A seven-figure investment in the sport of eventing was announced by British Eventing (BE) at a press conference this morning (Tuesday 31 May). ‘The Howden Way’ is a five-year investment from David Howden, group CEO and found of insurance company Howden and founder and president of Cornbury Horse Trials.

It is the largest amount of direct sponsorship into one of the national governing bodies of an Olympic equestrian discipline and will enable the delivery of new training for riders competing at all levels around the UK, as well as the creation of a young horse pathway.

“Eventing is such a special sport and through The Howden Way we want to ensure riders and young horses are offered the best opportunities to reach their full potential,” said David, who is a racehorse owner and racing and eventing enthusiast. “How can we support young riders and young horses? That’s the focus — it’s all about accessibility. Sometimes British Eventing is accused of being difficult to get into — elitist. We want to enable more people to get in and bring them on to the highest levels.”

The investment will be split into three key areas: The Howden Regional Training Academy, The Howden Talent Academy and The Howden Young Horse Academy.

“One of my key objectives when I became CEO [in August last year] was to get the sport’s training back up and running. I do feel passionately that it’s something we should be providing for members,” said Helen West.

“[The Howden Way] is something that sets us apart from unaffiliated competitions and that is one of the biggest threats [to the sport]. We have a duty to educate our members. We’re undoubtedly one of the most exciting sports but with that comes risk, and so we need to educate.”

Equal opportunity for subsidised training

A statement confirmed that the investment will “facilitate the development of a detailed performance programme, enhancing the current limited training offered by British Eventing and help to enable the sport to identify, develop and nurture its up-and-coming talent, both human and equine”.

BE will also introduce new regional training for all riders. Regardless of an individual’s riding experience, all members will have an equal opportunity to take part in the subsidised training and have access to remote online content and it is open to riders of all nationalities. However, if selected on to The Howden Talent Academy or The Howden Young Horse Academy, all horse and rider combinations must be eligible to represent Great Britain.

Regional training sessions will provide a means for young riders (14-28 years) to be identified by regional lead coaches and invited to join The Howden Talent Academy. Tailored coaching and mentoring from world-renowned trainers will help the individual’s progression in the sport, aiding the transition to elite level eventing.

Through The Howden Young Horse Academy, horses that have future potential will be identified and enrolled on to an equine pathway consisting of training and competitions. New age-specific leagues will be generated to identify, showcase, and develop five- to nine-year-old horses as they progress and these leagues will also support key stakeholders, including owners and breeders.

New level of owner enjoyment

“It’s great to have something in this country that is so structured,” said six-time Burghley winner William Fox-Pitt. “It really gives owners and breeders something to focus on at various levels. It will create a new level of owner enjoyment and it’s good for sponsors. There will be motivation to keep getting better.”

Richard Waygood added: “The key for me is getting the basics — education — right. You’d be amazed how much that sorts everything else out. Nowadays, not so many riders go through Pony Club, which is where they learn the basics. People have a thirst for learning and if horses are looked after better then everyone’s a winner.

“It’s not only about nurturing grassroots riders but eventually down the road seeing one of those grassroots riders on a podium — that would be the fairytale.”

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