Hickstead’s international season is now just weeks away, with some notable changes in place for this year’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (22-25 June) and the Longines Royal International Horse Show (26-30 July).
Ring seven has been transformed and turned into The Roger Stack Arena, named in honour of Hickstead’s former showing director, who sadly died last December. The show ring has been smartened up with new post and rail fencing down the long side, and the ground team at the All England Jumping Course are busy preparing the ground, adding drainage, overseeding and watering to ensure good going for competitors.
There will also be a separate warm-up area and collecting ring for this arena, plus a hard-standing track leading down to the entrance of the arena, making it safer for horses, riders and spectators. The new ring means that the River Lawn will no longer be used for either show, and the classes that were held on the River Lawn have been moved to other rings, with many now being held in The Roger Stack Arena.
Among those classes to move from the River Lawn are the BSPS Lemieux Heritage Supreme Championship open ridden classes at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting, and the BSPS Heritage Mountain and Moorland, Pretty Polly and Mini Classes, the BMHS Miniature classes, the Ponies (UK) Amateur & Dalkeith Young Riders Mountain & Moorland ridden classes and the Pure Bred Ridden Arab class at the Longines Royal International Horse Show.
“Last year’s heavy rainfall meant the going on the River Lawn was far from ideal, so we’ve taken steps to move all the classes to other rings,” says Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn. “This has meant some classes have changed days, and while we’ve tried to avoid clashes as much as possible, it was inevitable some movement had to occur in order for us to absorb the classes into existing, very busy rings.”
Other showing changes at the Royal International include the move of the Peter and Pip Baker-Beall BSPS Leading Rein Pony of Hunter Type, Leading Rein Pony and First Ridden classes to the Wednesday afternoon, which means they will form their own championship. On Saturday, all the classes that were in ring three and ring five have switched, to prevent the scurry driving unsettling those using the horse walk that runs through ring 3.
The Hickstead team has also taken note of competitor feedback and improved the water supply in the top stable field, adding two 15,000 litre water containers and a new pump system to ensure a constant supply of drinking water for Hickstead’s horses and ponies. The collecting ring for Ring Two has also been relaid with an all-weather surface.
“Every year we invest further in the facilities so the showground remains one of the best in the world,” says Hickstead Director Edward Bunn, who oversees all the groundwork on the showground. “While the £500,000 renovation work back in 2011 means the International Arena provides all-weather going on a grass surface, we’re also constantly striving to improve the going in the other seven rings and meet competitors’ needs.”
Other changes include the transformation of the top of the Members’ Grandstand to become the Al Shira’aa International Riders’ Lounge and new Al Shira’aa VIP Suite, a modern hospitality facility.
Another hospitality change for 2017 is the addition of the Ringside Terrace, a new viewing platform with its own bar and coffee shop. It is open to all show visitors and costs just an additional £5 on top of admission prices, giving equestrian fans a great view of the action in the International Arena for a very reasonable price.
Tickets for the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting and the Longines Royal International Horse Show are on sale now.