Many riders in the first Hickstead Derby in 1961 refused to attempt it, saying that it was too dangerous and risky for horses to negotiate. Ireland’s Seamus Hayes riding Goodbye became the first winner of the Hickstead Derby, having successfully tackled the challenging bank without error. Over the years, the bank has had a few facelifts and the angle of the descent is slightly less steep, but just as high as the original. There are a number of different options on the Derby Bank and it is only in the Derby itself that the highest, steepest side is utilised.
As well as the iconic Derby Bank, there are a number of other fences that are easily identifiable as being Hickstead fences. These include the Devil’s Dyke, The Cornishman, the Road Crossing, a double of Liverpools’ distinctive red and white planks, and the Irish Bank. These obstacles are used in a number of other competitions, not just in the Derby.
Douglas Bunn’s amazing foresight, great business acumen and innovative thinking enabled him to create the now legendary All England Jumping Course, Hickstead. Like many rural and equine businesses in this day and age, diversification is vital. Siblings, and Hickstead co-directors, Edward and Lizzie Bunn, are continually moving Hickstead forward, adapting, fine-tuning and looking to the future. In addition to the grass International Arena, Hickstead boasts a further eight rings, including four grass, an all-weather warm-up for the International Arena, an all-weather polo arena and, most recently, two new all-weather rings. The new all-weather rings offer the eventing fraternity superb year-round training facilities with 80 obstacles from 60-110cm high.
The fences at Hickstead have not changed greatly in 60 years. Although some safety features have been added, the overall classic look remains the same. Many of the fences replicate the type of obstacles that riders meet in everyday life — banks, ditches, gates, hedges and walls. They are generally painted in more muted colours than are seen in the showjumping rings around the world today.