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Trotting on: Bukit Timah Saddle Club moves after 72 years

A look at the people, horses and lush greenery of the club’s historic home in Bukit Timah, just before its move to the Singapore Turf Club in Kranji at the end of February.

Once used by racing jockeys to train, the club grounds featured riding arenas, paddocks and an 800m heath track where riders of years past would have informal races.

The club’s 78 horses, which include privately owned animals and those belonging to the riding school, have been moved over to their new home at Kranji.

The space’s sprawling fields and lush greenery, iconic to both the club’s members and visitors, will all soon make way for work to begin on the Cross Island MRT line.

Camping overnight under the stars, leaping over drains in an impromptu steeplechase and squeezing in riding lessons before school make up some of Ms Monique Heah’s fondest memories of her time at the Bukit Timah Saddle Club.

The 56-year-old director of a landscaping company started riding at the tender age of 10.

She said: “My riding lessons would be at 6am in the morning, so I would wake my father up, and he would take me to the club in his pyjamas before driving back home to sleep. I would then have to rush home, shower and get to school by 7.30am.”

Tucked deep inside a narrow winding road off Eng Neo Avenue, the club’s grounds will make way for the construction of the Cross Island Line which will begin in the coming months.

Set up in 1951 to train jockeys of the Singapore Turf Club, the saddle club later became a place for retired race horses to be retrained in other skills such as show jumping or dressage, with many of its members representing Singapore at regional and international equestrian competitions.

The club undertook the gargantuan task of moving to its new grounds at the Singapore Turf Club in Kranji, with the last of its 78 horses transported there on Feb 25.

The move is a bittersweet one for horse groom Tunut Saini, 59, who has worked at the club since 1988 and grew up in a since-demolished kampung nearby.

He is pictured here hanging on to a stable barrier as fellow groom Ramlan (standing) prepares Shanley, a 13-year-old Irish sport horse, to be ridden.

The club’s new location means a more convenient commute for Mr Tunut, as he used to have to leave his home in Punggol at 4am to get to Bukit Timah in time to have the horses ready for the morning’s lessons.

Once he is at work, he has to make sure that each horse is groomed, and tacked up with the right bridle and saddle for a rider going for a lesson.


His tasks, along with those of the 21 other grooms, include cleaning and feeding the horses and maintaining the cleanliness of the stables.


“I love my job, so even if people say it’s difficult or hard, it doesn’t feel like work to me,” he said.

(From left) Club members Danielle Barratt and Colin Tay looking on as Ms Loh Chuanni secures her horse, Kevin, to the float – which is used to transport horses.

The float with Kevin in it being towed off the Bukit Timah Saddle Club grounds.

Electric fans to be taken over to Kranji lying on the floor of a stable after being removed from the walls.

Sand at one of the club’s arenas being dug out by an excavator to be reused at the club’s new home in Kranji.

A horse plush toy in the back seat of a car. The toy is among the items sold at the club’s tack shop, which sells riding equipment.

The shop’s owner, Ms Camellia Paulsen, standing on a ladder while getting a helping hand with the move from her mother, Mrs Yati Paulsen.

Previously a bar operated by the club, the Riders Cafe occupied the canteen building in the middle of the club’s grounds from 2007 until the club moved.


The cafe, which had its last service on Feb 19, will not reopen elsewhere, according to its founder, Ms Jan Yeo.


She said: “The whole point of the cafe was the space and the greenery around here. Many of our customers said it was a respite from the city and such an interesting experience to watch the horses walk past while having a meal.”

Customers having lunch during the cafe’s last meal service on Feb 19. For many patrons, the cafe was a window into the grounds of the club, with the lush greenery and space offering a respite from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives.

Chef Edwin Lim, 58, having a snack while preparing a buffet spread for a party later that day for the staff to commemorate the cafe’s closure.

Reflecting on when the cafe first started, Ms Yeo said she and her business partner Willa Wong had to hold the menu at the entrance while calling out to those driving past.

Riders Cafe founder Jan Yeo (centre, left) hugging restaurant manager Seth Kho during the cafe’s last day of operations on Feb 19, as her fellow owner, Ms Willa Wong (left), looks on. Mr Kho started as a front-end server in 2011 and worked his way up over the years.

Staff on the balcony of the now-closed Riders Cafe, beside packed cookware and furniture. Many of the items at the cafe were snapped up by long-time customers who wanted mementoes of the place.

In a post on the cafe’s Instagram account in December 2022, Ms Yeo said: “As this final chapter comes to a close, I leave fulfilled, having achieved the one goal I had for Riders Cafe, which was to introduce this scenic space to as many people as possible before it’s all gone.”

Produced by:
  • Adele Ong
  • Alex Lim
  • Bhavya Rawat
  • Jesslyn Wong
  • Lee Pei Jie
  • Leonard Lai
  • Neo Xiaobin
  • Sharon Loh
  • Tin May Linn
  • Wallace Woon
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