Monica was born Monica Buxton as one of 11 children in a large Norfolk family. Sadly her father died when she was only a teenager and after attending boarding school and living in Paris for a short time she returned to London to find love and marriage at the age of 21, to Robbie Calvert.
The Second World War soon followed so it wasn’t until 1948 that they could both settle down. They bought Picts House in Horsham which became the permanent family home with their four daughters Julia, Diney, Tricia and Georgie. Monica ran the household and organised a busy social life.
It was 1962 when Monica Calvert was thrown into the world of the Arabian Horse as Robert inherited two Arabian Horse Studs from his cousin May Lyon. One stud was in Northern Ireland and the other at Harwood House in Horsham. Monica and Robert soon became hooked and Monica was left in charge as the two studs and their 50 horses of excellent Crabbet and Old English lines were brought together at Hop Oast Farm in Horsham but the new stud retained the Harwood name. Monica said ‘There was a great deal to learn about running a stud, and we had many disasters and made mistakes, but we also had successes and joys, and never regretted the decision to keep the horses and change our life’ !
It was a huge learning curve as Monica had very little experience of horses but she took her new life with great passion and dedication as she visited many studs and attended courses on Stable Management, this aided the Harwood Arabian Stud to streamline the yard by identifying and producing from only the very best animals to continue the valuable bloodlines. The quality of work done then is now evident in many of the Arabs found in racing and showing today.
Monica soon became a well known and respected figure in the Arabian Horse World and in 1964 was elected to the council of The Arab Horse Society. In the same year she met Arabian neighbour Liz Salmon whose late husband had a stallion bred by May Lyon called Naseels Nephew. Before long Monica helped form the South East Regional Group with each founder member putting in £10 to get it started. The early South East committee took in turns meeting at each others houses, to arrange putting on clinics and seminars. Monica held a dressage competition at her stud among other functions, and in those early days of the regional group, she was an untiring committee member with a lot of great ideas.
Monica stood for many years as President of the South East Region, she was also on the Judge’s panel and in 1972 she became President of the Arab Horse Society, and subsequently a Governor. The South East Region, and arab horse lovers from all over the world, benefited from her very generous hospitality with many Stud Visits and luncheon parties in her home, including a big display at her stud for the annual meeting of WAHO, when it was held in UK.
In 1979 one of the highlights that brings smiles to the faces of early SEAHG members was the region’s pantomime ‘Sindy-Ella’ – Monica was the land lady of the local pub, complete with blonde wig and pig tails. Colonel Roberts was a ‘local yobel’, Stella Walker (another past president of the South East Region) was the fairy godmother in pink tights and tu-tu, Dear Freddie was ‘Buttons’ to name just a few. All the words and story were written by Ursula Roberts, Monica and her daughter, Diney (Martineau) who also directed the show, it was a rip roaring success! “I still remember the words.” Monica said to Ursula Roberts, another founder member of the South East Region, over dinner last year. The evening continued as they sung the songs and recalled the good old days.
Monica said “The underlying aim of the stud is the performance horse, her aim was to produce beautiful riding horses’ Harwood Stud has managed to achieve this goal and breed to compete successfully in all major disciplines of showing, dressage, endurance, the marathon , show jumping, hunter trails and especially racing.
Monica’s love affair with Arab racing began in 1980 with her daughter, Georgie (Moore), who successfully trained the Harwood race horses. Monica also became heavily involved in the formation of the Arabian Racing Organisation.
Monica had many successful horses but one stallion she was really proud of was Kasadi who produced many ridden stars in one field or another, particularily in the racing. A favourite horse of Monica’s was by Kasadi called Vikta (Kasadi x Sophy), a home bred gelding. He won many awards and championships, taking part in the first HOYS to have Arabian classes. He came second in his class, and gave a good display in the main ring. Monica enjoyed seeing him be shown by Christine Bayman (Pamela Harrison’s daughter) who produced him for her. Monica always kept a milk crate handy to get into Christine’s horse box to accompany Vikta.
Monica’s horses were bred to be ‘someone’s best friend’, a good credit to their breed and by doing so she helped initiate many non-Arab riders into the pleasure of riding the Arabian horse and was always ready to help the novice owner in any way.
There are very few studs in the world which are more than 100 years old, and Harwood has only survived this long due to the fortunate chance that Monica and Robbie Calvert were able to become Arab Breeders when the need arose and that Monica developed into one of our most talented and enthusiastic exponents of the art of Arab Horse breeding. The stud now passes to their youngest daughter Georgie with her husband Johnnie.
As a friend to so many of us she will be sadly missed and it is great loss to the South East Arabian Horse Group.