The owner of Oldencraig Equestrian Centre (OEC) says it will be “very sad” to see the venue close next month.
The Surrey venue, which has run British Dressage (BD) competition for over 20 years, and been the base of top rider Vicky Thompson-Winfield, has been sold and a planning application has been submitted for 20 houses on the site.
Owner Ian Winfield told H&H the current facilities will be demolished.
“It will literally be flattened,” he said. “My clients leave on 23 August, then on 30 August, that’s it, finished.”
Mr Winfield said he bought the site as a “run-down” venue, in which he has invested millions.
“I had an ambition to turn it into a world-class venue, which I’ve achieved,” he said. “It will be very, very sad.”
Mr Winfield said Oldencraig had been for sale for some years and that, although offers were made for it, previous buyers pulled out at the last minute.
“Big equestrian centres are difficult to sell, even Oldencraig, which has always had a good name and been lucrative,” he said. “I’m nearly 60 and I thought it was time for a different game plan.
“It’s so hard for centres; you’ve got insurance, business rates, council tax, all costs are going up and you can’t pass them on to clients, and I thought, perhaps it’s time to finish.”
Mr Winfield told H&H in 2017 he planned to revamp Oldencraig to create a bigger, better centre.
But he added this week: “I looked at my options and one was to develop it, to invest a considerable amount and go on for another 10 years. But I’ve been with BD over 20 years. Shows don’t make that much money, and they say if you build this and that, you’ll get bigger shows, but I’ve done the building and never got the big shows.
“If you don’t get the shows, you’re wasting your time investing in the centre.”
The Winfields are to move to a yard in West Sussex, from which Vicky will still ride, teach and compete. Mr Winfield said he had also written to all his liveries, to offer them the chance to join them at the new yard, and that all his staff have found new jobs.
“I made sure all my clients were happy and had somewhere to go, and found jobs for my staff,” he said. “People say you can’t make a living out of horses but I have, I’ve had a super time.”
BD said it was “saddened” by the news, adding that the Petplan area festival final in October will be held at Parwood Equestrian in Surrey instead.
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BD southern regional development officer Sharon Walker said: “It’s always sad to lose venues from the BD community, but an equestrian centre with the standing, reputation and longevity of Oldencraig closing is undoubtedly a big blow for our sport. It’s been an honour and a pleasure working with Ian Winfield, Vicky Thompson-Winfield and all of the team at OEC, we have enjoyed many years of amazing fun and memorable events.”
BD CEO Jason Brautigam said Oldencraig would be “very much missed”.
“I am sure all members will join me in thanking them for all their support for BD over the years. I understand Vicky will continue to ride, train and compete, while Ian will also carry on with OEC brand worldwide. We wish them all the best in their future competition endeavours and business ventures.”
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