Dressage at Hickstead, one of dressage’s most popular events, may not run this year unless sponsorship is found.

Dressage at Hickstead organiser Dane Rawlins says the future of the CDI*****/*** show, scheduled to be held at Hickstead from 26 July-1 August, is in doubt after a “major sponsor” dropped out.

“World Dressage Masters provides the prize-fund for the Dressage Masters competition [held during the show], but we have to pay for everything else,” explained Dane.

“We need £250,000 to make the whole thing work and I can’t afford to lose £50,000-£60,000 bailing it out myself. Unless we secure alternative funding, we won’t go ahead.

“It’s not just us. This year is much tougher than before — big companies don’t want to be seen sponsoring events like this.”

Mr Rawlins founded Dressage at Hickstead in 1993 and since then it has proved to be one of the most popular dressage venues in the country.

In 2003, the venue hosted the European Dressage Championships, at which the British team won bronze.

And last year it was voted third best outdoor show in the world in a poll by L’Annee Hippique.

Claire Williams, of the British Equestrian Trade Association, said: “Since the middle of last year, companies have been looking very carefully at their marketing budgets.

“Sponsorship is the first thing to get cut.”

Sarah Payne, who runs shows at Sheepgate, Lincs, won the 2009 elementary championship at Hickstead on Sheepgate Ushipower.

She said: “It’s such a fantastic experience. As I run shows myself, I can see things from the organiser’s point of view as well as from the rider’s.”

And British Dressage chief executive Amanda Bond said: “It would be absolutely devastating if we lost the show. We need more international shows, not less.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (25 February, ’10)