Popular horse trials cancels due to fixtures clash

Alice Goring on The Little Frenchman - No 875

Hambleden International Horse Trials will not run in 2018 due to a fixture clash.

The popular event near Henley-on-Thames was due to celebrate its 21st anniversary in 2018, but organiser Lisa Hughes told H&H: “There’s no reason for us not holding our 2018 event other than the fact over recent years we have found ourselves clashing with other events with classes of a similar level, the main one for us being Bicton Horse Trials.

“There were six other events due to be held on the weekend we were meant to be running, which is great for competitors as they have plenty of choice, but it’s also frustrating as they have to pick and choose between their favourite events that might be held at the same time.

“It’s not the other events’ fault, and it has affected Bicton as much as it has ourselves, but as Bicton is a permanent site, they could run pretty much any weekend.”

Lisa believes a lack of competitors riding at the upper levels has exacerbated the situation.

“The intermediate and above membership to British Eventing [BE] hasn’t increased for around the past 10 years, so putting events such as ours, which include that level of competition on at the same time as others only serves to split up entries,” she explains. “In addition there is Kelsall Hill in Cheshire, which also runs on the same weekend.

“Sorting the fixtures calendar is a poisoned chalice, but surely it can’t be too difficult to sort out splitting up some clashes. We don’t want to cut costs, just to make the maths work — we take pride in providing the best event we can. I’ve been warning BE for years.”

Bicton Horse Trials organiser Helen West said: “It’s really sad it has come to this. We’ve been in a similar position with our third event of the year in August with other events running identical classes on the same weekend, and I nearly pulled this event from the calendar last year as a result.

“The intermediate and above membership just isn’t there — BE know they need to do something and I had a horrible feeling this would happen. The fixtures team need to sit down and work out a protocol for scheduling events.

“Bicton could run any time during the season as we have such good ground — we don’t need that particular April weekend, but then we would also have Belton and Burnham Market Horse Trials to contest with [at another time]. I don’t envy anyone the task of scheduling fixtures, but it needs to be sorted.”

Chris Farr, BE’s sport operations manager, said: “It’s a great pity that Hambleden will not run in 2018 — it’s a very popular event, but BE completely supports their decision. We are aware of Hambleden’s concern with regards to intermediate level classes that clash, primarily in north Cheshire and Devon and BE will be looking at the scheduling for 2019.”

Professional event rider Daniele Bizzarro said on Facebook: “This is so sad. One of my absolute favourite events,” while fellow eventer Melissa Joannides said on Twitter: “What a tragedy! One of the best cross-country courses on the circuit!”

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Hambleden, run on land belonging to Urs and Francesca Schwarzenbach, has been a popular spring fixture for many riders. Complete with its beautiful bluebell wood through which the cross-country course runs, the event usually hosts classes ranging between BE100 and advanced intermediate and CIC*.

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