operations'!! It all ran like clockwork with the horses and ponies soon knowing what was expected of them. In those days, 3 good grooms were employed and turned out 31 stabled horses and ponies immaculately.
In the mid 1950's, an American, Miss Stubbings, purchased the three top class ponies which the Bullen's were showing at the time, namely: Coed Coch Pryderi, 12.2hh; Criban Bumble, 13.2hh and Royal Show, 14.2hh. These three ponies were either 1st or 2nd in their class and champion, at the Royal International Horse Show and so delighted was the owner that she opted to take them to her native U S A to show them what British ponies were like. The ponies looked very odd compared to the gaited ponies of the U S A, and were unplaced at the Washington Show. So, undaunted, she went on to New York. Within two hours of discussion she had introduced a Hunter Pony Division to the Madison Square Garden Show and also did the same at Toronto's Royal Winter Fair, taking all the prizes at both, Her actions started a great trade of Riding Ponies to the U S A and the popularity of the Riding Pony in the U S A and Canada are thanks to her and those three ponies.
Soon after this success she purchased the dark brown mare, Desert Storm, from near Newmarket as a 3 year old. This horse, of just 15.2 hands and of Anglo Arab breeding, had wonderful cadence and looseness, and although not easy to produce as a Hack to start with, she had tremendous success, being Champion Hack at Windsor, Richmond. At the Royal International Horse Show, she also won the Winston Churchill Cup for the Supreme Riding Horse of the Show title, the first Hack to win this award. She also won the Hack of the Year and brought applause wherever she went, with her fantastic trot. After several years showing, Miss Stubbings was offered a lot of money for this horse to go to Germany for one of their Olympic Dressage riders, after they had seen the mare at the Horse of the Year Show. Jennie was so upset at the thought of losing the mare that she offered to buy her, knowing that she could never afford the price offered. Miss Stubbings was so surprised that she gave the mare to Jennie to ride in Dressage competitions. Desert Storm's first International Dressage trip was to Hamburg, Cologne and Aachen and she was short listed for the Mexico Olympics.
Anne Bullen, ever watchful for a good pony for Miss Stubbings, found Prosperity of Catherston, bred by Mrs Gordon-Watson, by Bubbly out of Fortune II, who was by the famous Arab, Naseel out of their lovely Connemara mare Silver Lining. Prosperity was champion at Windsor and all the big shows. She was nearly sold to the U S A but luckily Miss Stubbings let the Bullen sisters keep her for breeding. She produced Catherston Safe Deposit by Bwlch Zingaree, Catherston Sunday Collection by Choir Boy and Catherston Nightsafe by Triumph, as well as many others.
In November 1959, Catherston Manor Estate was sold and the 100 head of stock was reduced, and the stud, together with two stallions , Bubbly and Bwlch Zingaree moved to the Manor House, Didmarton, with only 17 acres but in the heart of the Beaufort country.
In December 1963 Anne Bullen died after a long fight with Cancer. To the end she still continued with her paintings, mostly of some of the lovely horses and ponies she bred and scenes of the area. Many of these sketches are still produced by Jill Bullen Printing.
In 1965 Jennie married Anthony Loriston-Clarke and moved to Black Knoll House, Brockenhurst, Hamphire, taking with them Xenocles, Desert Storm and Three Royals, Jennie's point to pointer.
Jane took over the running of the Stud in 1965 but with the failing health of Colonel Bullen, the Stud was left to Anthony and Jennie who had already purchased the palomino stallion, Foxhill Sunny Jim by Bwlch Zingaree. Jane went on to train as a nurse at the Middlesex Hospital, Sarah was still finishing her schooling and so the mares, Bubbly and Bwlch Zingaree moved down to Brockenhurst where the stud name carried on. Pear Tree Farm was purchased at Emery Down where considerable improvements had to be hastily made to accommodate the sudden influx of broodmares and youngstock. Miss Elizabeth Profumo was very generous in assisting financially to build the Indoor School, which was put up in the late 1960's. She owned some lovely Hacks which were produced and shown by Jennie and Jane. Anthony, and some hard working friends, helped build the Indoor School and soon stables were erected alongside. Anthony, welding up and cladding the doors, having learnt a lot from his first efforts of converting the old stables near the house, and building 10 new stables from Forest Cedar.
In November 1966, Colonel Bullen died. He was already in the process of selling the Manor House, having found somewhere smaller, but with his death, this left both Jane and Sarah without a home. Anthony's mother Cicely Loriston-Clarke, who lived in the upper flat at Black Knoll, gave her double garage for converting into a base for Jane and Sarah to come to when they were not at work or studying.
Mrs Gylle Steele came to visit the Stud for tea one day before Christmas and suggested getting a horse. By this time, now having a young daughter, Anne, the goal posts had changed a bit from the Eventing scene, Jennie was far more interested in Dressage with Desert Storm and Xenocles. Dressage really interested her and having looked at many horses for sale in Britain, she was told, by Sarah Whitmore, of a horse for sale in Holland. Sarah Bullen (now Vey) and Mrs Steele flew off to Holland and purchased the gelding Kadett. This horse, within two years, gave Jennie her first Olympic ride in Munich 1972. Jennie was no stranger to the atmosphere as she had been to Rome in 1960 to watch her brother Michael ride Colonel and Mrs William's Cottage Romance to 4th place in the 3 Day Event. He also rode Sea Breeze in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, but it was a surprise when Jane, with the diminutive Our Nobby, won Badminton Horse Trials in 1968, after coming off night duty! Our Nobby was trained in the New Forest. He was a small Thoroughbred by Bewildered who came to us in Gloucestershire and progressed up through the Pony Club to be 3rd at Chatsworth, then 5th at Badminton, 3rd at Burghley, 1st at Badminton and, with Jane aged just 20 years and Jennie there as groom, went on to be part of the Gold Medal winning team in Mexico. When Kadett started to show some form, Mrs Steele and Jennie decided that they should find another young horse to bring on, preferably a mare or a stallion. Nothing suitable seemed to be available in Great Britain, so Holland was looked at and they found the 3 year old, Dutch Courage.
All these experiences, watching the three Olympic disciplines and having been involved in much of it herself, gave Jennie a great insight into what was wanted for each of these sports. Her aim to breed the International Competition Horse, suitable for each of the disciplines had commenced.
Jennie and Tessa Clarke, Catherston's Stud Groom both went on a course to Professor Twink Allen to learn about A I and in 1985/86 Catherston Stud started a pilot scheme of Artificial Insemination using chilled semen, to Mrs Gilbey's mares on the Isle of Man. This was a success and with Dutch Courage's great success as a sire, it seemed more sensible to send the horse by post than crowd the stud with too many mares! This scheme worked well and the fertility rate was the same as natural service, approx. 88%. Several AI courses were put on for breeders and managers of Studs! This opened the way, with more studs producing this facility and it is now quite common for cross bred horses to advertise the use AI.
The Studs' success grew and in 1992 Black Knoll House was sold and the Loriston-Clarke's' found a new location at the Manor Farm, Hurstbourne Priors. This is a position they had longed for, a beautiful river with water meadows, rolling hill land on chalk, with it's own water supply, many farm buildings and a lovely old Manor House close to major roads with easy access.
Moving was quite a logistical problem, but Anthony, recently retired, was busy drawing up plans of conversions to buildings and how it could all be done and with the co-operation of the previous owner, Mr. and Mrs. Porter, they were allowed to start fencing and converting some of the buildings. On 28th August 1992, with the help of friends, 28 horses were moved as well as all the furniture and tack. Somehow, order gradually reigned, even though the doors were still being put on the stables as the horses arrived, but everyone was splendid and from that day, improvements have taken place, until Catherston Stud has what is here today. The envy of many, it has all come about thanks to a lot of dedication and hard work by the Loriston-Clarke family who have made this Stud the well known name it is today, both at home and abroad.