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Former international rider is new course designer

Lucy McCarthy (nee Wiegersma) will be lending fresh eyes to Pontispool this season having taken over as course designer, with the first event, sponsored by, taking place on Friday, May 27 until Sunday May 29.

The former international event rider, who is the only British rider to have won all three national eventing titles - junior in 1995, young rider in 1998 and senior in 2006 - has ridden many times at Pontispool, and says her knowledge as a competitor will influence how she designs the courses.

She said: “I’m very excited and pleased to have been asked to design the courses at Pontispool this year, although stepping into Eric Winter’s shoes will be a very tough act to follow.”

She added: “It’s a place I know very well as a rider and I feel it has a great to deal to offer for the education and development of horses and riders. From my riding experience at Pontispool, I know how it feels, and instinctively, which parts are difficult to ride and which parts ride well.”

Lucy’s focus will be on developing tracks that are encouraging for greener horses and riders, educational for more established combinations and above all fun to ride.

She said: “We will make full use of Pontispool’s wonderful parkland setting, and there will be purpose and flow and my aim is to make it a positive experience, educational and enjoyable for the horses and the riders so that, hopefully, the majority come back with a smile on their faces. At the same time, the basic elements of crossing the country will be there. Every level will have a ditch, and they will all go through at least one water complex. Also, where fences might be a bit challenging, we’ll provide easier alternatives as we very much want competitors to think Pontispool is okay for the first timer, with the education of both the horse and rider mind.”

Pontispool’s owner, Richard Mitford-Slade said: “Huge thanks to Eric Winter who was instrumental in putting Pontispool on the map, designing brilliant courses over the past two decades, and making them challenging when required, depending on our slot in the BE calendar. We’re delighted to welcome Lucy on board. Her vast experience will be a valuable addition to Pontispool, as we take the venue in a slightly new direction, to cater for changing demands of those who event. It’s an exciting time!”

Entries open for Pontispool BE horse trials on April 18, with the ballot date May 4.

NAF Kindly Supporting Eventer Challenge & NSEA SJ

We are very pleased to announce that NAF are kindly supporting our Unaffiliated Eventer Challenge on 6th March as well as our NSEA Show Jumping on 20th March 2022. They will be providing prizes for all classes.

NAF are passionate about both horses and the products they manufacture to keep them healthy, happy and performing at their very best. They offer an extensive range of products; from joints, breathing, hooves, digestion and calming supplements, to silky mane & tail detanglers, super shampoos and luxury leather care.

Please visit their website for information on their products or contact the helpline on 0800 373 106.


A vast new all-weather arena, which measures the size of two football pitches, is enabling equestrians across the West Country to compete and train at the highest level, no matter what the weather.

The arena is situated at Pontispool Equine Sports Centre near Taunton whose owner Richard Mitford-Slade used a bounce back loan awarded during the pandemic to further improve the facilities at the venue and create an environment that is totally unique in the South West.

Richard Mitford-Slade explained: “We ground to a complete halt during the first lockdown, but decided that, once the pandemic was over, the only factor really inhibiting year round competitions and training is the weather, whether that’s too much rain in the winter which leads to sodden ground, or periods of dry weather in the summer when the ground becomes very hard. We already had a decent sized all-weather arena, which incorporated a water fence, ditches and steps, but we decided to expand further and include a space with slopes and gradients so that it replicated as far as possible true cross country conditions.”

The investment is paying off, with competitions over-subscribed and the arena busy with bookings for schooling sessions from grass roots riders to those competing at the highest level.

Former international event rider Lucy McCarthy, who has played an instrumental part in designing the cross country courses, said: “It’s the most fabulous all-weather cross country facility. It has all the elements of terrain that you want to practise over with slopes, gradients and hollows which are really quite unusual in an arena, and it has a great feeling of space so you can get a good sense of cross country pace, even though you are still in an arena.

"As a designer, it’s been like having a brand new shiny toy to play with as you can put so many different combinations in and send people on all sorts of routes and hopefully try and mimic some of the natural terrain of grass cross country.

“Its definitely one of the best facilities in the West Country. There are other fabulous all-weather arenas but not any that have the same terrain as Pontispool."

The arena surface was installed by Equestrian Surfaces while the ground work was completed by John Paddick who has worked with the team at Pontispool for 30 years. Olly Goody built the fences. The fences include three derby-style banks, five steps, four trakheners, two open ditches and a water complex.


Pontispool Vaccination Requirements 2022

In respect of horses using Pontispool facilities for schooling and our own residential camps and clinics, we require horses to be up-to-date with their annual vaccinations in line with the current protocol. Therefore, horses that have been vaccinated in the last 12 months and with vaccinations which are up-to-date are permitted at Pontispool Equine Sports Centre.

In respect of our British Eventing Horse Trials, we follow their current protocol:

  • The most recent booster injection must have been given within 6 calendar months and 21 days of the competition but no injection should have been given 7 days before the competition.

Please refer to full BE Rules (page 11).


The main XC course on grass closes for schooling on Thursday 28th October for the winter months.

Our Arena XC will be open for schooling from Monday 8th November (fences from 70 cm up to 100 cm) and can be booked online from the website.

Road closure until summer 2022

Road Closed until summer 2022:

A38 Bridgwater Road at Toneway Creech Castle junction (A358) in Taunton.

Diversion route in place is suitable for horse lorries.


Whilst it’s lovely to see everyone please could you make sure that you pick up your horses droppings and hay debris from the lorry park and do not muck out your lorries/trailers into the lorry park.

We appreciate your co-operation.



Dogs to be kept on leads at ALL times when using Pontispool facilities. This includes course walking before competitions.

If any dogs are found off a lead, owners will be fined £10, which will be donated to the air ambulance.

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