H&H in­ter­view Show or­gan­iser Nina Bar­bour on mak­ing Liver­pool In­ter­na­tional a spec­ta­cle de­spite last year’s fire

Nina Bar­bour talks to Cather­ine Austen about her de­ter­mi­na­tion to make this year’s Liver­pool In­ter­na­tional spec­tac­u­lar, de­spite last year’s dev­as­tat­ing fire

Horse & Hound - - News Insider -

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2017 isn’t one Nina Bar­bour will for­get. It was when all her re­lent­less hard work in de­liv­er­ing the Liver­pool In­ter­na­tional Horse Show went up in smoke. That’s not a eu­phemism; the fi­nal ses­sion of the four-day show, its pin­na­cle New Year’s Eve per­for­mance, had to be can­celled in dra­matic cir­cum­stances af­ter a se­ri­ous fire broke out in a multi-storey car park near to the show’s venue, the Echo Arena.

Thank­fully no one was hurt and all horses and spec­ta­tors were evac­u­ated suc­cess­fully, but all the ve­hi­cles in the car park were de­stroyed, leav­ing many peo­ple stranded.

“It was shat­ter­ing for ev­ery­one in­volved,” says Nina, the show’s pres­i­dent and instigator. “Peo­ple had put their faith in us for a spe­cial night on New Year’s Eve, and a year’s work and pas­sion had gone into it. For it to fin­ish like that was ab­so­lutely dev­as­tat­ing.”

Last year’s events have made Nina and her team even more de­ter­mined that this year will be a suc­cess. It will be the fourth run­ning of the CSI4* show, which takes place in the heart of Liver­pool at the Al­bert Dock.

“The big­gest ex­cite­ment about this year is do­ing New Year’s Eve prop­erly,” she says.

“It’s quite un­usual that, at the end of a show, riders and con­nec­tions aren’t im­me­di­ately pack­ing up and go­ing to the next com­pe­ti­tion. But due to the time of year, they are with us all night and get to have a party.

“We have top-notch jump­ing with the grand prix and a bril­liant line-up of acts. We see in mid­night with a very spe­cial pro­duc­tion of mu­sic and fire­works in the main arena.”

TURN­ING a new show into a ma­jor hit in Bri­tain is a chal­lenge on the scale of Wil­liam Tell fir­ing his ar­row into the ap­ple on top of his son’s head — hav­ing first been blind­folded and spun round a cou­ple of times.

Nina says: “I love the show and the con­cept. It’s a bat­tle to keep it — I don’t think peo­ple re­alise how hard it is to get a venue like that to a point where it is sus­tain­able, and we are

a long way away from that. But I had a vi­sion for this show, I’m pas­sion­ate about our prod­uct and I des­per­ately want it to work.

“It has so much po­ten­tial. It has great sup­port from riders; the big­gest chal­lenge is get­ting the crowd in and there is so much com­pe­ti­tion out there for fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment. Times are tough and more than ever peo­ple are con­sid­er­ing what they spend their cash on.”

Nina is de­lighted that Liver­pool has a new ti­tle spon­sor, Ther­a­plate UK: “They are a re­ally en­thu­si­as­tic bunch of peo­ple who get what we are try­ing to do and have lots of ideas.”

Of course, Nina’s ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning a show comes from Bolesworth, the CSI4* and CDI4* she runs at her fam­ily home, Bolesworth Cas­tle in Cheshire.

“Bolesworth is build­ing and grow­ing all the time,” she says. “It re­mains a chal­lenge — in some ways Liver­pool is eas­ier, be­cause the arena and the in­fra­struc­ture are al­ready there.

“I al­ways say I wish I had done a busi­ness de­gree, rather than a ge­og­ra­phy de­gree [from Cam­bridge], but at the same time I think learn­ing by your mis­takes is the most valu­able way. We have fan­tas­tic peo­ple at home and we are un­der­go­ing a com­plete ‘brand re­fresh’ of every­thing that hap­pens at Bolesworth to bring it un­der one um­brella.

“If you had asked me what I wanted for Bolesworth 10 years ago, I would have said I wanted it to be the big­gest and best show in the world from the sport point of view. But Jan Tops has done un­be­liev­able things with the Global Cham­pi­ons Tour — he has achieved the same model that For­mula One has with mo­tor­sport — and that has slightly changed my out­look, be­cause you have to be re­al­is­tic.

“It would be com­mer­cially fool­ish to put on a CSI5* event be­cause it would mean an in­crease in costs to the tune of half a mil­lion pounds. And what would it do for us? We’re not part of a CSI5* se­ries, we’d be com­pet­ing against the present se­ries, and Na­tions Cups.

“What I’d like to achieve with Bolesworth is some­thing like what Dublin achieves; I’d like it to be the heart of the sport in the UK, taken re­ally se­ri­ously in terms of the sport, mak­ing it a place where peo­ple come to do busi­ness and at­tract­ing the key peo­ple from round the world. We are qui­etly work­ing to­wards that.”

There will be a new, sec­ond show at Bolesworth in Au­gust next year — the Bri­tish Young Horse Showjump­ing Cham­pi­onships are mov­ing there from Ad­ding­ton.

“I’ve had to fight quite hard to change the for­mat slightly. His­tor­i­cally the classes have been split so you watch the non-Bri­tish horses jump and then the Bri­tish-bred horses jump,” she ex­plains. “The Bri­tish-breds have al­most been cot­ton-wool wrapped in their own sec­tion. It’s partly be­cause of the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the world young horse cham­pi­onships in Lanaken — only the Bri­tish-bred horses are el­i­gi­ble for those. The qual­i­fi­ca­tion cri­te­ria for that will stay the same, but we are go­ing to put them all in one class.

“If horses im­ported from Hol­land, Bel­gium and Ger­many are do­ing bet­ter, it’s im­por­tant that hits peo­ple in the face, they look in­wards and do it bet­ter, so that peo­ple start tak­ing the Bri­tish in­dus­try se­ri­ously.”

NINA evented up to CIC3* be­fore switch­ing to showjump­ing, and ad­mits that she still has am­bi­tions in the sport her­self — if not a lot of time to ful­fill them.

Her smile widens as she says: “I have a re­ally good horse at the mo­ment [AK’s Culcha Can­dela, known as Candy] and I want to make the most of her. We’ve jumped in the CSI2* classes at a cou­ple of Global Cham­pi­ons Tour shows this year and in a few rank­ing classes, which is chal­leng­ing for me and a step up for her.

“I get on re­ally well with her and if I can find the time at cer­tain times of the year to put the ef­fort in, my big am­bi­tion is to get a re­sult in a rank­ing class.”

Nina’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to get the shows she runs “right” ex­tends to rid­ing at them to en­sure she knows ex­actly what the riders are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

“I had my heart set on be­ing the first per­son to ride in my main arena at Bolesworth, and I’m re­ally glad I did,” she says. “I haven’t rid­den at Liver­pool, but this year, if I can, I want to get a horse in the ring — only in an am­a­teur or nov­elty class, but I re­ally want to go through that ex­pe­ri­ence. Apart from any­thing else, peo­ple are re­ally kind; they see what you are do­ing and are very sup­port­ive, so they don’t want to crit­i­cise. Some­times the only way is to do it your­self.”

Fo­cus­ing on Liver­pool and Bolesworth has meant scal­ing back the Harthill Stud she set up with Oliver Tow­nend to breed young event horses, but star stal­lion Ramiro B re­mains firmly in situ. He was sent around 100 mares last sea­son and, with Ken­tucky CCI4* win­ner Coo­ley Mas­ter Class and Bad­minton run­nerup Coo­ley SRS among his prog­eny, he has be­come one of the most sought-af­ter sires of event horses in the world.

“To have a suc­cess­ful breed­ing and pro­duc­tion op­er­a­tion you’ve got to be im­mersed in it. Although we still have

Ramiro — who is a real shin­ing light — and I am still very pas­sion­ate about that in­dus­try, I haven’t quite got the ‘band­with’ to give it enough time,” she says.

Right now, her head is full of Liver­pool and she is to­tally fo­cused on light­ing up New Year’s Eve in only a pos­i­tive way this year.

“It has so much scope to be amaz­ing, with an at­mos­phere that you won’t find any­where else,” she says. “So many peo­ple have been re­ally kind and have asked what they can do to help af­ter last year. All I want from any­one is for them to come to the show — and bring a friend!”

‘I wish I’d done a busi­ness de­gree, but

learn­ing by your mis­takes is the most

valu­able way’


‘I have a vi­sion for this show, and I des­per­ately want it to work’: Nina Bar­bour is all set for the fourth edi­tion of the CSI4* Liver­pool In­ter­na­tional

Nina still has her own showjump­ing am­bi­tions, and even com­petes at her own shows to en­sure they work for the riders: ‘Some­times the only way is to do it your­self’ NEXT WEEK Even­ter Jonty Evans on his on­go­ing re­cov­ery from se­ri­ous in­jury

‘I love the show and the con­cept, but it’s a bat­tle to keep it’: Nina is stead­fast in her am­bi­tion for Liver­pool In­ter­na­tional to bounce back

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