Camilla Bingham (pictured competing at Bolesworth) is an amateur showjumper based in Buckinghamshire. She manages her stables from her family-run yard, Puttenham Place, where she produces, competes and cares for her team of horses. Camilla travels all around Europe and the UK competing at some of the top shows that the industry has to offer. As an amateur rider attending some of the sport’s most prestigious events, Camilla explains what you can expect from these first-class shows, and gives us her top tips of how to make the most out of your experience
Bolesworth International is set in the beautiful surroundings of Bolesworth Castle in the Cheshire countryside and is owned and run by the Barbour family. My last visit to Bolesworth was in June 2016 — it was a total washout and it is no secret that Bolesworth International 2019 was also hit hard by terrible weather. My heart really does go out to the organisers, volunteers and exhibitors who put so much hard work into the show only for it all to be turned upside down by the elements. Unfortunately, the organisers had to make a last-minute decision to close their gates to the public for safety reasons, however for the competitors and VIPs (owners and sponsors), it was business as usual.
Arriving and settling in
In hindsight and due to the poor weather conditions, Bolesworth is a show that you want to get to as early as possible, even a whole day early if you have the luxury. Turning up on the Wednesday (the day before competition started), when every competitor and his dog is trying to unload, is manic to say the least. I’ll be the first to admit that my patience (and sanity) may not have been running at normal levels as my three-hour trip to the show turned into a seven-hour journey of heavy traffic and driving in rain. Due to waterlogged fields, horseboxes could not park on the grass, although the great improvement that has been made is the addition of plenty of hard standing for parking.
However, with dressage riders leaving and showjumpers arriving the one access road soon became a big headache particularly as this road also happened to be the only dry route to the trot-up — in fact, it was the only dry route anywhere, so the combination of moving horseboxes, queuing horses (all a little fresh), and people unpacking wasn’t ideal. The lorry parking is first come, first served — arrive early and you are near the stables, late and you are parked far away, which can make for interesting unloading and unpacking.
As you can imagine, the rain made everything tad tricky — it was crazy muddy. All the stables, including the FEI compound, are on grass so we did arrive to some slightly soggy boxes. The Bolesworth team did supply straw for us, so all the stable blocks could have a layer between the bedding and the ground, then you get three bags of shavings too. The wash bays were on hard standing, which in theory was a good idea, but to get to and from them you did have to wade through mud, so there wasn’t really much point in washing down horses.
Despite this, the jumping is awesome. There are two beautiful all-weather arenas and variety of classes. You’ve got four-star, two-star and amateur classes, and they also run some national classes, which are meant to be in a designated grass ring, but had to be squeezed into the sand rings. The international arena is the main appeal at Bolesworth — it’s beautiful, big and surrounded by a unique moat with a stunning backdrop of Bolesworth Castle. It’s overlooked by a huge VIP area, shops and the Club Boles bar.
The long walkway from the warm-up to the ring and under the bridge I personally find really special and get a bit of a buzz having the opportunity to ride in that ring.
This arena is mainly reserved for the four-star classes, but they do have some of the amateur classes and the two-star grand prix in there too, which is pretty special.
Most two-star classes are held in a separate all-weather arena which has its own spacious warm-up ring. The ring may not be as impressive but it’s big, the surface is good, and the jumps are bold and interesting.
I competed Timmy (Cassini) and Fleurie, and while I did not manage to be in the prizes, I was thrilled with how the horses jumped and only had the odd mistake. It’s a big show and the horses rose to the occasion. Although the moat isn’t incorporated in the jumping, I was slightly nervous about how Tim would feel after sending me swimming at an open water a couple of weeks beforehand… Luckily, he was on best behaviour.
Entries, start lists and results
The show uses an app called Equipe which is so handy — it lists the daily classes and start times. It also live streams the classes and posts results, which is great because you can monitor your class from the stables — I’m a big fan.
What to do when you’re not riding
Bolesworth is renowned for its very impressive VIP and hospitality marquee in which you can buy either a table or an individual pass. The VIP was packed every day and evening — all credit to its quality. You can pick between a day, evening or week-long passes — it’s one of those shows that even if you don’t get VIP, you don’t miss out because there is so much going on outside with entertainment and shopping. However, VIP is a treat and we bought Friday night tickets to watch the Puissance and shared a table with people we didn’t know which was a giggle.
Each evening, a special event was held in the international arena to a packed VIP and included the eventers’ grand prix, the popular Puissance, ride and drive challenge and a yearling auction. Everyone gets involved and VERY competitive (the ride and drive) and it does get a bit mad, and slightly scary (again, the ride and drive!).
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If that’s not enough, no show does nightlife quite like Bolesworth. Club Boles — a big marquee by the main arena — is host to the sublime and very popular parties for which the show has become famous for. Each night there is a different theme such as Ibiza, white party and then a live band on the Saturday night — the parties are pretty impressive. I’m sad to say I only managed to make it to Club Boles for one of these evenings as I was jumping early most mornings, but it was great to catch up with friends.
Bolesworth does have a special, unique feel to it and I am looking forward to the sunshine next year. I think I’m overdue a sunny Bolesworth!
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