Held in the magnificent grounds of Houghton Hall, Norfolk, the Horse Trials hosts not only the British leg of the FEI Nations Cup series, where teams from around the world battle it out to top the leaderboard come the end of the season, but also the British Eventing National under 21 Championships. Houghton offers spectators the whole range of talent, from up-and-coming to multi-medal winning Olympians, which is rare in any sport.
“Houghton is a truly spectacular venue, which I’m sure plays a part in its appeal to riders and spectators,” says Event Director Alec Lochore. “Hosting the FEI Nations Cup is hugely prestigious and we are very proud to have this class at Houghton, ensuring the attendance of riders from a great range of countries. I do appreciate the distances that many competitors travel to come to our corner of North Norfolk – hopefully it means we are doing something right!”
Another draw for competitors is Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International’s inclusion in the Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam. This series comprises five ‘Three Star’ classes across the season, and any rider who wins three of the five will take home a £50,000 ‘winner takes all’ bonus. Last year British Number One Oliver Townend came closest to the big prize, winning both Burnham Market and Burgham. This season Izzy Taylor claimed the first leg at Belton Park, while Burnham Market was won, for the 10th time in 11 years, by Townend. There’s every chance that both riders will be vying for that second win at Houghton, the third leg of the series.
More than 700 horses perform each year, and it’s not just about eventing. Running alongside the International classes are a variety of other equestrian disciplines: British Showjumping, Arena Eventing, unaffiliated dressage and showjumping, Pony Club team showjumping, and the ever popular Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifiers, where riders show off their potential stars of the future.
Away from horses, a guaranteed crowd pleaser will be the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) Charity Camel Racing. This takes place on Sunday 28th May, with jockeys made up of volunteers who have guaranteed to raise at least £500 for the charity, plus a smattering of professional event riders – Barefoot Estates Burnham Market hosted the first leg of this double whammy, and proved extremely popular with spectators and jockeys alike.
The EAAA is entirely financed by donations and has a fund raising goal of £11million this year alone, a staggering figure which reflects the service it provides. On average, each airborne rescue mission costs around £3,500. With four to five missions a day it soon becomes clear why the target is so high.
Also open on the Thursday, Saturday and Sunday of the Horse Trials is a pop-up shop in the Stables at Houghton Hall, entitled Norfolk By Design. In line with the Richard Long exhibition also taking place, many of the artists and craftspeople use natural materials and subject matter that reference features found within the grounds at Houghton Hall – well worth a visit.
Alongside the more traditional tradestands, the Vintage Fair is returning with hand picked exhibitors offering a quirky and eclectic range of goods which will showcase the very best in vintage clothing, tweeds, jewellery, bags, glassware, linens and homeware. A vintage tea room will provide afternoon teas served on authentic vintage crockery and, new for this year, there will be a Food Market selling such delectables as jams and juices, chocolate and local beer.
As ever a range of children’s entertainment will be on offer, from Razz & Pearl’s Circus Workshops to bouncy castles – while a variety of food and drink outlets, including a well stocked bar, will provide sustenance.
For more information on any aspect of this year’s Houghton International Horse Trials, and to book advance tickets, visit http://www.musketeer.co.uk