What goes up must come down, yada yada; as eventers in a pandemic, we’re all perfectly familiar with the concept (and, of course, the disappointment). But thanks to the fast action and forward thinking of a bevy of eventing organisers in the UK, it’s beginning to look like that which goes down may well get a chance to get back up, dust itself off, and kick on for the finish. After the gutting of the spring international calendar in England left riders and owners scrabbling for a season plan for their horses, nearly all the heretofore cancelled competitions have been reinstated – each in temporary new homes.
Although we won’t see a relocated Badminton, the iconic Bramham CCI4*-L, CCI4*-S and CCI4*-L for under-25s will run at Devon’s popular Bicton Arena. Though the West Country facility hasn’t yet hosted a four-star, it’s a much-loved and well-established national and international fixture, and a plethora of riders lent their voice of support to its bid for Bramham this year. The competition will take Bramham’s scheduled dates of June 9–13.
Chatsworth’s CCI4*-S, which ordinarily takes place the weekend after Badminton, is another destination event for riders – and though they won’t have the chance to gallop through Queen Mary’s Bower in 2021, prolific national venue Aston-le-Walls has stepped up to host its CCI2*-S, CCI4*-S and Advanced sections, plus a range of Novice and Intermediate sections from May 12–16.
Belsay Horse Trials has also stepped up to host a CCI2*-L for juniors, which will take place June 3–5, while Cirencester Park makes a welcome return to the BE calendar, hosting the cancelled Withington Manor’s May 1–2 fixture, which features Novice through Advanced national sections and two CCI2*-S sections, including a pony section.
Where some see doors closing, others see opportunities – and this has certainly proven true for Tina Ure, organiser of Cambridgeshire’s Childeric Little Downham Horse Trials. The event, which hosts a well-subscribed Advanced class in the autumn, designed as preparation for Pau, launched its feature CCI4*-S last year – and this spring, the team is excited to debut an idea that Tina’s been dreaming up for several years. Following the cancellation of the Fairfax & Favor Rockingham International, Tina has teamed up with Rachael Faulkner of Hampshire’s Tweseldown Horse Trials, sponsored by the Lucinda Green XC Academy, to launch Little Tweseldownham International. The two separate events will take place consecutively, with Tweseldown hosting competitions on May 20 and 21, and Little Downham taking the stage on May 22 and 23. Each event will offer Novice and Intermediate sections as well as Rockingham’s CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S classes – but in an exciting twist for riders, these international sections will take place over the course of one day, minimising the need for on-site stabling, limiting biosecurity risks and keeping costs lower for riders and owners.
“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 Tina. “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.”
Several top-level riders lent their support to Tina and Rachael’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“This new format is a much needed and long-awaited development and could be just what’s needed to help revive and lift the sport,” said Burghley winner Caroline Powell. “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.”
Full-time vet and CCI5* competitor Katie Preston agreed: “Being able to do a CCI3*-S in one day, at the weekend, would be a big advantage to those of us who have to juggle annual leave. By the time you’ve factored in 3 days off for a Spring and Autumn long format and then the time off for 4-5 short formats in a season it doesn’t leave you any days for an actual holiday.
“Onsite stabling is so expensive that I will often look for local stabling and drive in each day. This format would really reduce the costs and hassle for a large number of riders.”
Young professional Alex Whewall praised the economic efficiency of the decision as a business owner: “Rockingham was a key fixture for me with the younger 3* horses so it is really good to see it’s being replaced. 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.”