A new centre is aiming to provide a “one-stop shop” for all things equestrian “on a scale Scotland has not experienced” before – with hopes of hosting a British Eventing (BE) fixture in future.
Bogenraith Equestrian, in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, is the brainchild of Marion and Ciaran Dreelan. The plans began in 2018 and now the equestrian centre, comprising livery and competition, is gearing up to launch to the public.
Marion, who took up riding aged 44 and competes across disciplines with her gelding Apatchie, told H&H Bogenraith Equestrian had not originally been in the couple’s plans, and came about when a neighbouring farm next to their home went up for sale.
“After some considerable thought we decided that we could do something with the farm and between myself and Ciaran we came up with a plan to buy the farm and split it. Bogenraith Farm and Estates Ltd was started, and Bogenraith Equestrian Ltd.”
Marion said the plans were “hit hard” by Covid, and they had “no choice but to pull back and sit it out”.
“We really got going in 2020 and have been non-stop since. The vision for Bogenraith Equestrian was to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for all things equestrian, on a scale that Scotland has not experienced. We tried to work with the existing farm structures but this proved to be a non-starter, so we went back to the drawing board,” she said.
“I took the views on board as competitor, spectator and business. I could see what was missing in Scotland and decided that if we were going to do this it had to be done on a scale like no other. I refer to Scotland because I have not travelled much further to events.
“We had to create something very special. I have lived in Scotland for almost 30 years and consider it as much a part of my home as I do Ireland, and we wanted to give something back.”
Marion said Scotland has very talented riders at amateur and top level, and the aim is to provide facilities to enable progression – and nurture grassroots riders in their future ambitions – with a venue that can accommodate year-round training and competitions.
“Our centre and facilities have been meticulously designed, from our stables to the arenas and the flow of the centre from the moment you arrive is impressive,” she said.
“Our standards have always been set very high in every aspect of life and we have taken this through to Bogenraith Equestrian and Farm & Estates, our fantastic team has been paramount in making this happen.”
The centre features 50 bespoke 12×12 stables for livery, two 80×40 international arenas, a 70×55 arena, an all-weather cross-country surface, a grass cross-country course, a two-mile off-road hacking route, roofed horse walker and lunge pen. It also has a public restaurant, retail area, seating for 160, and a function room.
“We believe that every rider deserves to excel and enjoy, we want to bring back the fun and support in horse riding,” said Marion, adding that the centre will host training for a variety of disciplines across levels, plus camps and clinics.
“Education is important to us and we are also intending to host evenings where professionals will host talks on things including veterinary topics, feeding and turnout, show day preparation and protocol.”
As excitement builds in the Scottish horse community about the centre, Marion is also known among the community for accomplishing this while undergoing treatment for cancer.
“In November 2021 I found a lump in my left breast, I have always been an avid checker so I knew this was something new. I didn’t really think much of it but decided to keep an eye on it, I had a lot of personal things going on so I decided to push through Christmas and the new year and then if it was still there I would get checked out,” said Marion, who had a mammogram on 26 January 2022.
“The mammogram did not show the lump but my doctor agreed that there was something there. I was referred for an ultrasound where they could see it and then took a biopsy, this sealed it for me and I guess deep down I knew the news was not going to be good, and the waiting was torture.”
On 9 February 2022 Marion was diagnosed with a triple negative grade three breast cancer, which she described as “not a good type to get”.
“I went for surgery on 8 March. This was also my husband’s birthday and entries were open for Kirriemuir horse trials, so it was not a great day!,” she said.
“I then started a horrendous cycle of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, finishing treatment on 19 December 2022. During this time I continued to stay focused and positive, for my family and myself this was the main goal. My horses and dogs got me out of the house on the good days, and the drive to see Bogenraith Equestrian come to reality spurred me on.
“I rode when I could and the steroids helped, but gradually my energy was becoming less, my hair fell out, and I was weaker and feeling robbed of my identity. The horses could feel this so I backed off and just hacked.”
Marion said she still goes for CT scans on her lungs as a nodule was found, which the doctors are “keeping an eye” on because of the cancer.
“Fingers, paws, and hooves are crossed that we are in a good place and it never comes back,” she said, adding that she urges all men and women to check themselves regularly, and to never to postpone seeking medical advice.
Bogenraith’s livery service opens on 1 December, and on 19 January the centre will host a masterclass and training with Ros Canter, in conjunction with British Eventing. The centre’s “official” grand opening will be on a date to be confirmed in spring.
The 160 tickets for the masterclass, and the lessons, sold out within hours of going on sale.
“We were astounded by the response and how quickly the tickets sold. We were receiving messages to release more tickets, so after trying to fit in more seating we decided we could provide another 40, these were sold in less than an hour,” said Marion.
“We are truly blown away by the support and response, and very appreciative to our supporters. This has reinforced the excitement and demand for this centre in Scotland and the Islands.”
This week BE announced that Bogenraith will host BE’s Harry Hall One Club Anyone Can Event (ACE) qualifiers, this winter. The series is an arena-style eventing competition designed for riders of all ages and experiences, and Bogenraith is only the second Scottish venue to host qualifiers, alongside Morris Equestrian in Ayrshire.
Further work is also due to take place from January on Bogenraith’s grass cross-country course – with BE course-builder Adrian Ditcham – with the aim of a spring completion. A BE spokesman said “it is hoped that they will be added to the BE calendar in the future once the cross-country course has been designed and built”.
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