Bicton Arena has announced that Chatham, an Exeter-based footwear company that specialises in nautical and country inspired styles, will sponsor a new CIC* class that will take place at its international horse trials on April 20 to 22.

The class will run alongside the established Rathbones-sponsored two star section and the addition is expected to attract an influx of high caliber competitors to the Devon venue.

Chatham’s managing director Philip Marsh said: “It’s a terrific set up at Bicton Arena and the venue is going from strength to strength. It’s a great team and we are delighted to be adding our support. It’s an exciting time for the arena as it continues to develop and grow and we’re delighted to be a part of that.

“We sponsor at several events, including the Mitsubishi Badminton Horse Trials and William Fox-Pitt is one of our brand ambassadors. We also attend 55 shows every year with our retail stand. But we’re also locally based to Bicton Arena so it’s the perfect fit as we continue to expand our sponsorship portfolio.”

Organiser Helen West added: “We’re delighted that Chatham is coming on board as a sponsor at Bicton Arena and we’re very much looking forward to working with Philip and his team. It’s great that it’s a local company, but with an international reputation.

“Our two star class already attract many big names from the sport, which is fantastic for West Country eventing, but we hope that this additional one star, which would have run at Hambledon had it been taking place, will attract even more people to Devon.”

Helen took over as the arena’s manager in 2013, and in 2015 introduced CIC2* classes to both the April and August events. The addition of the one star class is regarded as the next stage in her quest to create a centre of equine sporting excellence in the south-west with a comprehensive range of classes from grassroots to international level.

About Chatham

Since 1989, Chatham has traded on a nautical traditional of quality, and is now growing into one of Britain’s key lifestyle footwear brands.

Quality, durability, marine aesthetics and performance all form an integral part of the Chatham product.

Chatham is committed to creating a range of classic sailing kit, country footwear, all served up with Chatham’s very British style. Combining traditional craftsmanship with innovation, durable materials with attention to detail. Its footwear is designed to be comfortable, functional and able to withstand all that nature can throw at it.

  • May Spectacular Show – May 24th – 27th (To include HOYS qualifiers and Grand Prix’s)
  • Pony Premier Show – June 22nd – 24th (Juniors to include HOYS qualifiers & Cat 2 senior)
  • Mixed Summer show July 13th – 15th (Cat 1 & 2 & Club)
  • Amateur festival – Aug 3rd – 5th  (Cat 2, Juniors, Club, Derbies)
  • Sep Championship Show with Talent Seekers – Sep 6th – 9th (Cat 2 & 3)

To see all events at Bicton Arena visit our Event Calendar.

Event 3 decription

Event 2 decription

Event 1 decription

Big plans for Bicton Arena

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.

“I was looking at ways to cut costs and just thought, crikey, I’ve ridden at 4* level, surely I must have the knowledge to design,” she explains. “When designing, I always ask myself, what kind of course would I want to ride? Another unexpected benefit of being able to design is that it’s really helped my riding.”

Helen started riding aged six and was competing within a year, including at Bicton. Eventing became her passion.

“Any eventer does it for the love of cross country,” she says. “I really love that you get to meet so many people and go to some beautiful places, but it’s an incredibly risky sport – your neck’s on the line in cross country, so what you get is an immense spirit of comradeship. Competitors are willing each other to keep safe and do well, which is rare in competitive sport.”

Eventing showcases the immense proficiency of the rider and intelligence of the horse. But is it unfair on the animals?

“No,” affirms Helen, who regularly competes on the national show jumping circuit with her “demanding but characterful” 10-year-old Irish sports horse, Eebay. “You can’t make a horse do something it doesn’t want to do,” she continues. “They have to love it. You’ll never have a horse at the top level who doesn’t want to be there.”

All Helen ever wanted to do was ride horses. Recognising her potential, her parents set up a livery business and, as a teenager, she started getting paid to train and ride other people’s horses competitively, going on to produce horses and sell them.

After selling a horse she’d produced to Captain Mark Phillips, father of the Queen’s granddaughter and Team GB rider, Zara Phillips, he offered her a job at his stables in Gloucestershire, which she took for the best part of a season.

But Helen admits that her lifestyle proved relentless and that “there isn’t a part of me I haven’t broken”. Just one week after a near fatal fall for one of her horses, another horse lost its life and Helen decided it was time to re-evaluate. “I didn’t want to ride that course with that horse that day, because it was too big for him, but I had to because it was my job,” she explains.

That same evening Helen saw the advert for the manager’s role at Bicton Arena; a place where she’s been able to continue to immerse herself in the world of horses, and the place that has brought her together with her fiancé Andrew who she will marry in December.

“Before, I had no work life balance,” says Helen, “now this job gives me the best of both worlds.”

Cornishman Andrew Williams took Bicton Arena’s JP Equestrian Points League after a summer of exceptional results that saw him top the leader board and win a complete showjump, plus a plethora of merchandise.

His wins included a 1.30m at the venue’s recent four-day September show aboard his own Codar whose exceptional performances against top flight company this season have earned the combination wide spread accolades

Andrew said: “I was given the ride on him when he was a six-year-old as he was proving quite a difficult ride. We seemed to click, and his owner decided to sell him. Since then we haven’t looked back.

“He’s an absolutely gorgeous horse and is very special. We thought he’d be a consistent 1.30 horse but he’s proving far better than that and has been jumping double clears at 1.50, was second in the Area Trial at Royal Cornwall and won a 1.35m class at Hickstead against a field of 250 and was second in the 1.30m there too. He’s absolutely phenomenal.”

Bicton’s concluding outdoor show of the season proved a happy hunting ground for Andrew who took a team of eight horses including his other top ride, the well known grey Bodieve Toyboy who is owned by Nancy Phillips and was fourth in the 1.35m Grand Prix.

“All the horses were incredible and jumped so well including two six-year-olds who jumped clear in the Grade C qualifier and our spotted stallion, Tresaison Ricochet, who was also placed,” said Andrew who recently relocated to South Molton in Devon with his partner Juliet Vinall-Brown. “It’s made a huge difference as before it took us three hours to get to Bicton which is our nearest show, and now we’re on the M5 in 20 minutes. We have a much bigger catchment area of shows, and its so much better for the horses as they aren’t on the lorry as long,” explained Andrew who combines running a busy competition yard with equine dentistry.

Also in the ribbons was fellow Cornishman Sammi Jo Coffin who was back in the saddle just four weeks after an operation to mend a broken collar bone. Sammi Jo explained: “I had a fall eight weeks ago, and carried on riding, until an x-ray four weeks later revealed the break. I’ve had it plated and was on the easy list for a couple of weeks, but all the horses have come back in great form.”

Sammi Jo, second to Andrew in the 1.30m, also won the 1.30m Grand Prix on her 14-year-old chestnut Willem De Luxe whose consistent form has seen them win at Hickstead and the Horse of the Year Show. “He felt really great and jumped a super double clear. He heads to Newbury Show this weekend,” said Sammi Jo who rode 11 horses over the course of the weekend including Warchant, a one metre winner and Georgina Stokes’ Catch The Pigeon who won a foxhunter.

There was more Cornish success with Adam Ellery wining a foxhunter on his own Jeres De Verdem and Andrew James a newcomers on Gemma Be.

Three horse and riders tied for the prestigious HOYS Grade 3 qualifier which had been re-routed from Pembrokeshire Show with Will Fletcher, Emily Rowe and Gail Burchmore, whose partner Alan Thomas had instigated the class, gaining their tickets.

‘We were jumping at Pembrokeshire, and the Grade C was rained off so I picked up the phone and spoke to the team at Bicton saying there was a bunch of us heading to the September show and could they get the class for us,” explained Alan. “And fair play to them for getting it. Bicton is like a second home to us as we come to all the shows and its great for Gail to qualify on All Byself. We bought him as a three year old in France and he’s done very well this summer, including finishing fourth in the Blue Riband Final at the Scope Festival.”

The show was the conclusion of Bicton Arena’s outdoor season. Arena manager Helen West said: “It’s been a fantastic year and we’re thrilled that Bicton’s reputation as a showjumping venue is growing. We’re looking forward to planning for 2018 during the closed season and will be back on grass in May.”

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