For me, there’s nothing more enjoyable than a good stay away show. You spend dedicated and extended time with your horses, around like-minded people and the consistent competing is great for your riding too. I’ve even heard them described as Pony Club camp for grown-ups.
So, if you’re looking to make some exciting plans for 2021 to keep your spirits high and distract you for the current state of the world, how do you choose which show is right for you?
Obviously, things like distance and accommodation have to be factored in. A lot of the great national show centres have a good selection of places to stay nearby if you’re not staying on your lorry.
There is a huge variety to choose from when it comes to national shows, in that you could be just after training style classes or really wanting to test yourself in championship classes. Choose your show based on where you’re at with your riding, but also keep in mind what you are working towards. If you are bringing on a young horse, lots of pleasant experiences at training shows are invaluable, however if you have a more experienced horse and you are thinking about stepping up to jumping internationally, premier shows and championship classes are a great way to get a feel for what to expect on the slightly bigger stage.
I recently stayed away at Bolesworth. It has fantastic rings, great surfaces, well-designed courses and what a location! Bolesworth organisers have made a real effort in the wake of the pandemic — running training shows to try and get everybody back out in the ring. They really put on beautiful events, but like everything, it costs money to get to these shows and so I really made sure I had decent preparation leading up to it so that we had a good time and the horses
were jumping well. For me there’s nothing worse than walking into a big show feeling hideously under-prepared.
Another show I also like is Hickstead. It is the kind of show that should be on every showjumper’s bucket list, given its iconic status. From a rider’s perspective it has terrific rings, with a nice choice of grass or surface plus, because of its traditional links to derby jumping classes, it has a variety of interesting fences that you might not find at other shows.
So how do these homegrown shows compare to those abroad? They are equally appealing in terms of the beautiful venues (I’m pictured top hacking on the Meditteranean coast at the MET tour show in Oliva, Spain) and variety of classes, but if you are looking to go on an overseas adventure (and the current state of the world permits it) what are the best shows to look at?
The nearer the show venue is to Calais, often the bigger the classes will be in terms of the number of competitors. So, shows at Lier (pictured above at Lier on my grey, Felix), Opglabbeek and Peelbergen are very popular as they are just a short journey from the ferry. This can be a huge bonus though, as often the thought of long journeys can be off-putting when thinking about jumping abroad.
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Making the journey to down to Spain or Portugal and jumping on a tour is something I’d recommend to anyone looking to work on their riding or their horse’s performance solidly for anything up to six weeks at a time (in some cases, longer). Again, it’s important to look at costs because passporting and transport can all add up, but while there is a fair bit of travel involved which can be taxing if you are moving the horses yourself, those shows are always brilliantly organised, set in beautiful locations and offer you the opportunity jump around nice, gentle courses at levels starting at 1.10m. It is a great way to make improvements, gain confidence, make friends and create an incredible bond with your horse.
So, whether you choose to stay at home or venture abroad — I highly recommend a stay away show as a great experience for both horse and rider.
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