Hundreds of competitors and thousands of spectators are expected to turn up for this weekend’s Skipton Building Society Horse Trials. Lesley Tate talks to the organisers about the preparation, the excitement of the competition and what visitors can expect from the two day event

More than 500 competitors are expected to take part in this weekend’s hugely popular Skipton Building Society Horse Trials.

Organisers hope Craven’s very own mini Badminton will prove to be as record breaking as the first event of the year held in middle June, when more than 600 riders took part.

Much hard work has been put into the trials, which take place just off the A59 at Funkirk Farm, Carleton, on Saturday and Sunday.

Following the heavy rain of last year, conditions in June were very good, while the recent heatwave threatened to turn the ground hard for this weekend’s event.

But some heavy rain last week, with more predicted, together with the ground being treated with an aggrivator, means the going should be good.

The aggrivator, widely used by British Eventing, is towed behind a tractor and aeratates the ground, by putting slits into it, turning it from hard going to good and putting the minds of riders at rest.

Riders, who will be coming from all over the country, will compete in the same disciplines as at Badminton and at the Olympics – dressage, showjumping and cross country.

The event, which is being sponsored for the fourth year by Skipton Building Society, will also include a shopping village with a wide range of equestrian and country goods as well as plenty to eat and drink.

Dogs are also welcome, as long as they are kept under control and on a lead.

Michael Bower, one of the organisers, said he hoped it would attract lots of people, and not just horse riders.

“It has not been an easy run up, given concerns about the ground after the rain of last year, a new cross country course to build and complete change to the course layout, but all the hard work has paid off,” he said.

“We are just hoping that the great weather continues and encourages people to visit and see what this equestrian sport is all about.”

Sheila Pilling, from East Marton, who has recently taken over the role of cross country steward, is in charge of the army of volunteers needed to act as fence judges.

The event needs 40 volunteers for both days who have given up their time willingly, while also being treated to a picnic and wine.

Volunteers, who include a former mounted police officer, are given training before being put in charge of an obstacle. They phone through when riders are safely over a fence, look out for any falls or problems and keep spectators away when horses are approaching.

But its not all work, the volunteers are well looked after with bacon sandwiches at the start of the day and a picnic with wine.

“If it wasn’t for the volunteers, the event could not be held at all. We are enormously grateful to them all, and they’re not just horse people,” she said.

Anyone who would like to volunteer as a fence judge can contact Sheila on 079331 79278 or email

Date: Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4
Opening times: Gates open at 8am, cross country starts at 10am. Gates close at 6pm.
Admission: £5 for adults, free for children under 16. Programmes £2.50
Parking: Plentiful and free
Directions: Signposted off the A59 at Carleton between Skipton and Broughton