Major horse trials cancelled for 2024: ‘Incredibly sad news’

  • The Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing (2-4 August) has been cancelled this year as the current economic climate has made the event unviable.

    “Following the adverse weather experienced at Gatcombe last year, which led to the abandonment of the event, and due to the ever-increasing costs associated with operating on a greenfield site, it has made the event unfeasible to run,” said a statement from the event. Event chairman Mark Phillips added that the rise in costs since Covid, particularly insurance, means “the numbers no longer add up”.

    In terms of the future of the event after 2024, a spokesperson for the Festival told H&H: “We can’t rule out it ever coming back, but it would need to be in the form of a different business model.”

    The festival usually hosts the novice, intermediate and open national championships, as well as the Corinthian Cup restricted novice championship and a retrained racehorse championship.

    The team at British Eventing (BE) is now discussing a tender process to find a new venue for the national championships . In 2021, when Gatcombe did not run because of Covid, these classes were hosted at Burgham.

    British Eventing CEO Rosie Williams said: “It is incredibly sad news for everyone involved in the sport. My focus this year is very much going to be on how we can implement a strategy that works for the sport going forward. We need to do everything we can to find a way to support our organisers, landowners and stakeholders to make events at wonderful venues like Gatcombe become viable. We will work hard as a governing body to assist in any way we can for the financial risk and burden to be minimised so that we can welcome Gatcombe, and others like it, back into the calendar.

    “We will continue to be ongoing in discussions with Peter [Phillips, event director] and the team at Gatcombe and will also be, as a matter of urgency, discussing a tender process for the national championships, which will need to find a new home for this season and going forward.”

    Festival of British Eventing cancelled: 40 years of history

    Festival of British Eventing event director Peter Phillips said: “It is with a heavy heart that the festival, which has played a significant part in the British Eventing calendar since 1983, cannot run this year. The event has also been a huge part of my family’s lives and those of many others for 40 years.

    “It has built up a large community that has enjoyed and celebrated the festival each year. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved over the past four decades; our sponsors for their unwavering support, the large selection of trade stands and arena entertainment and our spectators who have loved coming to Gatcombe to watch the world-class equestrian sport from the famous Park Bowl.”

    Mark Phillips added: “The horse trials at Gatcombe, and more recently the Festival of British Eventing, have been a major part of my life for over 40 years when the Princess Royal and I first had the dream. The dream became reality, and with it, many special memories of the many riders, horses, volunteers, sponsors and spectators all of whom massively contributed to the history of the horse trials at Gatcombe Park.

    “It’s truly a great sadness that the original model and indeed the sport has changed so much. Since Covid, costs, particularly insurance, have risen so much that the numbers no longer add up. It is an end of an era, the next 40 years of the sport will be different, let’s hope it can be equally special.”

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