Stephanie DeWitt chats with Shaun Marsh
By Stephanie DeWitt Photography Julian Portch #ShaunMarsh
When did you start holding shows at Felbridge?
In 1989 I had just left school and needed a source of income, so I thought I would try running some jumping shows. I didn't really know how, I just wanted to play horses! I started with just the field at the top right-hand corner of the current showground, spent the winter of 1988/89 making a set of jumps, bought some second-hand ones and off we went.
How has the showground been affected by Covid-19 and periods of lockdown?
Not massively, to be honest. In the four months we've been closed we've been doing things to make improvements around the grounds. When we re-opened to riders we've been extremely busy, so it hasn't had too much effect financially.
What sort of things have you been doing?
There's a new pond for water, a new stable block, a new road, improved seating and tables, a holding area for horses and new drainage for the main arena. And, of course, we're constantly painting jumps!
When you started to run shows again after the first lockdown, what Covid-safe measures did you implement?
There is no secretary, all entries must be done online. A steward at the gate directs people to appropriate marked parking spots so that lorries and trailers are not too close to each other. Riders are given a time and they should arrive, compete and leave. The wearing of masks is mandatory when walking the course. Each horse is allowed one rider and one helper/groom. There is another steward at the warm-up arena to ensure only six horses and riders are working in and that they keep a respectful distance from each other. A further steward is at the entrance gate into the arena; there is a separate exit at the other side of the ring. Hand sanitizer is available at various points around the showground. Precautions are also in place in the judges' box with a large Perspex screen between them.
Your cafe food is legendary! How has the provision of this been affected?
Apart from the toilets, the clubhouse is closed to the public. But the canteen is running as usual with customers queuing outside and being served through the window. However, we have seen a drop in sales as people are following the rules and not hanging around.
How do you see the future of running horse shows?
Everyone seems to want the current system to stay in place, with pre-entry, drawn order, times given and limiting the number of horses warming up. So I think we'll stick with it.
On days when shows aren't scheduled you hire out your arenas. What safety measures do you expect customers to adhere to?
Observe Covid-safe procedures as necessary, don't do anything stupid and, above all, act responsibly.
How do you see the future of Felbridge Showground?
We've just been granted planning permission for another large surface arena which will be multi-purpose.
How are you spending Christmas?
At home, relaxing, doing nothing! Normally we go on a family skiing holiday.
To get away from it all, where in the world would you rather be?
The game parks in Africa!
Photo by Julian Portch
Shaun Marsh at work
Photo by Julian Portch