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Obituary: Eric Dovey – pony breeder and point-to-point champion

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WELL-KNOWN commoner and New Forest point-to-point champion Eric Dovey has died at the age of 70.

A resident of Beaulieu for most of his life, Eric was a talented horse rider who won the veterans class of the annual point-to-point race in 2018.

Born in November 1950 at Warren Farm, Buckler’s Hard, to parents Hugh and Ann Dovey, Eric was one of eight children. He had six brothers, Jeff, Bob, John, Andy, Peter, and David, and one sister, Carol.

Eric Dovey
Eric Dovey

Growing up, the children quickly joined the Dovey workforce, looking after the calves, soaking the sugar beet and undertaking a whole range of other jobs. They later moved from Warrens Farm to Culverley Farm at Beaulieu.

Eric attended Beaulieu Primary school before going on to Sparsholt Agricultural College.

His daughter Kerry said: “Dad said most of his childhood consisted of bale cart manning the sledge. Although his future in farming was, as he would say, pre-destined, it was the love of nature which captured his heart.

“Dad’s love of trees and the beauty of the Forest always meant that we learned something new on every walk with him, whether the way a holly tree had been sculpted by ponies or how an oak sapling would be located in the protective arms of a fuzz bush.”

As a child Eric loved to watch the birds and built up an impressive egg collection. He would always listen out for the first cuckoo of the year and smile when the swallows arrived.

His love of New Forest ponies was also clear from the outset, with Eric often scooping up his baby sister Carol to ride at the front of his saddle.

Kerry said: “He would run up to the green after school to see if any of the mares had foaled. He would recount the joy of seeing one of his first-born foals - a black filly called Moonlight of Yewtree - and wondered how quickly his father might sell it.”

Eric was given a grey mare for his 21st birthday by his auntie Margery, and continued to breed and keep New Forest ponies for the rest of his life.

He married his first wife Wendy Smith in the blistering heat of 1976 and they made their home at Warren Farm, where they welcomed children Kerry, Hugh and Erika.

He later married his second wife Denise and had two daughters, Samantha and Kimberley.

His love of pony breeding resulted in the Yewtree New Forest ponies, which were much sought after for their speed in the New Forest point-to-point races.

In 2006, Eric left the New Forest and moved to Ireland, where he set up a dog boarding kennels. However, he missed the Forest too much and returned to Beaulieu to live at Pear Tree Cottage after six years, enjoying the chance to spend precious time with his much-loved grandchildren. In recent years Eric travelled to Australia twice to visit his son Hugh and his family.

Eric was diagnosed with a brain tumour in February 2020, but fought hard against the illness and continued to breed his beloved ponies and enjoy walks in the Forest. He gifted a pony to each of his grandchildren and was proud when his stallion Brookhills Major was selected in the Verderers’ Stallion Scheme this year, with his foals due in spring.

Sadly Eric lost his battle with cancer last month and his funeral has been held. He is survived by his children and nine grandchildren. Anyone wishing to donate in his memory can give to.

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