Skipton relishing chance to celebrate milestone

ORGANISERS of this weekend’s Skipton Horse Trials know they are a different breed to Bramham.

Skipton Building Society Horse Trials.

But there is no hiding the momentum of a grass-roots event fast growing in popularity with the trials, dubbed Yorkshire’s “mini Badminton”, celebrating their 25th anniversary.

Launched in 1989, the first instalment of the 25th Skipton Horse Trials is on Saturday and Sunday.

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Competition takes place at BE90, BE100 and Novice level, and again at the year’s second instalment on August 2 and 3 which also features a Regional Final for the Mitsubishi Badminton Championship & the KBIS Young Horse Classes.

The event has introduced an accumulator cash prize for those competing in the BE90 and BE100 classes who attend both events.

Kate Bower, who is responsible for marketing, sponsors and exhibitors, is thrilled with the growing popularity of the event whichfollows Bramham by just a week.

Bower knows the likes of Bramham regulars William Fox-Pitt and Sir Mark Todd will have other fish to fry this weekend ; they plus Huddersfield’s Oliver Townend are in action at CCI four-star level in Germany at Luhmuhlen.

Townend has Black Tie II 
entered for Luhmuhlen CCI four-star duty with Pepper Anne entered in the event’s three-star version. Black Tie II sat second after dressage at Bramham before 
being withdrawn at an event where all horses returned from competition safe and sound. Bramham attracted nearly 60,000 visitors over its four days.

But the team behind the organisation of the Skipton Horse Trials are proud to offer a mini grassroots alternative ahead of this weekend’s Silver Anniversary.

Bower told The Yorkshire Post: “In terms of competing with Bramham, what we offer the public is a mini version. In fact, we were referred to as a mini-Badminton last year.

“The Skipton Horse Trials mainly attracts grass-roots level riders, those juggling the day job with riding and competing.

“But we also have semi-professionals and professionals who bring their young horses in order to build up their confidence.

“We offer a chance to see the action close up in an enviable Yorkshire Dales setting, courtesy of the landowners Mr and Mrs John Howard, and at a fraction of the price and without all the queuing.

“The cross country course makes the most of the natural terrain with fences over dry stone walls and natural hedges overlooking the hills surrounding Skipton; it is just a fantastic day out.”

As part of Skipton’s birthday celebrations, course designer Ronald Alexander will be introducing a new group of cross-country fences with a 25-year theme.

Among those in action will be Huddersfield’s Sue Chadwick and Harrogate’s Hazel Towers, who both competed in the CIC three-star class at Bramham.

Market Weighton’s former Badminton Grass-roots Championship winner Lucinda Cawood is also entered, as are Breckenbrough mother and daughter Helen and Chloe Bell. Other notable entries include Matthew Wright, and Deidre Johnston – wife of Middleham racing training ace Mark. Amateur Rider Erika Gedvilas, the BE90 section winner in 2013, will be back for more with her horse Statham Aachen. Gedvilas was also the competition’s June programme Cover Star Competition winner.

“I’ve always enjoyed the Skipton events, they are so well organized and look fantastic,” said Gedvilas. “Being the cover star this year will just make it even more memorable for me and Aachen and hopefully bring us luck for the grass-roots regionals.”

As part of an international feel, there are riders entered from France, Norway, Finland, New Zealand and Ireland.

Bower added: “This year we will have an even greater selection of trade stands selling a variety of food and drink, country and equestrian goods and vehicles, all set around the main showjumping arena.

“The police are also attending to promote country watch and offering free tack branding.

“Last year we had the best reviews yet from British Eventing in terms of how the event was run and presented.

“The event is entirely run by volunteers, including the organisers, and it takes over 120 of us a day to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Without their hard work and dedication it just wouldn’t happen. All our team, including the organisers, give their time for free and any money made is ploughed back into making further improvements; for example we would love to build a new water complex in the near future.

“It’s really amazing that an event of our size has been going for 25 years. I may be a little bit biased, but it just keeps getting better.”