Richard Howley: ‘Bolesworth offered a rare pathway up to grand prix for riders’


  • Wetherby-based Irish showjumper Richard Howley, a leading international rider who was shortlisted for Ireland’s 2024 Olympic showjumping team, reflects on an innovative new show format for Britain

    It’s great to have a three-star show in this country and even better that the new-look Bolesworth Summer Equestrian Festival is here for two weeks this year. Fair play to organiser Nina Barbour, who has obviously invested a lot into making it special.

    It can be very hard to step up from jumping national 1.40m classes to a three-star grand prix, so having the build-up over two weeks is a rare pathway for some riders to be able to go on and tackle a 1.50m-plus competition.

    It’s also appealing to riders with bigger operations to be able to set up shop for the duration and use Bolesworth’s great facilities. There are super course-builders, great equipment and impressive surroundings, so it’s the perfect setting for horses to gain experience.

    Every day there are different things to see, as well as evening entertainment, so young horses can get accustomed to noise. There is a lot for them to take in and it’s all valid mileage for their careers. There was even a schooling class on Monday between shows, providing an opportunity to get young horses in the big arena.

    A joined-up approach

    The extra week has definitely encouraged a few more people to come over and support this show. While we don’t have so many foreign riders competing in Great Britain, it is convenient for a lot of the Irish, who would normally be heading past to mainland Europe.

    A few of those will have come over for Bolesworth and will be staying on for this week’s Hickstead Derby meeting. It would be a good idea if show centres could always work together to create dates that form show plans, to encourage as many people as possible to support these events.

    I came to Bolesworth for the second week with four horses of my own before heading to compete in Paris, Stockholm and then Monaco. We also have clients here, as well as my riders Toby Parsons, Fraser Reed and Rachel Proudley – Rachel jumped very well in a 1.50m class with a horse that was bought at the Bolesworth auction three years ago. My client Annie Salthouse also won the 1.10m amateur grand prix on her first appearance at the venue and had an amazing time, while all the other clients have benefited a lot.

    High standards

    There are a lot of good riders here and the standard has been very high, with courses that are up to height – as they should be at a three-star. I wasn’t expecting much in the grand prix this year as Mansini is a bit rusty, but hats off to Shane Breen for winning the class with his home-bred Scarteen.

    There are a few horses I’ve spotted here this year that I am hoping to buy and we’ve also possibly sold two. At every show we go to we are trying to create business.

    Bolesworth is always clean and tidy and it’s an appealing place for me to bring owners and investors, as well as to encourage new clients into the sport. Every year they are working to improve things.

    There is no magic wand to make it happen overnight but important touches continue to be added – for example, every truck parked this year was on hardstanding.

    It’s important we all stay positive about the direction these shows are going in, so we continue to have access to them in this country.

    ● What are the important touches you look for at shows – what works and what doesn’t? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, for the chance for your letter to appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 20 June

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