British Eventing (BE) and riders have paid tribute to Veronica Spackman who has called time on Stilemans Horse Trials, in Godalming, Surrey.

The popular event has opened the season for the past 25 years. Mrs Spackman, who celebrates her 80th birthday this year, has announced that last weekend’s novice event (7-8 March) would be the last.

She told H&H: “I have partly been spurred into action by my birthday, but it has become an exhausting and taxing job.

“It’s impossible to get sponsorship for such an early event and we are at an enormous disadvantage due to the daylight hours and sometimes the weather.

“But I have always felt it was rather special and it does attract all the big-name riders.”

Competitors last weekend included Pippa Funnell, Tina Cook, Zara Phillips, Andrew Nicholson, Mary King and William Fox-Pitt.

William told H&H: “I have been going to Stilemans since 1985 and it always has a friendly atmosphere and an exciting beginning-of-the-season feel. It is a great credit to Mrs Spackman that it has run for so long and a shame it ends this year.”

BE regional director Robert Mckenzie agreed, saying: “It has been a superb first of the season as it is run over excellent sandy soil, meaning it drains very well.

“Veronica has been one of the pillars of the sport and immensely helpful to other event organisers getting started.”

A presentation was made to Mrs Spackman last weekend.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (12 March, ’09)