There’s a lot to be said for the work being done at British Eventing under the leadership of CEO Helen West, who stepped into the role last year and immediately began cobbling together a figurative life raft for the organisation after several tricky years in which it came under fire for a financially debilitating IT project, among other contentious issues. She can be credited in large part with bringing a CCI5* to British soil for the first time since 2019 in the form of last year’s ‘pop-up’ Bicton fixture; at the same venue, where she’s long been the manager, she also produced a replacement for Bramham’s CCI4*-L, under-25 CCI4*-L, and CCI4*-S in June.
Now, with the pandemic largely behind us, we’re seeing some exciting and forward-thinking ideas become reality – first in the form of Go BE, a new initiative that allows unregistered riders to compete over BE courses without their results being recorded and now, with the reveal of a new partnership that could change the face of the sport in Britain.
The Howden Way, which launched yesterday (May 31) at Oxfordshire’s Cornbury House, is the brainchild of David Howden, Group CEO and founder of Howden insurance brokers and the man responsible for bringing Cornbury’s much-loved fixture back to the calendar. David, who first got into eventing via his daughters’ love for the sport, has been an enormously enthusiastic and generous figure on the scene since Cornbury’s return in 2020 — and with The Howden Way, he’s pushing even more valuable resources into British Eventing with a seven-figure cash injection that will be used over five years to create pathways for both horses and riders.
The funding will be split across three main areas of focus: The Howden Regional Training Academy, which will provide subsidised training opportunities for riders of all levels, the Howden Talent Academy, for which riders aged 14–28 will be selected based on their potential and given access to top-class training and support, and the Howden Young Horse Academy, which will create more robust systems for nurturing talented young horses from the age of five to nine, ensuring a steady output of world-class equine talent within Britain.
“This is a very exciting time and a significant opportunity for British Eventing,” says Helen West. “The creation of The Howden Way represents the largest direct sponsorship into one of the national governing bodies of an Olympic equestrian discipline. We are very grateful to the support given by David Howden and look forward to the benefits our members will receive from the introduction of The Howden Way.”
David Howden added: “I am thrilled to support British Eventing and the future of the sport through the introduction of The Howden Way. Eventing is such a special sport and through The Howden Way we want to ensure riders and young horses are offered the best opportunities to reach their full potential.”
The most exciting bit of the whole endeavour, from our perspective? David Howden’s insistence that “[the Howden Way] is going to allow for much greater accessibility — we’ve got to get a diverse set of people coming into eventing […] and hopefully the Howden Way will really enable that. That’s the exciting part.”
Team GB chef d’equipe Dickie Waygood is particularly enthusiastic about education at the grassroots level, pointing out that by raising standards and education at the lower levels, it’ll create a positive upward push to the top levels — an approach that’s refreshing in its difference to the usual ‘trickle down’ effect we tend to see favoured. Check out some more soundbites from David, Dickie, and a number of riders here:
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British Eventing has put together a handy FAQ guide to help people get to grips with the new pathways:
When will The Howden Way begin?
Elements of The Howden Way will be launched at different times throughout the current season. Young Horse Leagues will be introduced first, and regional training for members will be rolled out during the season, while the talent pathways will take longer to be developed and integrated.
How frequent will The Howden Regional Training Academies be?
Regular regional training sessions will be held, and riders will also be able to access remote online content at all times.
Who are the trainers and selectors for The Howden Way?
British Eventing Youth Performance Manager Darrell Scaife will be the Howden Talent Academy lead coach. He will be joined by carefully selected discipline-specific coaches who will also offer support to British Eventing accredited coaches who will deliver the regional training.
Will there be any additional cost involved if taking part in The Howden Way?
The Howden Regional Training Academy will be delivered at a subsidised fee for all riders. Riders will be provided with an educational syllabus free of charge to work through with the support of an allocated coach and have access to online content at all times. The Howden Young Horse Academy and The Howden Talent Academy will be free of charge to those attending. Riders will be expected to cover their expenses.
Is The Howden Way just for British riders?
The Howden Regional Training Academy is open to riders of all nationalities. However, if selected on to The Howden Talent Academy or The Howden Young Horse Academy, all horse and rider combinations must be eligible to represent Great Britain.
Can PAYG British Eventing members take part in The Howden Way training?
Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) British Eventing members can take part in The Howden Reginal Training Academy along with having access to the online educational content.
Go (British) Eventing!