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Ambitious plans for the UK’s largest equestrian centre were unveiled by former Olympic eventer Karen Dixon in Scotland earlier this month.

Karen’s husband, Andrew, heads a private consortium that has earmarked 300 acres of land near Lockerbie for the £30m development.

Planning permission for the site is being sought in November and Mr Dixon told H&H that he was hoping a 12-month building schedule would get underway in February 2007. The centre will have three indoor and four outdoor arenas, a cross-country course and 130 stables.

“One of the big questions facing us all is how to take equestrianism further,” said Mr Dixon. “There’s been massive growth in the industry in the past 10 years and there’s so much potential there, but riding schools are struggling due to massive insurance premiums. My idea is for a centre based on the German model and aimed at every level of rider — from the hacker to the serious competitor.”

He said funding would be raised by the construction of 60 houses and 50 holiday cottages around the site.

Both the British Horse Society (BHS) and the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) welcomed the plans. ABRS chairman Julian Marczak said: “The building of any new centre is good for the industry and I welcome any project that supports riding at grassroots level.”

The development trend comes on the back of a recent British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) survey which found the number of people riding in Britain has nearly doubled from 2.4m in 1999 to 4.3m in 2006.

In Essex, Ashfields Equestrian Centre and Polo Club has recently acquired an additional 500 acres to provide new ground for driving events, while a brand new purpose-built yard with 53 acres near Oswestry in Shropshire has just come on the market as a rental opportunity.

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (28 September, ’06)