The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has released a plan to improve UK training and competition facilities. But its conclusions seem less than clear.
Produced by independent consultant Tim Hadaway, together with the BEF’s 13 member bodies, the Facilities Strategy for Equestrian Sport and Recreation aims to identify the things needed for horse sports to improve and grow in Britain.
“This is not just for the equestrian industry,” said Mr Hadaway, “but for a wider sphere, including regional development agencies.”
While the glossy strategy includes useful guidance for riding centres on how to source funding for expansion and the specific facilities each discipline requires, areas of the document appear vague.
“The strategy concludes that the industry is not yet in a position to assess accurately and comprehensively current provision,” it says.
But while Mr Hadaway admits it could be seen as “another bit of paper”, he added: “The strategy makes very clear that we need a comprehensive national facilities database before we can identify the gaps and look at raising standards and increasing participation.”
Work has now started on a database. The strategy also identifies the need for a new accreditation scheme for venues; a national equine institute and a database of expansion funding and grants.
A need for the elite teams from all disciplines to pool training requirements is also identified, to encourage investment and reduce costs.
BEF performance director Will Connell told H&H: “It’s about long-term development of training facilities to the highest level and giving venues the comfort that we’re going to use them.”
British Eventing team trainer Yogi Breisner supports the plans. “If good facilities at a good cost can be created, it will help enormously. There are some very good facilities in Britain, but where one might have a great indoor arena, it might lack a gallop, or rider accommodation.”
But the smaller disciplines disagree. British Reining (BR), British Equestrian Vaulting and Endurance GB all struggle for suitable venues.
“Reining is in a dire situation — we have nowhere to hold a major show,” said BR’s Bill Archer. “Although Western riding is growing, it has plateaued in the UK. The facilities strategy is positive, but we need more than that because it’s still commercially driven.”
Publication of training camp tender documents for London 2012 is “imminent”, according to the organising committee. Several venues are upgrading their sites.
Hickstead has announced a £500,000 improvement plan, including the installation of a new 100x50m warm-up arena, upgrading the surface of the international arena. Towerlands, The College EC, Rowallan, Addington and Hartpury have also upgraded, and Great Leighs in Essex has announced plans for a “global equestrian park”.