Supporters of Skipton Horse Trials rally around to ensure popular event can still take place this weekend

Skipton Horse Trials will go ahead this weekend despite fears a few weeks ago that the event would not be viable due to low entries.

However, supporters of the event, which has been on the equestrian calendar for more than 35 years, rallied round and there are now more than 540 competitors on the entry list for the two-day showcase of dressage, showjumping and cross country.

Taking place at The Howard family’s Heslaker Farm, the timetable was revealed on Tuesday night and the final touches to the building of the course were being made over the last few days with patches of rainfall making the going good.

Tim Bennett, joint organiser and course designer/builder, said: “British Eventing entries have been down across the country, and like a lot of things, it is fuel prices, the cost of living, there is a lot of uncertainty and people are just cutting back.

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    Action from a previous weekend at Skipton Horse Trials. Supporters rallied round to ensure the event can take place.

    “But we are thrilled with our entries. We have had very good entries and there is still room for a few more. Compared to other events we have been very well supported.”

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    They were also faced with costs that they would not get back of at least £1,000 if they were to pay an abandonment policy to insurers so that entries could be refunded.

    Another issue that had led to the uncertainty over numbers taking part was riders waiting until the last minute to officially enter - again being influenced by uncertainty caused by fuel and cost of living prices.

    Appealing to competitors last month with a rallying social media post, they said: “We take nothing from the event as any surplus gets reinvested. We cannot, however, put ourselves in the potential position of suffering a significant loss through lack of entries.

    “We appreciate it has become common place for riders to want to wait until the last minute to enter events . That regrettably is not sustainable as organisers have to commit to running events weeks in advance.

    “We appreciate there are a number of issues causing this but the tendency of competitors entering late in our experience from recent years is one of those issues .

    “This is your sport. Without the BE events running you have no BE sport. It is simply a case of use it or lose it. It is your choice.”

    Volunteers who make the event possible were also in short supply as they too have been hit by fuel and travel costs. However, within three days enough entries had been submitted, mainly from local riders but also some from the south of England and the Isle of Man, and it was viable to add pony classes to the line up much to the delight of supporters and competitors.

    However, Mr Bennett fears that some events will be lost from Yorkshire’s equestrian calendar because of similar issues facing trials and clubs running the local events and, in turn, that may have a knock-on effect for other competitions where Minimum Entry Requirements (MERs) that are awarded at trials such as Skipton are required.

    He added: “There will be some that go out of the calendar this year which is a great shame and we have thought about, for the future, what do we do?

    “But with the support that we have got this time for the event this weekend, we are very hopeful that it will be here for a long time to come.”

    Skipton Horse Trials will take place today and tomorrow at Funkirk Farm, Heslaker Lane

    The public are welcome to watch at £5 per head payable on the gate and children under 13 are free.

    In preparation for this weekend, Skipton Horse Trials has refurbished a lot of the permanent fences and hedges while the rest of the course takes advantage of the hills and natural features of Funkirk. The gently undulating track has amazing views over the Yorkshire Dales and runs over pasture land. Dressage and show jumping are held on good flat ground.