The Pony Club is ringing the changes this autumn – planning a stylish 2007 championships at a stunning new venue. Shelford Manor in Nottinghamshire ticked all the right boxes as Pony Club officials searched for the perfect venue. The Midlands-based property is extremely accessible with a brand new cross-country course and acres of space for dressage arenas, show jumping rings and polo fields.

It was with great sadness that officials drove away from Sansaw Park, Shropshire for the last time this August. The beautiful venue had played host to the Championships for the past 10 years and a week-long event, featuring almost all Pony Club disciplines had been dubbed the most successful to date. For the first time in the Pony Club’s history, the championships for all disciplines (except tetrathlon) took place over six days. “The standard of horses, riding and stable management has been higher than ever this year,” Mary Anderson, Chairman of the Pony Club, said afterwards.

But the new venue will allow the Championships to expand even more – into a prestigious event akin to the Festival of British Eventing held at Gatcombe Park each year. “I am looking to create a Festival of the Pony Club,” says Stuart Buntine, who organises the Pony Club Championships. “There will now be six rings available for five days and three days of cross-country.”

Pony Club Chief Executive, Judy Edwards is grateful to all those who offered their sites for the championships. “We are delighted to have found a venue in a central location which offers excellent access from all points North, East, South and West and which meets needs of the Championships as we look to develop the event over the next few years,” she said. “I am sure that this will be the start of another long and happy relationship such as the ones we have enjoyed latterly at Sansaw Park and formerly at Weston Park.”

It was Buntine’s idea to introduce intermediate level Championships into the event – a move which has proved to be a great success. “It gives children the chance to lick the ice cream before returning to do the advanced level. And next year we will cater for even more kids,” Buntine explains. “Centre Members (those who do now own their own ponies) will be included in the Championships as well.” Warm-up dressage and show jumping classes as well as master classes and demonstrations by Britain’s top riders will add value to the competition, making long journeys from the tip of Scotland or Cornwall worthwhile.

The completely new cross-country course was designed by Buntine himself for BE competitions this year. “We are building a big new water complex and two new loops of track over the winter,” he explained, adding that the site will now be entirely dedicated to the Pony Club. The course will run over pasture and through the ruins of an old monastery which include a former moat. “We’ve done a lot of work on the going – Polly Jackson took one look at it and entered 12 horses into the last competition – that’s my claim to fame!” he said.

Located just 10 minutes drive from Nottingham, between the A1 and the M1, there are plenty of good value hotels and places to eat nearby, ensuring parents and supporters are well catered for. “We’re now just looking for support and ideas to create the Festival of the Pony Club,” Buntine added.

Please email suggestions to stuart.buntine@btinternet.com