Going to a competition well prepared does wonders for your confidence – and hopefully your results. Becky Murray checks out some of the best venues to help you get ready for the 2021 season
With spring in sight and once lockdown restrictions ease, our thoughts are turning to the competition season. It’s difficult not to get excited at the thought of setting new goals and riding at some of our favourite centres again. Top riders and coaches agree that riding in a relaxed setting away from home is a key part of competition preparation – for the rider and the horse. We find out what the professionals have to say, and explore what facilities are on offer at some of the UK’s top venues.
Showjumper Holly Smith says when preparing for competition, you have to know what to expect from your horse away from home.
“I try to take the young horses out once a week,” she explains. “Training in a non-competition environment enables you to repeat exercises and make corrections until you get it right – without the stress of getting a bad result.”
And this is no different when preparing for the white boards, agrees international dressage rider Maria Eilberg.
“If you know you’re going to be competing in a challenging environment where there are banners everywhere, then you want to try to provoke the horse a little bit in training with things they’ll be faced with,” says Maria, who regularly visits Unicorn Trust Equestrian Centre, near Cheltenham, and Solihull Riding Club in the West Midlands. “If you’ve done the preparation, the finale of doing your test should be the easy bit.”
Olympic eventer Vittoria Panizzon says it’s important to take horses out cross-country schooling on different surfaces in the run-up to the season.
“Taking them to different places regularly is really important so they become less tense when going out,” says Vittoria, who is a fan of Lyneham Heath Equestrian in Oxfordshire. “You can be practising one thing at home but it can be very different when you’re away.”
MORRIS EQUESTRIAN CENTRE, AYRSHIRE
This welcoming venue (pictured) offers large indoor facilities, regularly hosting Horsescotland squad training. It built a new outdoor arena in 2020, with more expansion plans for 2021 including a canter track and forest walk. It hosts BS and BD competitions.
● Indoor arena 95x50m £100
● Indoor warm-up arena 45x20m £45
● Outdoor arena 95x45m £55
● Outdoor warm-up 40x20m £35
LINDORES EQUESTRIAN, FIFE
Offering 125 cross-country fences across 85 acres of countryside, this venue is favoured by some of Scotland’s ve-star riders, including Louisa Milne Home. The 30cm to 1.05m course, featuring a water complex, is maintained by BE- accredited course-builder.
VALE VIEW EQUESTRIAN, LEICESTERSHIRE
This premier competition centre (pictured top) is rated by riders across the disciplines with an enviable cross-country arena catering up to 1.10m.
It offers a tack shop, plus clinics with event coach Caroline Moore and international dressage rider Amy Woodhead.
● Indoor International arena 70x30m £40 plus VAT
● Indoor National arena 66x25m £30 plus VAT
● All-weather cross-country across four arenas £27.50 plus VAT
Amy puts Vale View at the top of her list for training her horses in the run-up to competitions.
“I really recommend training away from home and practising your test inside the white boards, especially for amateur riders, who are not going in the ring as much as a professional,” she says.
“In 2020 I made a big effort to take the horses away schooling regularly and I had the best year I’ve ever had with my results.”
The base of international eventer Nigel Taylor and Olympic rider Ann Taylor offers “everything you’re ever going to need”. The facility has cross-country fences from 65cm to advanced and hosts BD, BE and BS events.
● Indoor arena 55x30m £25
● Outdoor arena 60x20m with mirrors £25
● Showjumping arena 100x80m £25
● KBIS all-weather cross-country arena 105x75m £36
● 30-acre cross-country schooling field £30
KELSALL HILL EQUESTRIAN CENTRE, CHESHIRE
This venue offers state-of-the-art facilities, with the added bonus of a seven-mile farm ride, plus water complex, gallops and cafe. There are plans for an equestrian retailer to open later in the year and the centre hosts BE and BS competitions.
● Indoor competition arena 72x45m £50
● Indoor Primrose View arena 60x30m £35
● Outdoor Lake View arena 110x70m £15 atwork, £25 with showjumps, £30 for arena eventing
● Outdoor Lake Side arena 64x46m (prices as per Lake View arena. The two combine for arena eventing)
● Cross-country schooling field £20
● BE cross-country course (available after the venue’s horse trials) £25
RICHMOND EQUESTRIAN CENTRE, YORKSHIRE
This family-run centre hosts a liated showjumping, dressage and eventing. Richmond installed a cross-country water complex last year and holds clinics with top coaches, including Lucinda Green.
● Indoor Richmond arena 70x26m £30
● Indoor Tunstall arena 36x30m £25
● Outdoor Yorkshire arena 70mx50m £30 including portable cross-country fences or working hunter fences
● Outdoor Breckenbrough arena 60x20m £25
● BE cross-country course (available after the venue’s horse trials) £30
Showjumping coach Ernest Dillon touts Richmond as a “five-star establishment” and one of his top venues to teach at: “The outdoor with the arena eventing jumps and the cross-country course are fantastic. I couldn’t praise it highly enough,” he says.
BEACONS EQUESTRIAN, CARMARTHENSHIRE
Beacons promises a “supportive atmosphere”. The centre holds unaffiliated competition, BS and BD including Area Festivals, as well as clinics with inter I dressage rider Victoria Jenner.
● Outdoor main arena 80x30m £25 for two horses
● Outdoor arena 60x30m £20
● Outdoor arena 40×20 £15
● Arena eventing across the 60x30m and 40x20m arenas £35 for two horses
RADFORDS EQUESTRIAN, LLANYMYNECH
Set on the English/Welsh border, this BE venue “caters for everybody” and o ers competitive pricing. It features a farm ride as well as two water complexes, and hosts BD and BS competitions.
● Outdoor arena 80x30m £15
● Outdoor arena 45×25 £12
● Indoor arena 41x21m £15
● Cross-country schooling area £15
● BE cross-country course (available after horse trials) £20
KEYSOE COLLEGE EQUESTRIAN CENTRE, BEDFORDSHIRE
This centre is home to a number of shows, including BS plus international dressage and eventing. It offers cross-country schooling across 25 acres.
● Indoor competition arena 66x30m £60 (£50 without jumps)
● Indoor collecting arena forflatwork 60x30m £50
● Outdoor arena 84x64m £50
● Clopf arena 110x40m with portable cross-country fences £50
● Three 20x60m dressage arenas £25
● Cross-country schooling including water complex £35
BOYTON HALL, SUFFOLK
This centre provides “affordable” training in its two arenas. It runs unaffiliated shows and holds training clinics with former international event rider Fiona van Tuyll.
● Outdoor showjumping arena 60x40m £15 with showjumpers or arena eventing fences
● Outdoor dressage arena 70x30m with mirrors £15
Suffolk-based young rider Alice Hallows, who competes up to CCI3*, uses a variety of East Anglian venues to tune her eventers up.
“Great Witchingham [Blackwater Farm, Norfolk] is good for giving the horses the experience of a whole course, so a competition feel with some bold fences, to check you have all the gears working,” Alice says. “Little Downham [Cambridgeshire] is great for technical lines and water jumps, so I go to both.
“For all-weather, I go to Anvil Park Stud [Norfolk] and Codham Park Equestrian [Essex], which both have great surfaces and plenty of space.”
BICTON ARENA, DEVON
Host of the international horse trials, Bicton offers an “atmospheric feel” situated on Grade I-listed parkland. The Western Counties arena and Bond arena link together with cross-country fences, and the all-weather surfaces allow for all-year schooling. It also holds BS and BD shows.
● NAF Five Star arena 90x50m £25
● Western Counties arena 70x60m £25
● Bond arena 70x30m and Western Countries with arena eventing course £30
● BE cross-country course (available for one week after each horse trials fixture) £30
Australian Olympic eventer Chris Burton says Bicton is a fantastic facility thanks to its multiple all-weather surfaces.
“Bicton is a venue I train at a lot,” says Chris. “It’s very educational for all levels.”
CHARD EQUESTRIAN, SOMERSET
This purpose-built facility holds BD and BS shows, and for 2021 will host a Nexgen Young Horse Series qualifier.
● Outdoor 90x60m £20
● Outdoor 90x75m including arena eventing course £25
● Outdoor 65x35m £15 for atwork, £18 with dressage white boards
● Unaffiliated cross-country course 50–60cm £20 (untimed)
● Unaffiliated cross-country course to 1m £25 (untimed)
WELLINGTON RIDING, HAMPSHIRE
This international competition centre caters for grassroots to elite level. It hosts BD, BE and BS shows, has a tack shop plus top-of-the-range clubhouse.
● Outdoor Waterloo arena 100x85m £35 per 30 minutes (arena eventing course available)
● Indoor Duke’s Hall 70x30m £35 per 30 minutes
● Cross-country schooling field £25
THE ALL ENGLAND JUMPING COURSE, HICKSTEAD, W SUSSEX
Home to the famous Hickstead Derby, this international venue (pictured) launched arena hire in 2019. It offers schooling facilities from 60cm to 1.10m.
● All-weather cross-country schooling across three arenas; Equine America arena (130x70m), Coldstream Equestrian arena (90x60m) and Equine America water complex (65x45m) £36 per hour
● 2Plan Arena 80x50m with showjumping track built by Ben Townley. £60 per hour up to a group of six.
International showjumping coach Corinne Bracken says it’s “crucial” to train at different venues, and she recommends Wellington Riding and Hickstead.
“Having your home instructor with you is important – this gives you a good baseline of where you’re at before you go to a competition,” says Corinne. “It’s about planning for the first show, not just turning up and seeing what happens.”
All prices per horse, per hour, inclusive of showjumps and dressage white boards, unless stated
This feature was also published in H&H magazine, 25 February 2021
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