The prestigious Pony Club Championships will have a new home in 2021, with seven of the organsation’s nine disciplines coming together, while the open eventing championships will be held alongside the Festival of British Eventing and two new spring festivals are in the pipeline. H&H finds out more about the plans...
Following the abandonment of the 2019 championships at Cholmondeley Castle to rainfall, and the 2020 cancellation owing to the pandemic, next year’s event will take place at Offchurch Bury, on 13 to 22 August.
Pony Club chief executive Marcus Capel told H&H the event will host seven of the nine disciplines with mounted games, polocrosse and tetrathlon on the first weekend, followed by eventing, showjumping, dressage and polo.
“Primarily it’s about trying to keep the sports together at a unique event – and for our volunteers it means rather than going to different events across the country, we can bring the whole Pony Club family together,” he said.
“Despite the challenges with Covid-19, it’s very important we have that aspiration for our competitive members. It’s a pinnacle to qualify for the championships, with past champions going on to be Olympians.”
Mr Capel said it had been “devastating” to call off last year’s championships, which ran at Cholmondeley for eight years.
“A huge thanks to Cholmondeley estate and Musketeer Event Management. The estate were very good to us last year and we were able to give a refund to our members because of their generosity and Musketeer’s work with suppliers.”
Pony Club tetrathlon chairman Tim Vestey told H&H the tetrathlon championships ran at Offchurch Bury in 2018 and 2019, and he believes there will be “huge enthusiasm” for next year’s national championships at the site.
“It may prove to be a template for the future, but at this stage it’s a one-off exercise and we will be going out to tender for a three-year deal towards the end of the year for the 2022 to 2024 championships,” he said.
Other developments for 2021 include a spring festival, incorporating an arena eventing final, at two venues: the Scottish National Equestrian Centre (6–7 April) and Arena UK (9–11 April).
The 110 open eventing championships will take place at the Festival of British Eventing, Gatcombe Park (6–8 August 2021).
“The 110 open eventing championships should have happened at Gatcombe this year. The aim is to give aspiration to our top-level eventing members to compete at a festival like that,” said Mr Capel.
“Our branches are working so hard to deliver activity despite the challenges this year and because of this we’re seeing membership grow despite everything going on.”
Festival of British Eventing event director Peter Phillips told H&H the team is “thrilled” to be hosting the Pony Club at the festival.
“The Pony Club is such an important part of our sport and we are delighted to be able to give these young riders the chance to compete at this level and to experience being part of the festival’s weekend of celebration of national championships,” he said.
H&H 29 October 2020
UPDATE: 25 June 2021
Following the April announcement that the festival had been cancelled owing to the pademic, BE announced on 18 June that the championships will now be held at Wellington International Horse Trials (28-30 August).
“Our relationship with the Pony Club is such an important one for the continuation of our sport and we are delighted these championships can be held alongside such a high-profile competition,” said BE chief executive Jude Matthews.
Pony Club chief executive Marcus Capel said Wellington is a “fantastic event” and he looks forward to seeing the organisation’s “talented” members out on the course.
“I would like to thank BE, David Sheerin and the Wellington team for helping us provide such an opportunity,” he said.
Wellington general manager David Sheerin added that the team at the venue is keen to give Pony Club senior members a “worthy experience” after such a challenging set of circumstances.
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