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Hundreds of mountain and moorland aficionados faced a long wait on the first morning of the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) last week after changes to seating in the Caldene Arena cut capacity by 100.

Organisers Grandstand had filled what was last year’s standing area with additional seating.

By noon on Wednesday, the situation had reached crisis point at the entrance to the arena and waiting ticket-holders were told the arena was full and stewards would be operating a one-in-one-out policy.

H&H reporter Margaret Shaw was caught in the crush and says things “turned quite nasty”.

“There was an army of people trying to get past the stewards — about 60 or 70 people were at the barriers waving their tickets. They were very unhappy at being held up and were pushing and shoving,” she said.

Janice Cook and daughter Darcy, from Ripley in Derbyshire, were stuck in the crowd outside the ring as they tried to get in to see Janice’s other daughter, Sam, in the Search for a Star competition on her cob Calamity Jane. The crowds became so great that Darcy had a panic attack.

“There were too many people — the Welsh section C and Ds are very popular — and they were letting us in one at a time,” said Mrs Cook. “We were packed in like sardines, it was quite scary.”

Director of Grandstand Mark Wein said their decision to improve the seating in the Caldene Arena had been taken after visitor feedback from the past two HOYS.

“The new seating resulted in reduced capacity at a time when for the first time since being at the NEC we sold out on a Wednesday,” said Mr Wein.

“Admission is guaranteed for the International Arena but the Caldene Arena is subject to space, as it says clearly on the ticket.”

At the peak of the problem spectators faced a 50-minute wait to get into the arena, but within half an hour waiting times were down to about 15min, he added.

Six people asked for immediate refunds and left the site.

The extra seating was removed overnight on Wednesday and there were no further
reported problems.

“We wanted to improve the visitor experience for the show and it’s frustrating for us to have had to remove the seating,” added Mr Wein.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (11 October, ’07)