Organisers of the Punchestown International Three Day Event and Horse Show are promising to stage the best event ever in 2006 after they had to postpone the 2005 edition for a year, due to sponsorship problems.

“We were very close to the title sponsor but when they went back to their overseas headquarters, they were told they didn’t have quite as much money,” explains John Kyle, a member of the new organising committee, which took over the event management last year. “We thought of going back to others who were interested to be title sponsors but the timeframe wasn’t there. We could spend three months trying to sell sponsorships or three months running a three-day event and we decided to postpone it to next year.”

Punchestown was due to take place on 19-22 May, but the event’s organisers decided to postpone the event to May 2006 when it became clear that funding was going to be a problem, in order to avoid letting competitors down at the last minute. “We feel it is only fair to make a timely and mature decision so that our competitors, who will already be planning their Spring campaigns, can begin to make new plans,” says event director Gillian Kyle.

“Our one disappointment is that Irish competitors are going to be let down because we are the only three-day event in Ireland. The ones who are team members are used to travelling but the Irish equivalent of Start and Potential will be let down,” adds John Kyle.

Some British competitors also expressed disappointment at the news of Punchestown postponement, but “when I said that without a title sponsor they would most likely have to jump the same course as last year they said: ‘ah, yes, we understand’,” says John Kyle. “We can’t have a three-star event with the same course [two years running], as we consider competitors to be our most important customers.”

Organisers are now focusing their efforts on the 2006 edition, which will mark the 40th anniversary of the event. “It will be a very special year and we plan to have the biggest and best event that Punchestown has ever seen”, says Gillian Kyle.

The organising committee will put their spare time to good use to ensure next year edition is unrivalled. “Luckily everything we have in place for this year can be transferred over and can be the beginning of our work for 06. We are already five or six months ahead,” says John Kyle.

Punchestown’s chief aim for next year is to make the event more fun for both public and competitors. “Competitors came [here] and made their own fun, but we remember Punchestown as it was 10 years ago, and it was great great fun,” says John Kyle. “Maybe for a couple of years we lost sight of that and let the trials be professional and aloof. Now we want to keep the professionalism but bring the friendliness back.”

To do so, the organisers are going to study other events carefully. “We can see what people are doing today and say: this is working, this isn’t,” says John Kyle. “We will travel to the continent and see what they are doing there as everyone is very complimentary about French events. There is something to learn everywhere.”

On the money front, sponsorship talks will start in April with the same company that was to be the title sponsor in 2005, and other potential backers are waiting in the wings. This will allow to keep Punchestown’s prize money at very appealing levels. “This year, we were going to offer among the best prize money in Europe for three-star events. That level will remain for next year,” says John Kyle.

But the programme for 2006 extends well beyond the horse trials. “We are trying to build on what the Horsesport Show, who run [Punchestown] before us, did [in the past.] We want to have a real festival of the horse because a three-day event, exciting as it is, isn’t going to hold the attention of the public for the whole day,” says John Kyle.

Among the plans is international grand prix show jumping, a country fair, pony showing and probably show jumping, a hounds parade and hunters’ trials in what intends to be the ultimate horsefest to kick-start the Irish spring season, according to John Kyle. “If you have a horse in Ireland that weekend, you are going to try it here.”