Necarne Castle international three-day event in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and Spring Hill Horse Trials in Gloucestershire are to close this year due to “financial reasons”.

“The event was started 30 years ago to raise funds for charity, but in recent years we haven’t made money, have struggled with sponsorship and have no funds left,” said Spring Hill organiser Nancy Blinkhorn.

Entries for Necarne 2009 were down by nearly 50% on 2008, resulting in a significant loss of income from entry fees.

The event’s director, Jean Mitchell, believes the introduction of CCI* and CCI** sections at Osberton Horse Trials in Nottinghamshire — which ran the week before Necarne last year — contributed to the death of her event.

She said British-based riders, who normally travelled to Necarne, opted to save money and enter Osberton.

“We understand that people would choose to save costs, but it’s disappointing,” said Ms Mitchell, adding: “Irish riders are taking their top horses to the UK to prepare for the World Equestrian Games [WEG] — but they also have to take their pre-novice horses with them, so entries suffer at all levels.”

Necarne, which has been running for 15 years, has been struggling to find sponsors.

“We have discussed how to avoid closure but we don’t want to cut down on the facilities and I am not prepared to lower standards,” added Ms Mitchell.

Northern Ireland-based event rider Steven Smith said he is “absolutely devastated”.

“Necarne was my first ever three-day and I haven’t missed it since,” he said.

Another Northern Irish rider, Katy McKenzie, competed in her first one-star at Necarne last year. “I’m so disappointed — I was aiming to build up to Necarne all year,” she said.

A spokesman for Eventing Ireland (EI) denied that riders are heading to the UK to train for WEG, although Ireland’s best-known eventing couple, Michael and Patricia Ryan, are based in Britain for this season.

Necarne was the last three-day event in Northern Ireland and, in December, Eventing Northern Ireland took steps to save money after reporting its biggest loss to date.

British Eventing hopes to replace Spring Hill “in due course”.

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