Nina Barbour: ‘A horrible wake-up call for everyone’


  • Nina Barbour, who organises international shows at Bolesworth and Liverpool, as well as Bolesworth Elite Auctions, reels from the rising costs in the competition events industry

    FURTHER to Carl Hester’s comment in H&H (“The cost of shows is eye-opening”), this year has been a horrible wake-up call for everyone. Competitors, business owners and show organisers have been hit by rising costs across the industry, and it’s tough out there.

    The biggest hit for the events industry has been fuel-cost increases, which not only impacts the thousands of litres we buy to run generators, but also the delivery charges from all the suppliers of infrastructure on site.

    New regulations came in this year that mean events are no longer allowed to use red diesel (less than half the price of standard diesel), at the same time as the actual cost of diesel is rising exponentially. Costs have risen about 15% across the board and making the books balance is harder than ever.

    It was devastating to be in a position to have to cancel the international dressage event here at Bolesworth. While these rising costs were a huge contributing factor, unfortunately, reality hit and it became clear that a stand-alone dressage event without a critical mass of both hospitality and public ticket sales couldn’t work for us financially, without facing running the event at a huge loss.

    We are keen to get the formula right and see international dressage return to Bolesworth next year as part of the Dodson & Horrell International Horse Show.

    The sport doesn’t come without its challenges.

    We all aspire to attract the elite top riders who maintain the profile of the sport and are the driver for public attendance and media attention. Unlike the showjumpers, who generally have a big string of horses that compete regularly, the top dressage riders tend to have one top horse that only needs to compete a handful of times during the season, so it’s hard to find a date that fits for everyone.

    It is brilliant to see so many familiar faces returning to Bolesworth this week, with Holly Smith, Joe Stockdale, Jack Whitaker and Will Funnell to name a few back on home soil. Referring to Graham Fletcher’s comment last week, I fear that due to the post-Brexit cost and horse welfare implications of travelling abroad, we are going to see even more riders forced to spend more time based in Europe. This has huge implications for the industry in the UK, and we all need to lobby to force changes to be made.

    Huge improvements in British breeding

    ON a positive note, we have had a great response this year from British breeders and producers. I am excited about the collections we are showcasing at the Science Supplements A-list auction this week and the foals at the Al Shira’aa Bolesworth Young Horse Championships in August.

    Since we started the auctions, we have seen huge improvements in the quality of breeding. Increasingly, breeders are investing in mares with serious dam lines that even three years ago would have been hard to find in the UK. While there is no guarantee that black-type parents will result in success, the quality shone through during our recent selection days.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 30 June

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