Going all out to put fun back into competing

There may be tough times ahead as rising costs force riders to re-think their plans for the coming season but Michelle Bainbridge refuses to be down-hearted.

The spiralling cost of fuel is one of the major problems riders have to face and many are cutting back on the number of shows and competitions they will enter.

This is not good news for family businesses such as the one run by Michelle and her husband, Michael, at Holme-on-Spalding Moor in East Yorkshire.

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They own and run Port Royal Equestrian Centre, which they started more or less from scratch seven years ago.

Some people may remember Port Royal in its heyday when it was owned by Trevor Banks and top show-jumpers competed there on grass.

But the place was in a sorry state and had not been used for some years when Michael and Michelle took it over.

They have turned it into a purpose-built equestrian centre with two all-weather arenas, floodlights, warm-up areas and 21 livery stables.

Now they run a full range of competitions from mini-jumping for children jumping cross poles, to top level British Show-jumping competitions, unaffiliated dressage and British Dressage, Arena Show Cross, showing and working hunter classes.

“Midweek British show-jumping shows face tough competition with more and more centres putting shows on during the week to try and increase their incomes, meaning that the few riders out there that are competing are being spread thinner and thinner,” said Michelle.

She and Michael took the decision to continue to invest in making improvements to the centre and to introduce various special offers and loyalty schemes as an added incentive.

They are also introducing a new family fun day. For £34, families will be able to enter over 50 classes at the show on one day, including show-jumping, showing, dressage and gymkhana games.

“We are going all out to put the fun back into competing,” said Michelle.

Both she and Michael have been involved in show-jumping all their lives but she admits that taking on Port Royal was quite daunting.

The long hours mean that their own riding had to take a back seat, though Michael has just been able to start doing a bit of hunting once a week.

Even their six-year-old daughter, Megan, gets involved in the business.

“She’s a dab hand on the microphone and taking entries, mopping the floor and entertaining customers,” says Michelle.

She believes that businesses that do survive these difficult times will be stronger.

“We know 2011 will be a testing time but also feel it could be an exciting one, demanding that centres try new things, put the customer first and dare to buck the trend.”

Opportunity to take tips from Stockdale at the college

TIM STOCKDALE will be heading to Yorkshire next month when he will be giving a lecture and demonstration plus a series of lessons at Bishop Burton College.

One of our leading show-jumpers, he has represented Great Britain on 47 occasions in Nations Cup teams.

These include 2002 World Equestrian Games, the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2009 European Championships. Last year, he was Chef d’Equipe for the victorious British team in the Nations Cup contest in Abu Dhabi.

Stockdale has been show-jumping since the age of seven and went to work with horses as soon as he left school first at Mike Saywell’s yard in Retford and then for Graham Fletcher. He went on to set up his own yard in Roade, Northamptonshire, which he runs with his wife, Laura.

A number of television appearances have made Stockdale a well-known face beyond the show-jumping world.

He was the subject of a Channel Four Cutting Edge documentary which was followed by another show for Channel Four, Faking It.

He also took on the role of trainer for the BBC programme Only Fools On Horses when he trained celebrities to show-jump in a month.

He will be giving a lecture and demonstration on Monday evening, April 11 followed by a ridden clinic the following day.

The event is being organised by Area 4 Riding Clubs, whose members have been invited to apply for the lessons. There are a total of 24 places. Tickets for the lecture/demo are £25 in advance and will also be available on the door. To reserve a ticket call Margaret Smith on 07905692423.

My Old Piano in tune for Charm test

CHARM PARK near Scarborough is the setting for the Derwent Hunt point-to-point tomorrow.

There are six races although the last race, the Open Maiden race, is likely to be divided as it has attracted 49 entries.

The first race is the Open Members’ race, which will be followed by a parade of the Derwent foxhounds. The Men’s Open and the Ladies’ Open look to be very competitive. My Old Piano is likely to continue his winning ways in the Men’s Open, while the prolific winner, Eliza Doalott, looks to be a good prospect in the ladies’ race.

Lewesdon Tom won early in the season at Sheriff Hutton and could progress to do well in the restricted class.

NEXT Saturday will see the publication of the first of the Yorkshire Post’s Spring Farming and Equestrian Guides. These include details of annual shows and events, stallions at stud, riding holidays, equestrian services and many other items. The second guide will be published on March 26. To be included, please contact our equestrian team on 0113 2454860.

THERE will be a chance to watch racehorses on the gallops as well as seeing successfully retrained racehorse at the leading trainer Bryan Smart’s yard at Sutton Bank on March 26.

The visit is being organised by the charity Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), British horse racing’s official charity for the welfare of horses who have retired from racing.

Bryan and Vicky Smart have retrained a number of racehorses for the show ring, including Chivola, the current RoR/Tattersalls Show Series champion.

Tickets for the event are £15 which include lunch and a Racing to Showing DVD. Tickets are available by emailing [email protected]

EXPRESS Eventing is to be part of the line-up at this year’s Horse of the Year Show. The championship, where event riders compete indoors, will be added to the programme and HOYS will expand into a six-day show, running from October 4-9. The Express Eventing final is on the evening of October 4.