MORE than 2,500 entries turned up for the inaugural Equifest showing show — part of an equine extravaganza that runs from 15 August to 7 September — at the East of England Showground, Peterborough.

The show, which had classes for mountain and moorlands, coloureds, hunters, hacks, riding horses, cobs, competition/sport horses and ponies, show and working hunter ponies and show ponies as well as driving, included two evening gala performances, last Friday and Saturday.

“It’s only possible to put something like this on because we’ve got a great team of people working for us and a great team of volunteers, too,” said Andrew Mercer, chief executive officer of East of England and shows director of this first event.

“There were some teething problems on Friday, but the gala performance on Saturday evening went much more smoothly. We’ve taken on board constructive criticism and have built on it. We’ve received some excellent feedback.”

The supremes were judged on the Saturday evening, in front of an knowledgeable — and vocal — crowd, both in the grandstand and around the indoor arena, part of the £8 million refurb of the Peterborough facilities.

Ridden mountain and moorland competition classes proved popular, attracting large entries, to the extent that the large breeds section had to be split on the night. The first division went to Darrenvale Delilah, the Struszczak family’s typey Fell, while the second was headed by Debbie Spears’ Highland, Lochlands Banjo. The small breeds champion was Carrwood Olympian.

The competition pony championship went to the Fell — a popular choice — with the Highland reserve.

Katy Marriot-Payne took the ridden M&M supreme with another Highland, Gissings Mori Earl, over Charlotte Alford riding Waxwing Paint Box.

A former Hickstead supreme horse and HOYS riding horse of the came through via the riding horse classes to head first the non-native supreme and then the overall accolade. Kate Marfleet’s large riding horse Captain Hastings, supreme at the Royal International 2006 and Birmingham winner the same year, was shown to perfection by Oliver Hood, a real chip off the old block of father Allister. Oliver turned 21 earlier this season and is already shaping up to be a superb showman.

But the Equifest leading rider championship — judged by dressage supremo Dane Rawlins — went to young Jamie Ryder-Phillips, a superlative horseman and a joy to watch.

The enthusiastic crowd enjoyed every second of the Saturday night performance, particularly the moment when Gary Stone proposed to girlfriend Charise Broad, a panel judge and daughter of steward Richard, in the arena. And they went wild when Charise said “yes”.

Is this is the first showring proposal?