Bicton Arena's manager, Helen West, has revealed that she hopes to create an international show jumping event at the acclaimed eventing venue in little over 18-months’ time.
Helen, a professional rider of 14 years was appointed Arena Manager of Bicton Arena in Devon in 2013. Since taking on the role four years ago, the 37-year-old has elevated the venue’s status to one of international standing, but she won’t be happy until it’s up there with Badminton.
Her immediate goal is to establish a FEI accredited CSI 1*, 2* and Young Horse international show jumping event with classes up to 1m 50cm for July 2019.
“Jumping on the Continent is really popular in the winter months, with riders going off to take part in the Sunshine Tour in Spain and Portugal,” she says. “But I want to be able to say to riders, come to Costa del Bicton! Because when the sun’s shining it’s great, although I probably won’t be able to use this as a selling point if it’s tipping down with rain!
“I have spoken to lots of competitors over the years who say they would love to see an event in July where there appears to be a gap.
“We’re at the highest level we can be on a national level here at Bicton,” she continues. “We can’t really get much better. So my ambition is to branch out to the next level, to attract the top riders to our area. And currently, the closest venue to the south west of England offering international show jumping events is Wales and West where they host the Chepstow International.”
“If we do realise our ambition of establishing an international show jumping show at Bicton, we will be seeking further sponsorship to enable us to provide the significant level of prize money required, and would welcome new partners/associates to get involved with us.”
Helen’s devotion to equestrianism is tangible everywhere you look when rolling into Bicton Arena.
“I’m pretty much in charge of everything that’s green!” laughs Helen, gesturing to the verdant 360-degree panorama, studded with giant beeches.
Owned and managed by Clinton Devon Estates and set in beautiful Grade 1 listed parkland, Bicton Arena is the finest equestrian venue in the South West and one of the most reputable in Britain.
Helen’s job includes managing the brimming events diary and designing the courses, including the cross-country course escorting you into the estate. Since Torquay-born Helen took the job, the quantity and quality of events, and the footfall, have increased exponentially.
“Because I’ve ridden at such a high level, I’ve tried to put in place everything I’ve wanted as a competitor, such as investing in the grounds’ maintenance. The horses are worth an awful lot of money, so keeping them sound is a priority,” she adds.
“As a rider, you’re only as good as the horse you’re sitting on, so it’s vitally important to get it right. When I arrived, the space was under-utilised and I could see its huge potential.”
This potential is being fulfilled under Helen’s expertise, with support from a small team of committed and competent colleagues.
When Helen joined, Bicton Arena hosted one British affiliated horse trial. Now there are three, including two international horse trials. “I just thought it had all the ingredients and deserved to be up there with Blenheim and Bramham.”
Bicton Arena is currently a CIC** venue, a rating given by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports. Under Helen’s expert guidance, Clinton Devon Estates’ ambition was to turn it into a three-star venue by next year, however due to changes administered by the FEI, this won’t be possible until 2019. There are currently only two four star rated venues in the country; Badminton and Burghley, and two other three starred venues.
This summer, the venue hosted its first regional dressage championships after a successfully tendering to be the host venue. The new Western Counties Equine Vets all-weather arena opened in April which will enable the venue to meet an ever-increasing demand. In Helen’s 2017 calendar there are only two weekends spare.
Since 2015, when Helen was awarded a course design scholarship with British Eventing, she has been designing all the courses at Bicton. This led to her appointment as course designer for the prestigious Nunney International Horse Trials in June and Ballendenisk, Ireland in September.
Article Source: Bicton Arena Press Release