*Exclusive* Dressage to return to Hickstead for new era: plans for national and international shows in motion

  • Dressage is set to return to Hickstead in 2021 with plans for competition up to? grand prix level and an international on the cards from 2022.

    The end of the road for Dressage at Hickstead was announced in August owing to financial reasons and the site has since been dismantled.

    But its sister site — the All England Jumping Course — has now revealed plans to host a Premier League show next year (21-23 May 2021) with classes from advanced medium to grand prix and hopes to host a CDI from 2022.

    “We want to test the water with our first Premier League show, to gauge the initial levels of support and interest – with a view of going on to potentially bigger events,” said Hickstead director Lizzie Bunn. “We are currently discussing a number of other options, including hosting existing finals, plus hopefully an international competition in 2022. But this very much depends on the entire dressage community getting behind this new venture and making it a success.”

    The venue Dressage at Hickstead held top competition for 27 years, including the 2003 European Championships and an annual international. Since 2013, this included the British leg of the FEI dressage Nations Cup series.

    It was the brainchild of Dane Rawlins, who co-founded the venture with Hickstead founder Douglas Bunn.

    “We are immensely grateful to Dane for his many years of hard work and dedication to Dressage at Hickstead,” added Lizzie. “We understand that many riders were saddened to lose the venue, and while it was unsustainable to keep running the dressage side as a separate entity, we have been working hard this season to formulate plans to hold dressage competitions within the main Hickstead site.”

    Competition will be held on the all-weather arenas at the All England Jumping Course, which are used for cross-country and showjumping training over the winter, and national showjumping classes during the international fixtures.

    Multiple medal-winning Olympian Carl Hester said this is “fabulous and most welcome” news.

    “We need to keep up the momentum and build our future teams, and venues with world class facilities like Hickstead are key to that,” said Carl.

    “Experienced riders use Premier Leagues to bring our younger horses on while they give up and coming combinations a chance to taste the big occasion. On behalf of the riders and owners, I’d like to thank the Bunn family for providing this opportunity and continuing the next chapter of Hickstead to follow on from what Dane and his team achieved.”

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    Lizzie added: “My father Douglas will always be remembered most for his passion for showjumping, but he was also an innovator and advocate of all equestrian sport, and he knew that for Hickstead to be successful it had to diversify and cater to other disciplines as well.

    “Dressage classes have been held here at the showground since the 1970s, eventually leading to the opening of Dressage at Hickstead in 1993. I’m pleased that we can carry on Dad’s legacy – and that of Dane – by continuing to showcase the sport of dressage here in West Sussex.”

    British Dressage (BD) chief executive Jason Brautigam added that it was “of course incredibly disappointing” when Dressage at Hickstead announced it was unable to continue “after 27 magnificent years”.

    “We subsequently had really positive and constructive discussions with the Bunn family and BD is delighted that the sport will be able to continue enjoying a presence at the venue in 2021 and beyond,” he said.

    “Hickstead remains a special and prestigious venue for our members and we look forward to next year’s Premier League fixture, which will hopefully be a stepping stone to the return of more shows in future years, including international competition. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Dane and his team for their immense contribution to the sport – and to Edward and Lizzie Bunn for being so supportive of our efforts to retain dressage at Hickstead.”

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