We are lucky enough to cover some pretty prestigious events here at Horse & Hound — Badminton, Hickstead, Olympia to name just a few. But every once in a while a sparkling new gem appears on the crown that is the British equestrian calendar.
Step forward Bolesworth CSI3* International, which last week wowed the crowds and competitors with its stunning venue, great atmosphere and some top class jumping.
The show has been running successfully at national level for several years. But organiser Nina Barbour, who teamed up with show director Alan Beaumont to create this new international event, has an enterprising vision to take Bolesworth to 4* and beyond. A new 5* on the British scene looks well within reach — it even has championship venue written all over it.
The foundations were laid this year with a 3* show, but it already has the look and feel of a 5*. World class venues like this don’t come cheap, but what an investment it is for our sport — a 102m x 62m spectacular Andrews Bowen arena? Check. A natural amphitheatre providing generous all-round viewing? Check. A moat? Of course! It does fall in the shadow of an imposing castle after all.
Ringside hospitality and 4 days of glorious sunshine gave the show a real European feel. Would everyone have been as happy had it rained solidly for the duration? Probably not, but what a warm Cheshire welcome we received from the show’s professional and friendly team of staff.
Prizegivings were slick and sponsors were given the recognition they deserve; riders didn’t have a bad word to say about the facilities — from the generous warm-up areas to the hard standing for the lorries. Even the ringside picnic tables were a nice touch and the packed grandstand on Sunday proves why expansion should definitely be on the cards.
We were treated to every type of traditional showjumping class, with expert design by Bob Ellis and Kelvin Bywater. But the evening novelty classes were a triumph — and a nod to the good old days, with riders dressing up as superheroes for a mini major relay and Matthew Sampson winning a thrilling knock-out tournament. This type of class isn’t always popular with the riders, as it can tend to set horses alight, so hats off to those who took part. We all loved it.
Crucially, this show was family-friendly, too, with dog displays, zorbing and even camel racing and a concert by boyband Blue — and yes, it turns out I do remember all the words, and rather too many of the dance moves than I’d care to admit to.
If I had one criticism — and let’s face it it’s minor — it’s that, with nearly 60 starters, Sunday’s grand prix was a tad too long. Even hard nut showjumping fanatics like me became slightly restless after 3 hours. Other shows tend to restrict the grand prix to 30 or 40 riders — but then again, who would want to deny some of our leading young riders the chance to compete in an international grand prix on home soil? William Whitaker’s triumph was worth the wait though — his was a truly classy performance.
The full report from Bolesworth CSI*** International is in 19 June issue of Horse & Hound magazine, in the shops now.