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​West Country’s largest all-weather arena allows riders to gallop on

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.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/local-news/new-investment-creates-south-wests-6594876

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