It is difficult not to feel awe-struck by the scale of what has been achieved at Bolesworth Castle.
The Bolesworth experience truly is one to be savoured, but don’t take my word for it, read instead the glowing testimonials already delivered at this year’s Ashford Farm Bolesworth**** CSI International by the likes of world number one showjumper Scott Brash, Irish star Dermott Lennon and Brash’s British colleagues Laura Renwick and Louise Saywell.
“It is amazing what Bolesworth are doing,” Brash said. “It is just what our sport needs in Great Britain, someone like Nina [Bolesworth International owner and show president Nina Barbour] doing everything that she is doing.
“To get a four-star show like this is great, and I hear she has got even bigger plans, moving forward. Nina is very good at what she does, and it is great to hear that she has got a show in Liverpool next January as well.”
Renwick, who won the opening Bolesworth international class on Thursday, added: “I first came to Bolesworth when the show was in a grass arena. I couldn’t come here last year, but I had heard so much about it, and it really is amazing.”
And Saywell, a member of the Great Britain team at the 2013 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup final in Barcelona, said: “Nina is doing a great job of providing shows that we need in this country, and this is one of the best shows throughout the world.
“Some shows in England struggle to get foreign riders to it, but I don’t think Nina will ever have that problem here because every time new people come to it they go away saying how amazing it is.”
Lennon, world showjumping champion in 2002, readily uses words like “stunning” and “beautiful” to describe Bolesworth, and it is impossible to disagree.
The spectacular grounds of Bolesworth Castle in Cheshire attracted spectators from early on Thursday morning as the show ran at four-star level for the first time.
Almost a fifth of the world’s top-ranked 100 riders were on show, representing more than 20 nations and competing for a £250,000 total prize fund, but Bolesworth’s widespread appeal is in its ability to embrace fresh concepts and ideas driven by Nina Barbour.
Thursday evening saw the staging of an Intermediate 1 freestyle dressage to music competition, which was won by Great Britain’s Michael Eilberg and Woodlander Farouche, while Friday marked a launch of the Bolesworth Elite Auction featuring sport horse yearlings with entrants from such established names as Paul Hendrix, Enda Carroll, Eric Levallois and the Harthill Stud, which is run by Barbour and her business partner, international eventer Oliver Townend.
The showjumping culmination is Sunday’s Redrow Grand Prix, but away from the equine action, Saturday night was due to see an appearance by the band Scouting for Girls, preceded by a Gladiators knockout competition featuring stars of the cult ITV series.
Throw all the ingredients into the mix, and a bumper family feast is delivered across an event that is making rapid strides.
The hope for Barbour and her team is to see Bolesworth become a five-star show, while plans have already been announced for the inaugural Liverpool International Horse Show from January 1-3, 2016, at the city’s waterfront Echo Arena that will be another major addition to the British equestrian calendar.
It is truly an irresistible force spearheaded by relentless ambition and a pursuit of excellence that should become a standard-bearer for the sport. Bolesworth is already a phenomenon, to which riders and spectators will happily testify.