Why all the fuss about the horsey Home Counties? The north-west is really where it’s at. From Red Rum to Geoff Billington, this corner of England has time and again produced the cream of the crop.
With top shows, top venues and top riders, this region is a busy, buzzing hive. It hosts some of the UK’s oldest equestrian establishments, with several brilliant innovations starting up, and a glut of great events to look out for this summer.
Pony Club novice championships
Hoping to be selected for the Pony Club championships but just missing the cut? The Cheshire Hunt North Pony Club branch has the solution. District Commissioner Psyche Kennerly and her team have been running the national novice championships at Smallwood EC for five years, over a 90cm course. The NFU-sponsored event, features dressage, show jumping and mounted games, as well as the one-day event (27-28 August). Teams qualify at novice competitions run alongside area trials in July. Contact David Knowles (tel: 01477 534722).
Jumping for joy
Cheshire-based international show jumper and amateur whip Keith Shore will shortly be moving to a new property. His horses are currently stabled with his parents, but Keith has just bought a large DIY livery yard, where he will run full livery for hunters and show jumpers — as well as keeping his own string. But there’s no chance of any homesickness — the new property, in Comberbach, is just a couple of 100yd from his old base.
Rural Riders European Championship
One third of the 12 riders on the long-list for the rural riders CIC** European Championship hail from the north-west. Former top show jumper Michael Wynne (Primitive Loch) and Dee Kennedy (Big El) are based in Cheshire, while Sarah Healy (pictured, on Macallan) and Jo Andrews (Blue III) sneak under the north-west umbrella by living in Derbyshire. Following team training, selectors will pick a final list of eight to travel to the championships, to be held in Germany from 11-14 August.
Racing at the Roodee
The north-west is the home of the oldest racecourse in Britain, Chester’s Roodee, dating back to the 16th century. Racing purists flock to the Derby trials in May, but each of Chester’s seven race fixtures has a unique identity. The Family Funday, on 31 July, features entertainment from magicians, clowns and bouncy castles for the whole family to enjoy. And if racing’s not your thing, the Chester international show jumping show takes place at the Roodee from 15-17 July.
The main base for polocrosse is the Celyn Club at Northop Horticultural College on the Cheshire/Welsh border, where they play every Tuesday night between 7-8pm.
Three sibling members, Tom, Ruth and Sarah Simpkin, are on national teams (Tom is currently in Colorado playing for UK men) and their father, Mark, runs the club.
Other members Josh Woolley and Anne-Meike Mitchell play for the under-16s and the area has teams qualified in every group for the national junior championships at Cardiff in July and seniors at Ipswich in August. Polocrosse is now played by most Pony Club branches throughout the area. Contact Di Woolley (tel: 07718 248718).
Very happy hacking
After creeping over the Cheshire border into North Wales, riders can make the most of Wales on Horseback’s initiative to help local farmers diversify. A series of interlocking rides will wind through the spectacular scenery. The routes, over 10-35 miles, will be suitable for weekend riders up to endurance competitors looking for some serious fittening work. Overnight accommodation for horse and rider, including stabling or grazing, evening meals and packed lunches is also part of the package for those wanting to make a real holiday of it. For more information, contact (tel: 0800 7316254) or visit www.walesonhorseback.co.uk
Find your perfect partner
Cheshire has a bustling market of horses for sale, with everything from Pony Club ponies to competition horses available to purchase from both private advertisers and horse sale specialists. View horses currently for sale in the region >>