Businessman Nick Davies has bought Hand Equestrian Centre in Somerset, plus surrounding fields and adjacent football pitches, and plans to inject £3million into developing a multi-discipline centre.

The centre has already been awarded a four-day international show jumping fixture for November 2007.

“I intend to make The Hand into a world-class centre in line with the British Equestrian Federation’s (BEF) training standards,” said Mr Davies, whose daughter, Emily, is a European pony show jumping medallist.

“David Broome will become the centre’s president and is fully behind the project, which is a massive bonus,” he added. “I’m a local man and have the necessary capital to fund this project. The first phase will be completed in time for our New Year show.”

The BEF has greeted the news with enthusiasm.

“It’s fantastic, we need this level of facilities,” said performance director Will Connell. “The more world-class facilities we have for training and competition around the country,
the better.”

Phase one of the improvements has already begun. The indoor arena has been extended with a new surface to create 90x30m space, and there is now temporary stabling for 400.

Other improvements include a new judges’ box, tiered seating for 700 and refurbishment of the café to seat 70, linked to an overflow social lounge seating 150.

Phase two starts in January 2007, including 80 permanent stables in a Dutch barn and a 90x40m outdoor surface, and 90x70m grass ring — due to be finished by March.

Phase three begins in March 2007, with completion scheduled for August. This includes a new 400-seater restaurant beside the arena, viewing terrace, private hospitality boxes, toilets and shower facilities, extended catering facilities and heated judges’ box.

Mr Davies said: “The final part of the developments will start in 2008. Plans for an accommodation complex are also in the pipeline, with the prospect of the centre becoming a training complex for teams competing in the 2012 Olympics.

“This is a significant investment and opportunity for the equestrian world and they need to support it.”

BEF facilities consultant Tim Hadaway told H&H that as far as he was aware, there is nothing parallel to The Hand’s plans in the area.

He added: “The industry is very lucky there is currently significant investment in facilities. This is the latest in a number, including Unex Towerlands, Arena UK, Addington and planned developments at Great Leighs — to name just a few.”

  • This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (16 November, ’06)