Ponies Association UK (P(UK)) organisers and competitors were left disappointed after a steep decline in entries for its summer championships (24-26 July).
In its heyday, entries ran into five figures at P(UK) summer championships, but last year’s entry list of 2,500 was drastically reduced to just 800 for 2015.
Opinion among exhibitors was that the loss of Stoneleigh — the championship venue for the past two years — and Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifiers accounted for most lack of support, while the timing also proved unpopular.
Normally these championships are held in August. However, this year’s date came just a week before the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS).
But after being told in November by Stoneleigh leaseholder Grandstand Media that it had lost its ground and HOYS qualifiers, P(UK) organisers had little time to find another date and venue.
In the past, HOYS qualifiers have accounted for around 70% (£46,000) of the revenue at P(UK) summer championships, so the association has been left counting the costs this year.
“We are at a pivotal point and the last thing we want is to see the association fall into continual decline,” said treasurer Darren Price.
“There is an active commitment from the board to continue to make the association successful and we are actively seeking feedback from our members about timing, location, schedule and cost.”
Competitor Paul Cook told H&H the timing of the show made it difficult to take ponies.
“July and August are usually very busy months and there is only so much travelling ponies will take, so this year we took some youngsters [in-hand] instead,” he said.
“It’s sad to see any championship show hit hard times, particularly this one because of all the heritage.”
Producer Mandy Burchell-Small added: “I have been going to the P(UK) championships for around 30 years. This year we would probably have taken more along but the date was too close to the Mid Herts and the RIHS. It is so sad the show wasn’t better supported.”
However, a spokesman for Grandstand Media told H&H that P(UK) was offered the venue and dates at Stoneleigh Park for its championship show, but it “chose to take the show to a new location”.
“As ever the venue is accessible for all societies to host their championships here,” said a spokesman. “In 2015 HOYS decided to reduce the number of qualifiers. The decision on which qualifiers were reduced was in direct relation to decreasing entry numbers at those shows.
“Before any difficult decision to remove a show’s qualifiers is made, we advise those with the lowest entries that their HOYS qualifiers may be removed if an increase is not seen. We always aim to provide two years’ notice for those shows to address entries and support. Unfortunately entry numbers did not increase within this time frame resulting in the removal of the qualifiers.”
However a P(UK) spokesman refuted the claim they were offered Stoneleigh Park and alternative dates to run their 2015 summer championship show.
“At no time was the association given any prior notice that they could possibly lose them due to decreasing entries,” added the spokesman.
For full P(UK) report see this week’s H&H.