The owner of a competition venue and livery yard is warning others to make sure they are well insured after a freak summer storm destroyed £700,000 of their facilities in just three hours.
Anvil Park Stud near Norwich, which had no history of flooding, has spent the winter rebuilding all its stabling and arenas after it was hit by a devastating localised storm on 16 August last year.
The deluge started while the venue was running a British Dressage competition and the show had to be halted when judges could no longer see the competitors and the arena boards started to be washed away.
“It just came out of nowhere,” Emma Alexander, who owns and runs the business with her partner Robert Reeve, told H&H. “In the morning I had a bit of a migraine, so I had gone into the house and left Rob and our livery manager Becky running the show.
“One of the liveries messaged me saying ‘should I come and ride or not?’ and I couldn’t see why it would be a problem as we have an indoor arena — but then I walked into our kitchen and it was flooded.
“I went outside and Rob said ‘I was just coming to get you, I’ve had to cancel the show as the dressage boards were floating away’.”
Water burst through the sides of both the 70m x 20m indoor arena and the smaller indoor arena, washing away the surface, as well as removing gravel and the membrane from the two large outdoor arenas and washing the surface into the nearby fields.
The floodwater also undermined the cafe, wrecked the horse walker and car park and flooded the stables, damaging the supporting brickwork and leaving horses standing up to their knees in water.
“It got so heavy so quickly, I think the drainage just couldn’t cope,” said Emma, who has since had new drains and a 6ft holding tank installed, to handle any excessive runoff.
“In some ways being damaged by water is worse than fire because of everything it brings with it. We didn’t know if the water that flooded the fields was contaminated or not.”
The livery yard had 42 horses on site, some of which were initially turned out but had to be brought back in again when the fields also began to flood.
Emma had to have temporary stables erected in the car park the next day; the horses remained there throughout the winter until the yard was rebuilt.
Friends and neighbours stepped up to take in her stallions, who she did not want to keep in temporary boxes.
“Liz and Mark Mills were amazing, they took my stallions and also allowed us to use their arenas whenever we wanted. John Egmore, Nic and Laura took my other stallion in and allowed arena use and Allister Hood took a couple of horses,” Emma said.
“They never asked when the horses were going to be picked up and looked after them as if they were their own.”
Emma said that when they walked round the yard after the storm to survey the damage, Rob was “heartbroken” but she was confident they would be able to start again.
“We’d put in so much work since we moved in five years ago but I thought it would be OK as I paid so much in insurance. We’re with NFU and they told me we were actually over-insured for all the damage and were brilliant helping us sort it out.
“So many people begrudge paying insurance and go for the cheaper option and don’t have the correct level but we would have been bankrupt if we hadn’t have been covered. We’d just put all of our savings into building a new outdoor arena.”
Some work is still going on at the venue, although the indoor is complete, having been rebuilt from the groundworks up, and the huge 100x100m outdoor is also finished, while the horses are now in their new boxes. Anvil Park has been ready to run shows again since 1 February and Emma is now waiting for Covid restrictions to lift.
“From 29 March we are going to start with arena hire for first week, then we are having an unaffiliated three-day show at the start of April, which will be 40-110cm,” she said. “From 9 April we will start BD and then hopefully it will be full swing from there.”
While the arenas were out of action, liveries were forced to hack, or use a jump field set up on grass or Emma’s friend’s facilities.
“It’s made us really appreciate the facilities we have got,” Emma added. “But at the same time I think we remembered that there is more to riding now, without arenas.
“When we went to Hickstead, we found the horses had really benefited from the practice on grass.”
British Dressage and British Showjumping have revealed their operational plans for the return of competition and training in England from
The equestrian world is planning for the resumption of competition and training in March, in line with the Government’s roadmap
Emma added that she was grateful to all the liveries who had stayed with her throughout the massive rebuilding operation, as well as the companies that had finished the work as quickly as possible.
As well as the new, improved facilities, they have also expanded to include holiday cottages, enabling people to come and stay with their horses and take advantage of both the arenas and hacking.
“We’re also going to extend the outdoor to include a water splash, so we can run cross-country schooling,” she said. “Hopefully 2021 will be Anvil’s year!”
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