Equestrian exhibitors at the 2015 Royal Highland can rest assured their show will go on whatever the weather following a major new investment in the showground’s infrastructure.
As part of a six-figure investment, the soil will shortly be broken on jumping arena ‘Ring 6’ to install an all-weather, high-performance surface spanning 100m by 56m in time for this year’s competition.
It is understood the surface will be installed by London 2012 Games suppliers Andrews Bowen Ltd, who were responsible for fitting the equestrian riding surfaces at Greenwick Park and who previously installed the 56m by 23m ProWax warm-up to Ring 6 at Ingliston back in 2007.
Leading the way in surface development, Andrews Bowen is at the forefront of cutting edge technology for surfaces not least with their Equaflow surface system, which would provide a long-term sustainable water storage solution for the Royal Highland, by harvesting rain water.
The need for a bolstered private and sustainable water solution at Ingliston was highlighted at the close of the 2014 event, when RHASS chief executive Stephen Hutt revealed that whilst hot weather was a blessing for visitor numbers, it brought with it “massive demands” on the water supply.
Mr Hutt said an incredible 2,100 litres (460 gallons) per minute of water flowed through the Ingliston meter during the four show days last summer.
This meant the cast iron water main supported by a grey water borehole supplying the showground struggled to cope with demand.
Some of the toilet blocks had to be closed as a result, in order to safeguard the supply of drinking water for livestock.
In the wake of previous bad weather years, the news has also been greeted with widespread delight from equestrian competitors across the UK with riders hailing the move a “fantastic investment for the sport” in Scotland.
“Even with inclement weather, we will have a world class surface for showjumping,” said a news brief to Scottish members of affiliate body British Showjumping (BS).
It is understood Andrews Bowen are working to a completion date of May 31 three weeks in advance of the opening day of Highland Show competition on Thursday, June 18.
Instrumental behind the scenes in campaigning for the improvement was RHASS director and chief steward of showjumping Anne Logan BVM&S MRCVS.
Mrs Logan also paid credit to international advanced and FEI Level 3 course builder Mark McGowan and renowned equestrian breeder and show producer Tom Best, of the Waxwing Stud, at Saline, for representing the views of the show’s exhibitors in presenting the case for the surface to the Highland’s board of management.
“I’m delighted with the decision,” said Mrs Logan.
“The new surface is going to make an enormous difference to the exhibitors that take part in the showjumping, working hunter and showing classes over all four days of the competition.
“We hope the move sends a clear signal to all our exhibitors that we care, that the show really is forward thinking and that we are improving facilities to the benefit of the horses and ponies taking part.”
The development will provide show organisers with the potential to formulate ‘plan B’s’, that could pave the way for the movement of key contests between show rings in the event of any washout conditions.
The facility to run classes in Ring 6 whatever the weather will also be of clear benefit to both the public and to maintaining the footfall around adjacent trade stands, both of which have been adversely affected by previous weather-induced cancellations.
Mr McGowan added: “Equestrian sport is evolving at a considerable pace in all disciplines and it shows tremendous vision by the Royal Highland Show to ensure it remains at the very forefront in Scotland.
“The opportunities of investing in such a surface are endless, but for me the most important aspect is ensuring that everyone has the correct footing from start to finish and no one is disadvantaged.
“This produces the best sport across all disciplines, and I for one am relishing the opportunity of designing many different types of interesting and challenging courses for this year’s show.”
Expressing his passion for Scotland’s flagship agricultural event at which he has been an exhibitor since the age of seven Mr Best said the move will “take the Highland into another league” in terms of showground provision.
“The new surface will eliminate any previous uncertainty posed by the weather,” he said.
“It’s going to be such a great asset for Ingliston and will be a real diamond to encourage even more competitors to make the trip to support the Royal Highland.
“I hope it will also encourage other organisations and show organisers to make more use of the showground throughout the year,” Mr Best added.