Ben Townley: Moving up the ranks *H&H VIP*

Opinion

It’s good to see more two-star shows in Britain. These give riders a chance to stay here and earn world-ranking points.

One more ranking class here, as there often is at a similar show in Europe, would help a lot, but that would need a sponsor to make it financially viable, of course.

Another good thing about CSIs in Britain is that they give young course-builders a chance to learn from the best. That’s vital if you want to progress.

I started off as a member of the arena party, but I wanted to be an architect, so design was already in my mind. I was also incredibly lucky because Bob Ellis took me under his wing. I then learned at shows such as the World Equestrian Games with Alan Wade, and with Kelvin Bywater, the chief designer here, whose attention to detail and ideas about colour and design can’t be bettered.

With a lot of help from them, I recently upgraded to become a level five builder nationally. The next aim is to progress at international level.

Some people think all we do is write out a course plan and go into the arena and watch people build it, but there’s a bit more to the job than that. We have to be organised and, as well as thinking about how a course will ride, it has to be interesting for people watching. That’s something that comes with experience. You can’t learn it from books.

As far as course-building is concerned, there isn’t a lot of difference between an international show and a national show. Tracks in Europe are more flowing, with open, forward distances. The idea of that is to produce scope, so I try to incorporate some of these things when I design a course.

Ideas don’t always come off and, of course, we all make mistakes. Who doesn’t? But when a track you’ve designed produces a fantastic result, there’s no better feeling.

Ref Horse & Hound; 11 July 2019