Spencer Wilton riding Super Nova II at Dressage at Hickstead
Spencer Wilton riding Super Nova II at Dressage at Hickstead.

South-east riders have been left mourning the loss of their premier dressage venue, as Dressage at Hickstead announced this week it was ceasing activity in its current form.

Dressage at Hickstead was founded by international rider and trainer Dane Rawlins in 1993, and has since operated independently from the All England Jumping Course at the Hickstead showground.

As well as hosting regional championships and Premier Leagues, it has also become one of Britain’s major international dressage venues, hosting the European Dressage Championships in 2003, where Britain won team bronze, as well as an annual CDI which, since 2013, has incorporated the final leg of the FEI Nations Cup series.

“Lack of finances has been the driver that has led to the cessation of Dressage at Hickstead in its current form,” Dane told H&H. “Covid-19 highlighted the problems, and meant that the remainder of this year’s activities had to be cancelled, but it wasn’t the cause.

“But I’m feeling positive; the past 27 years have been fantastic, and the situation right now is still fluid – we may be able to organise something with the All England Jumping Course. I’m not retiring!”

Dane was keen to thank those who have supported the venue over many years.

“The Bechtolsheimer family have been incredible supporters of ours, and I also need to thank all the individual helpers and volunteers who have given up so much of their time,” he said.

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Dressage at Hickstead recently provided a chance for some of Britain’s top combinations to get in back in the ring for the first time since the start of lockdown, having joined forces with Rotterdam CHIO to run the Rotterdam Hickstead Grand Prix Challenge. Forty British and Dutch grand prix riders took part across the two venues in late June, with their tests live streamed in July alongside judging commentary and spectator judging.

Grand prix rider Alice Oppenheimer, a frequent competitor at Hickstead, added: “It’s such a shame to lose Dressage at Hickstead. We were so fortunate to have such a wonderful venue that held so many fabulous shows, not just the Nations Cup but also the regionals and the Premier League. There aren’t many venues where grassroots riders are able to compete in the same arena as top international riders.

“I’ll never forget attending the Europeans in 2003 – it was magical to be there and see top international competition in the UK. This is such a loss to not only the region, but the whole of the UK. I’d like to thank Dane and his team for all they’ve done.”

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