Future of Sussex show centre unclear

  • Sussex-based riders are hoping that Royal Leisure’s new owners will resume its shows schedule after the centre changed hands last month.

    Former owner Emily Talbot shut the centre, near Henfield, after a final show on 20 March.

    Royal Leisure regular Tamara Strapp described the closure as “a huge loss to the south-east”.

    “It will be a disaster if another venue does not replace it,” said Ms Strapp, who is based just over an hour away.

    “We now have no similar winter venue within 3hr.”

    Affiliated dressage at Royal Leisure was run under the Step Aside banner. Forthcoming shows have been transferred directly to nearby Belmoredean Stud, West Grinstead.

    But Step Aside organiser Debbie Reed confirmed that she is hoping to return to Royal Leisure, as it has 2 arenas.

    British Showjumping (BS) area rep Sara Pheasant is discussing the future with the new owners. 2 fixtures have been incorporated into Pyecombe’s schedule, just 6 miles away.

    BS confirmed it is “due to speak with Royal Leisure this week, when, should the show dates be formally cancelled, the qualifiers will be relocated”.

    Although BS would not reveal the identity of the buyers, it is understood that they are connected to showjumping.

    Mrs Talbot said: “I understand that the new owners will keep it as an equestrian centre.”

    Essex’s Norton Heath also ran its final affiliated showjumping class, on 18 March, but the centre will continue to be used for dressage shows and unaffiliated showjumping.

    Organiser Julia Biddle decided to “call a halt due to family commitments”.

    Don’t miss this week’s showjumping special, guest edited by Olympic rider Nick Skelton, which includes a feature on the future of show centres.

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (3 April 2014)

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