THIS year’s Barbury Horse Trials could be pivotal in determining its future in the eventing calendar, according to Event Rider Masters CEO Chris Stone.

Stone, who was a key player in introducing the new-look CIC*** ERM series last year, along with wife Lisa, is hopeful for a long partnership between the event and the Barbury Castle estate, which was sold to Chris Woodhouse by Nigel Bunter earlier this year.

Now it is the job of Stone, with the ERM team in sole charge of every competition at Barbury this year, and the event as a whole, which is already one of the most unique on the circuit given the natural amphitheatre the Ridgeway provides, to sale the vision to the new owner.

“This is our first time running the event and it has been a lot of work but we are very excited,” he told the Gazette & Herald, with initiatives like broadband access across the site to use an app that allows spectators watch the live stream, keep an eye on the rolling scoreboard and even judge the dressage tests being used this year.

“Nigel was very bullish about how we would take care of the place for him and I think that helped in reassuring the new owner.

“The new owner has taken the view that he is not going to stop us doing something he doesn’t understand and wants to see how it works so, it is very much a suck-it-and-see year.

“We’re hoping to show him that the horse trials fits perfectly well with the rhythm of everything else that goes on at the estate over the course of the year.

“As a fan of the sport, I really do hope it carries on at Barbury.

“For me, I think ERM and Barbury are a great fit so I would like to see the ERM series coming to Barbury for the very long future.”

The event is not only popular with the fans of the sport but the riders as well, as locally-based Andrew Nicholson, the five times consecutive winner of the CIC*** class, can vouch for.

“It’s a beautiful part of the country,” said the New Zealand rider, who is based in Marlborough.

“They get a good crowd of people, it is well run, and it’s nice to do well at your local event.

“The ERM is vitally important. For the people who can’t come on the day, the live streaming and the coverage it gets worldwide, it helps market the sport.

“The riders have cottoned on to the prize money and the pot at the end of the series as well and it makes it a good, strong competition.”

Meanwhile, Foxham’s Georgie Spence will be heading to one of her local events in high spirits after claiming the biggest win of her career to date as she guided Halltown Harley to a win at the FEI Nations Cup in Wiener Neustadt, Austria.

Spence rides Captain Future in the CIC**, LSS Lanzarote, in the Novice section and Homerus in the five-year-old class.