Ponies(UK)’s Winter Championships have found a new home. After taking place at The College Equestrian Centre for the last four years, the competition is relocating to Unex Towerlands in Braintree, Essex.

Built 25 years ago, Towerlands has just undergone extensive refurbishment at a rumoured cost of £1m. The Unex group, who took it over last year, renovated the 893-seat indoor arena, installing a new Martin Collins gel track surface and extending the collecting ring. They also built a new outdoor all-weather arena and some 25 stables, bringing the number of their permanent stables to 125.

“Towerlands has become such a good venue that although it is slightly further down and east than we would ideally want, we decided to move there,” says P(UK) spokeswoman Betsy Branyan. “It has really become spectacular.”

At the same time, a significant improvement to the area’s transport network has made the Essex venue more easily accessible from every direction.

“We had avoided it in the past because it was out on a limb and we thought we would upset people coming from the north,” says Branyan. “But because they have improved the roads, people can now get there in an additional 30 or 40 minutes, which is worthwhile if you are coming for a three-day show.”

P(UK) has signed a three-year contract with Towerlands, starting from 2006. Their new location will allow them to develop the show by adding more open classes as well as the full range of championship classes.

“Although we were very happy with the service at College Equestrian, there was no room for expansion there,” says Branyan. “The show was as big as we could have had.”

She explains that the top end of the showing market is very well-catered for, whereas P(UK)’s winter championships can be “a step on the ladder” for people who are getting into the sport — and the move to Towerlands will be instrumental to achieving this.

“We’ll do a lot more fun classes to encourage people to get into showing and compete without feeling too pressurised,” she says.

P(UK) is not new to moving its shows around to pursue ambitious development plans. Earlier this year, they relocated their summer show from the East of England Showground in Peterborough, where it had been held since its inception, to the Newark & Notts Showground.

“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have had two big moves in a year, but we had a big opportunity at Towerlands,” says Branyan. “And we moved the summer show and all went well, so I suppose it made for a good precedent!”

For more information visit: www.poniesuk.org