A battle correspondent who was lured away from the BBC to Horse & Hound with the bait of a “firm horse” and free looking, Michael Clayton was each a pioneer and an in a position horseman, and a pacesetter inside the horse business
Michael Clayton started his journalistic profession on the south coast, on the Poole Herald and Bournemouth Occasions with Gordon Williams, whose later novel, The Siege of Trencher’s Farm, turned the Oscar-nominated movie Straw Canines. The duo each progressed to Fleet Road, sharing a flat in Earls Courtroom with Ian Wooldridge; the enduring sports activities author usually monitored his previous good friend’s scrapes within the looking subject within the Day by day Mail.
After a stint as information editor on the London Night Information, Michael moved into broadcasting, presenting the BBC Immediately programme and dealing as a battle correspondent in Vietnam and the Center East.
Throughout the Nineteen Sixties, he had began to contribute looking reviews to The Area. This lapsed briefly in1970, when he was unavoidably detained underneath siege in Amman, Jordan.
Introduced up in Dorset and across the New Forest, Michael had a grass-kept pony and was inspired alongside to hill meets with the Portman by Sir Peter Farquhar. He confirmed the teenaged Michael around the kennels, igniting a lifelong curiosity in hound pedigrees and the artwork of venery, which enriched Michael’s love of looking approach past the fun of cross-country driving.
Whereas on the BBC, he started looking with the Whaddon Chase and struck up a lifelong friendship with their joint-master Dorian Williams, in all probability the best innovator the horseworld had ever seen.
Horse & Hound’s third Editor
When retirement loomed in 1973 for longstanding H&H Editor Walter Case, Dorian really useful Michael to be its third-ever editor. Then, as now, it was uncommon for a BBC man to desert the quick lane for a specialist periodical. However from Michael’s perspective, free looking was appreciable bait: he bought an organization horse in addition to an organization automotive.
Nevertheless it was a shrewd appointment. Equestrian sport was getting into a brand new, skilled period, and a charismatic and tenacious hard-news journalist would stick with it to scratch. Though he was near many prime figures, Michael by no means baulked from criticising choices he perceived – normally accurately – to be flawed. He was fast to focus on such hypocrisies because the “shamateurism” then prevalent in showjumping.
Highly effective figures resembling Col Sir Mike Ansell, Sir Harry Llewellyn and Raymond Brooks-Ward’s enterprise associate, Bob Dean, took the “new editor” – as he continued to be recognized for a decade – to countless Cavalry Membership suppers to “fill him in” on horseworld politics. For 15 years they did not extract the id of Loriner, Michael’s punchy weekly columnist, who knew an excessive amount of about goings-on within the corridors of energy. Loriner was, after all, Dorian, who died in 1985. Michael nonetheless missed him deeply, 25 years on.
Other than being an in a position horseman, Michael’s onerous life on the BBC outfitted him for the function of looking correspondent. He wrote: “That is the one type of sports activities reporting by which the journalist is on the rigorous subject of play, taking the identical dangers as everybody else on an odd horse in an unfamiliar nation. Utilizing an previous looking saddle, with no knee pads, and badly missing a double bridle, driving a powerful puller was ‘the picture of battle with 25% of the hazard’, as Surtees described the looking subject.”
He went on to hunt with 230 packs in Britain, Eire and the USA, “essentially the most fantastic privilege and pleasure”. In a single season, he hunted 42 horses with 25 packs, managing on hirelings and infrequently younger horses as skilled spares turned a uncommon commodity in the direction of the tip of the Nineteen Nineties.
He shortly understood the coded messages that always accompanied his arrival on the meet. A suggestion that “you gained’t discover something like Leicestershire down right here”, normally meant a metaphorical bear-trap was in retailer. He triggered nice satisfaction in an East Anglian harrier nation with “nothing to leap” when his horse dived to the underside of one in all their cavernous ditches.
However his timing was impeccable. He as soon as wrote: “The Seventies was a beautiful decade for foxhunting, worthy of previous glories: the political menace was negligible; a lot inspired by Ronnie Wallace, there was a surge of newly appointed younger masters who hunted hounds; and the most effective looking terrain had thus far escaped the worst onslaughts of improvement. Then, we recurrently jumped out and in throughout the A46 within the Quorn nation to achieve fantastic previous turf and fences all sides; now, it’s a four-lane freeway bearing heavy site visitors.”
Michael started a weekly looking column, taking his pen identify from his personal hunter Foxford, who was too daring for his rider’s good, usually carting him embarrassingly upsides the sphere grasp. Foxford was succeeded by Josephine after which her offspring, together with the colored horse Monty, who was given his personal column in H&H.
A technophobe, however forward of his time
Politically, Michael was approach forward of his time in calling (not at all times efficiently) for the introduction of organised sport horse breeding; a extra delicate type of hunt gown to mitigate niggling elitist criticisms; and agricultural standing – with consequent tax benefits – for the horse. An advocate of a Tote monopoly after seeing the knock-on advantages of the pari-mutuel for elite equestrianism in France, Michael remained pissed off by the absence of joined-up considering between racing and equestrianism. He was instrumental in initiating the British Horse Industries Confederation, to behave as a joint foyer to Authorities, but it surely by no means acquired the enamel Michael hoped.
For years he hunted in a prime hat, however, when security turned an enormous subject, he was comfortable to endure the mirth of fellow followers to sport a BSI-approved crash cap and practise what he preached within the journal. Michael shook off a number of damaged bones – like many tall individuals, when he fell, he fell closely – although one in all his most troublesome knee accidents was incurred throughout a boisterous sport of table-tennis at kennels after a meet was frosted off.
Michael tolerated a number of again ache to maintain looking into his late sixties earlier than calling it a day. He started a brief period of long-haul winter journey to maintain his thoughts off what he was lacking.
He additionally relished the completely different sort of sport to be present in workplace politics. H&H was acquired by a significant company early throughout his tenure and, proper as much as retirement, Michael fought – and gained – many boardroom battles to maintain H&H on the vanguard of recent publishing methods, usually stealing a march from larger titles within the group.
In 1984, photographer Equipment Houghton needed to strive new satellite tv for pc expertise to beam color photos from the Los Angeles Olympic Video games. Michael was the one journal editor in Europe to simply accept the problem, holding the presses for the entrance cowl – the gamble labored, successful H&H an business award.
Contrarily, Michael himself was a hopeless technophobe, offering colleagues with many involuntary comedy moments. As soon as, struggling to photocopy a ream of private financial institution statements, he was mortified to find he had faxed them to our printers as a substitute.
A pioneer within the horse world
Michael was pleased with H&H’s hyperlinks with the royal household, additional cemented by H&H’s long-term help of the Grand Army Gold Cup by which there have been frequent royal runners and even riders. For some years a carriage arrived at our workplaces in King’s Attain Tower each Thursday to gather two copies for Buckingham Palace. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the workplaces within the Seventies, and the Queen Mom in 1986.
Michael was, although, removed from a traditionalist and, in cahoots with Lt-Col Sir John Miller, the Crown Equerry, he organized the first-ever “tour” to Britain by “horse whisperer” Monty Roberts; what a phenomenon that spawned.
Journalists set themselves as much as criticise the actions of governing our bodies. Michael was probably on the receiving finish when, upon retirement from H&H, he turned chairman of the British Horse Society (BHS), simply because it was compelled to reinvent itself with the departure of dressage, eventing and the Pony Membership.
Desi Dillingham, former president of the BHS and former chairman of British Dressage, mentioned: “He took over the reins simply as radical change was sweeping the horseworld. The arrival of World Class funding – the strengthening of the British Equestrian Federation – gave the BHS one in all its most tough occasions, however Michael held it collectively. Immediately, the BHS is prospering and a number of that’s right down to his management.”
Although he had left H&H by the point the looking ban turned a actuality, he continued to contribute to its marketing campaign, bringing his broadcasting abilities to bear as an orator out within the subject and as chairman of the Cottesmore Hunt. In 2009, it significantly amused him to participate within the Sport Truthful debate entitled: “The BBC – good friend or foe to looking?”
Michael wrote looking books, lavishly illustrated by the legendary “working” Jim Meads and, after Jim’s retirement, Trevor Meeks, who Michael had recruited from the world of motor sport to embrace a brand new method to equestrian images.
Michael additionally authored equestrian biographies and sensible manuals, notably Hickstead – The First 12 Years, with Dick Tracey, a biography of Stroller, and helped to analysis Dorian’s ebook Nice Using Colleges of the World. This yr he lastly penned his memoirs, Man within the Information (Merlin Unwin). He noticed for himself Warendorf and different main Continental centres of excellence, remaining acutely dissatisfied there was nothing like them within the UK.
Michael was married 3 times, first to Mary Watson a fellow information reporter, to Jane Ryman, whom he met on the Horse & Hound Ball, and latterly and really fortunately to Marilyn Crowhurst, an property agent whom he met when launching a property column in H&H.
He had two gifted kids from his first marriage – Marcus, who gained a spot on the Royal Ballet Faculty, and Maxine, who adopted her dad and mom into TV information reporting in New Zealand – and a step-daughter, Georgina.
Michael died on 19 December 2022. A non-public funeral has since taken place.