Speculation is mounting that Hollingworth Leisure Park, a popular venue on the affiliated circuit for more than a decade — formerly as Birchinley Manor then as Talk of the North — is winding down its equestrian operations.

The show centre appears to be scaling down in favour of trucking and motorbike events. The BSJA has fewer than half the number of shows there this summer compared with past years and at least one showing fixture has been cancelled, after prospective surcharges allegedly put the venue beyond riders’ and organisers’ pockets.

Organisers of the Arab Horse Society’s Classic Arabian Show became the first to cancel after the new, foreign-based owners demanded a £1,000 bond plus extra fees to prepare the space for every block of 40 temporary stables.

Organisers Peter and Marilyn Sweet, who had already sent out 1,000 schedules for the July show, which had about 500 entries last year, estimate that the extra charges would put the cost per stable per night at more than £70.

“The place used to be fantastic, but now they have moved into motorbikes and four-wheel drive demos,” says Peter Sweet. “It’s too late to find another venue this year, but we are lucky, because all it has cost us is schedules and advertising.”

Another Arabian fixture is said to have been hit by unconfirmed demands for a £5 fee for cars, a charge for people to sleep in their lorries and a ban on cooking. The fixture’s organisers were told of the extra charges only two weeks before the show.

A spokesman for the venue says: “Through the summer we find there are so many BSJA shows elsewhere that we run at a loss, so we reduced the number. Come winter it will be back to normal. Horse events are definitely less profitable than motor events.

“I wasn’t involved in the Arabian Classic Show’s cancellation, but I don’t think they had the money to put up the damage bond, and they didn’t discuss the stabling charge with us. The stabling fee is for cleaning up — we have to hire a skip.”

The venue, originally built as an equestrian centre, has for some years run other events. The facilities include a huge indoor arena and several outdoor grass and wood chip arenas. Last summer, the centre hosted more than 50 BSJA fixtures; this year just 20 are planned.

  • This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (13 May 04)