One of the UK’s most prestigious horse trials faces permanent cancellation. Its organisers are blaming a lack of support from British Eventing.

Lulworth in Dorset last weekend celebrated its 20th anniversary with more than 500 entries, but the event will not run in 2005.

James Weld, general manager of the family’s Lulworth estate, puts the decision down to financial pressures, combined with what he considers to be obstructive behaviour on the part of British Eventing.

“By 2003, entry fees covered less than a third of the organising costs and 25% of those fees had to be paid to British Eventing for the privilege of holding it,” he says. “We tried, and failed, to build national promotion of the sport by BE, even providing the contacts to achieve this.”

James and his brother, William, took over the organisation of the horse trials in 1994 and maintain that they have repeatedly attempted to secure a greater public profile, including TV deals, for both their own event and the wider sport.

They believe that several opportunities were lost due to the unwillingness of the ruling body to follow them up.

BE chief executive Peter Durrant says: “Television is a key factor in attracting sponsors, but although one can often negotiate air time, production costs have to be met, and the minimum cost of televising an event is £25,000.”

James Weld also argues that certain horse trials receive preferential treatment from BE, which “is governed by a board of individuals, many of whom have a vested interest in one part of the sport.”

Durrant says that board members are elected for their experience and understanding of the sport.

He adds: “Lulworth is a fine location, we hope the organisers will be patient and prepared to reconsider.”

  • This article was first published in Horse & Hound (5 August)

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