Year round cross country schooling whatever the weather.

PUBLISHED: 13:56 23 January 2014 | UPDATED: 13:56 23 January 2014

Pontispool Equine Sports Centre near Taunton, Somerset, will no longer be held to ransom by the vagaries of the weather when its vast new all-weather arena officially opens at its first eventers’ challenge competition on February 1, writes Lucy Johnson.

Measuring two acres in total, the huge space has been created by joining two smaller arenas together and encompasses a range of permanent cross country fences including a water complex, ditches and a bank.

Owner Richard Mitford –Slade first put in action a plan to provide year round cross country schooling opportunities following the appalling weather of 2012 when dozens of competitions were lost to the weather including high profile events like Badminton Horse Trials and The Festival of British Eventing.

“We knew that potentially a large slice of our income could be lost if we had another very wet year as we would not be able to hire out our facilities so we decided to create a much bigger all-weather arena. This means that riders can now compete and school their horses over cross country fences whatever the weather,” said Richard.

Professional event rider Lucy Wiegersma, who will be building the courses at the eventer challenges, said: “I think it is a fantastic idea and it will be a huge bonus having such a great facility in the Westcountry. I’m very pleased to have been asked to design the courses at Pontispool as course building is an area I am very interested in. The whole idea is very innovative, and I believe there is only one other facility of this size in the country. The fences are very impressive, and gone are the days of only using portable fences in all-weather arenas.”

The move is already paying off following another very wet winter, and its first eventer challenge on February 1 is very well subscribed and the dates available for cross country schooling are already fully booked.

Richard said: “We didn’t actually believe we would ever have such a wet time as 2012, but we certainly have which further vindicates an investment of this scale.

“We are really looking forward to our first competition, which involves showjumping immediately followed by cross country.”

Parking for vehicles on a hard surface has also been increased thus ensuring Pontispool is fully equipped to become a year round training and competition venue, something that is becoming increasingly necessary in light of the prevailing weather conditions.

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