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Hickstead’s International Arena has benefited from a further £30,000-worth of drainage improvements following the installation of a £40,000 drainage system in the arena last year.

The money has been spent on “sand-banding” the 4.5-acre arena, cutting 25mm slits every 10in across the surface and filling them with more than 500 tonnes of sand.

Hickstead director Edward Bunn said: “Last summer was the wettest on record and it was only the new drainage which enabled us to keep going.

“The improvements should help us deal with whatever the weather throws at us.”

Another £15,000 was spent on the areas around the arena that became muddy during last year’s Royal International Horse Show and the Derby.

But Mr Bunn said the priority has been to improve the competition surface.

“If people have to walk through a bit of mud then they have to walk through it. Our priority is the horses,” he added. “But we have put down several new areas of hard-standing.”

International Equestrian Federation (FEI) spokesman Malina Gueorguiev said it is pleased with the improvements.

“We monitor all eight of the super league events very carefully. The FEI representatives check a whole list of aspects from footing, training areas and grooms’ accommodation to media provisions,” she said.

“If there are any areas where improvement is needed, we work with the organisers to make the changes. Hickstead was no worse or better than the others — work needed to be done and they did it.

“The same happened in Rotterdam and Rome. Rome, for example, was always on grass in a park which was a concern, but they have brought sand in now.

“The organisers have listened to our recommendations and the events have changed considerably over the years.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (20 March, ’08)