Eventing calendar bounces back as venues step up to host cancelled internationals

  • Eventers have brighter news to celebrate this week with organisers stepping in to fill the gaps in the international calendar following a bleak fortnight of cancellations.

    Five international fixtures announced in the first two weeks of March that they would not be able to run in 2021, but replacements have now been announced for the all with the exception of Badminton, which will not be replaced in this year’s calendar.

    Bicton in Devon has taken on all the CCI4*-L/S and under-25 classes that were due to be held at Bramham, running from 10-13 June.

    Aston-le-Walls (12-16 May) will take on Chatsworth’s CCI4*-S, CCI2*-S, plus its national advanced and novice classes, while Belsay (3-5 June) will now run a CCI2*-L for juniors, and Cirencester takes on Withington Manor’s classes from 1-2 May (news, 18 March).

    Tweseldown and Little Downham are uniting to run “Little Tweseldownham”, hosting CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S classes at each venue, plus the national novice and intermediate classes lost with the cancellation of Rockingham. Competition will be held at Lucinda Green XC Academy Tweseldown on 20-21 May, and Childeric Little Downham on 22-23 May, subject to FEI approval.

    The Little Tweseldownham timetable involves smaller sections of international classes, so combinations will complete all three phases on the same day, reducing both costs and the need for overnight stabling, and to better cater to riders’ own schedules.

    “Like so many owners I had been looking forward to watching my horses compete at the stunning Rockingham Castle, but will have to wait for next year,” said Little Downham organiser Tina Ure.

    “I am grateful to British Eventing for endorsing this joint bid with Tweseldown and our innovative timetable that will enable both professional and amateur riders the opportunity to complete CCI-S in one day, something that has been a long-time ambition of mine.

    “I have shared the frustration of many owners and riders about the additional expenses often incurred to compete at this level and welcomed the opportunity to try something different.

    “Working with Rachael at Tweseldown is a new collaborative venture aimed at maximising the competition opportunities for all despite the difficulties caused by the coronavirus and EHV-1.”

    Tweseldown organiser Rachael Faulkner said she is thrilled to be sharing the FEI and national classes with Little Downham.

    “It has taken Covid for this new idea to come to the fore. Tina Ure has been championing [the] ‘all in one day CCI-S’ for ages. It has finally taken root as Rockingham lends its dates to ‘Little Tweseldownham International Horse Trials’,” she added.

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    New Zealand Olympian Caroline Powell said the format is a “could be just what’s needed to help revive and lift the sport”.

    “Keeping the costs low and limiting the need for onsite stabling will make the FEI classes more accessible for new competitors and makes it more financially viable for professional riders and owners,” she said.

    Five-star eventer Alexander Whewall added: “As a professional rider running a smaller operation the CCI events can get expensive for me as a business, as it requires longer periods of time away and therefore increased staff costs to cover the horses at home.

    “Having a choice of very good locations, with good ground and organisation is really good. The real bonus will be getting the CCI done in one day. That is going to be a benefit to a lot of people and we’re really keen to see how it will work.”

    H&H’s 2018 amateur rider of the year, vet Katie Preston, said being able to do a CCI3*-S in one day at a weekend is a “big advantage” to riders juggling competing with work.

    “By the time you’ve factored in three days off for a spring and autumn long-format and then the time off for four or five short formats in a season it doesn’t leave you any days for an actual holiday,” she said, adding that it also reduces the cost and hassle of stabling.

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