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Bodiam, Covid-19 and Virtual Western Shows

Most of you will know Bodiam with all the hustle and bustle of a horse show in full swing.  However, most of the time the yard has a quiet and peaceful air about it – though nothing prepared us for the Covid-19 lockdown that was to descend upon us this Spring. Never before have we had to stop owners coming to see, let alone ride their own horses, and never before have our horses enjoyed such a long and relaxing summer, with horse show after horse show postponed or cancelled. Many hours were spent on the phones hoping and praying, organising and reorganising, planning and un-planning ways in which we just might be able to go ahead and hold our International Festival of Western Riding.  Sadly as May drew ever closer it became clear that no amount of hope was going to enable us to run the event….the first time it has been cancelled since its inception over 25 years ago.


As the months moved on, restrictions eased and people finally started trickling back on to the yard – one by one with their tack wiped down and left for them by their stables. With no offers of tea and cake (a staple for one and all here at Sterling!) and hand sanitiser everywhere, it became clear that people were itching to do something and so the GOE Virtual Show idea was born.


These events proved quite a hit, with Doug Allen roped in to judge like he has never judged before (though we feel it has got him well prepared for the AQHA World Show that he will be judging later on this year). It was with a lot of trial and a little bit of error that we got the ball rolling on what was to be a series of 5 virtual shows ,where people could film their patterns from the comfort of their own home, arena, field or woodland (for anyone who hasn’t viewed Sue Alexanders freestyle trail pattern on our GOE Virtual Horse Show Facebook page I highly recommend you watch all the way to the end!) and  allowed people the chance to focus on their horses and have something to aim for. With prize money and rosettes on offer we had classes for every level and ability, and it was lovely to see some faces who have not been able to make it to GOE shows in the past, with entries as far afield as Ireland and Germany.


The Ranch Horse classes throughout these virtual shows proved so popular that we decided to put on a Versatility Ranch Horse clinic with Doug and the demand was astounding. What started as a single clinic weekend has turned into 5 full clinics with 2 still to run as I type. Despite not being able to host spectators and limiting numbers to allow us to stick to the specified groups of 6, everyone has been having huge amounts of fun, learning to correctly dally and drag logs, rope steer and improve in all aspects of the VRH Trail and Ranch Riding classes. These clinics have been attended by a wide variety of riders from trainers to amateurs, quarter horses to Andalusians and even English riders in their English saddles….they really have been open to and enjoyed by one and all.


We are very much hoping to be able to hold some shows and events later on this year, however for those of you who are not able to travel, the GOE Virtual Shows will be making a return over the winter – just keep an eye on our Facebook page.

Chris and Monty VRH Clinic 2020.jpg
VRH Clinic 2020.jpg

Rain, Snow and Sunshine for our 2018/2019 Dressage Championships

All the seasons came at once for our last show of the 2018/2019 Winter Unaffiliated Dressage Championship but that didn't stop a fabulous turnout in what a became a hotly contested show all round.

We have been incredibly lucky to have had the most amazing bunch of competitors and sponsors this year who have made our events a joy to run. Wealden Saddlery in Hurst Green donated gorgeous embroidered Le Mieux Thermo Cool rugs for the Hi-Point winner in each of our categories over the series. These were won by Ann Davey and Nantwood Unique in the Intro, Jane Miles and Teenando in the Prelim, Nicola Peters and Vampi in the Novice and Nicole White and Timmo in the Elementary.


The Champion and Reserve Champion titles in each class were fought out and a huge congratulations go to Rachael Lloyd with Democrat Darcy who were the champions in our Intro class with Tracy Knott and Falcon in reserve, Liam Cornford with Cuffstown Gent (Champion) and Hazel Jabbitt with Lexi (Reserve) in the Prelim, Liam Cornford with American Agenda (Champion) and Sarah Vinall with Silverlea Sambuca (Reserve) in the Novice and finally

Channons Country Store and Sarah Mitchell Horse Rug Washing have also been loyal sponsors throughout this, and previous series, with many of you winning their kindly donated prizes each month.

We can't end this series without saying a big thank you to Andy on the gate - come rain or shine he is there with his watch ensuring that we are always running to time, Max in the cafe with her famous

sausage rolls and Issy for spending countless hours calling tests that I am sure she must know off by heart. The final total she has raised for charity this series is £451.23 and this will be split between Friends of Hurstwood Park and Sussex Cancer Fund.


And last but not least Mary, the smooth running of these shows is testament to the hours of work she puts into ensuring everything goes to plan - and pretending not to panic when it doesn't!


We have had a great series and look forward to seeing you all on the 12th October.

Wealden Rug.jpg

Regular BIA Competitor invited to Ladies Day Parade!

We were delighted to hear the news that regular BIA unaffiliated dressage competitor Jane Miles and her wonderful Thoroughbred Teenando were invited to attend the Retrained Racehorse (RoR) Awareness Parade at Brighton Racecourse Ladies Day on Thursday 9th August 2018.

Jane said 'Nando and I were invited to take part because we did so well in your last Season's Dressage League and accumulated lots of points for the RoR Racehorse to Dressage Horse Unaffiliated League, in which he came 10th, which was amazing and I am so proud of him. Nando is 18 years old and

Nando 5.jpg

had a long and successful Steeplechasing career, before I bought him 4 years ago.  He is an amazing intelligent and athletic horse, and has really enjoyed taking up Dressage in his later years'.


Jane and Nando have been regulars at all of our winter dressage shows and accumulated many of their points here with us. We look forward to welcoming them back to our first show of the season on the 13th October. If you have a retrained racehorse and would like a venue that can offer you the chance to gain those coveted points for the RoR unaffiliated dressage Horse league then why not come along and find out why Bodiam is one of the most popular dressage venues in the South East

Para riders raise the roof over the May bank holiday at the first EVER Para Reining competition in the UK.

Riding horses they hardly knew, in a new discipline in front of a huge crowd, the riders demonstrated their exceptional skills producing fluent and accurate patterns. On day one Fiona Durston, a 3* Dressage rider from Kent, who is registered blind, took the top place ahead of former Team GBR Dressage member and individual Paralympic Silver medalist Ricky Balshaw.

A delighted Fiona said “ I have had a whirlwind week, a crash course in a new sport and I have loved every second of it! I could never have imagined winning on the first day, and am really excited to be trying to qualify for Holland. I can’t wait to see what the future might bring”!

Balshaw, back in the saddle for the first time after retiring from Dressage exactly a year ago, placed second, after just two days of practice. Sir Lee Pearson, 11 time Paralympic Gold medalist came in third, finding the change of saddles to be quite the challenge, whilst swapping 17 hand Olympic Champion Zion to a 15 hand quarter horse mare. Pearson said, “What a wonderful introduction to the Para Reining! Great atmosphere, great competition, and most of all great horses.”

Day 2 and the challenge was on, not just for the riders to beat each other but also to post high enough scores to qualify for the Para Reining World Championships in Holland this July. With only 4 days left before the entry dead line the riders had no room for error. This time it was Pearson who set the bar, pulling an exceptional run out of the bag on a new horse, Smart Like Valentino. Balshaw, providing the audience with an exceptional sliding stop was a mere ½ point behind, the smallest margin in a competition judged by three International Judges. Durston banked a safe run on Big Step Moonlight, ensuring her qualification for Holland. Balshaw said, “I feel privileged and honoured to have been part of the first ever Para Reining Competition in the UK. I am very excited to be qualified for the World Para Reining in Holland and can’t wait to compete in another World Championship in a new sport”.

Organiser, Francesca Sternberg was completely delighted at the success of the event, noting the large crowd that it attracted, as well as an overwhelming interest online and through out the social media network. “These riders have showcased their exceptional talents in an outstanding demonstration that proves Reining and horses can open doors for so many people with disabilities. I look forward to seeing the competition at the Para World Reining event in 5 weeks and feel confident that our riders will be very competitive and as always a huge credit to Great Britain”.

Photographs courtesy of LRG Photography

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