Musketeer Event Management's two 2014 Norfolk International Horse Trials are over. This year's key players assess their success: with plans for 2015 already underway, should your business be looking to join the party?
Much was written in the press, and broadcast on both BBC Radio Norfolk and ITV Anglia, about the two fixtures. New champions were crowned, riders qualifier for future competitions and dozens of rosettes were handed out. Good weather and effective publicity helped spectator numbers at Burnham Market which enjoyed record crowds while, in contrast, the spectacular parkland of Houghton Hall survived all that the elements could throw at it on the Saturday, and has bounced back remarkably quickly, enforcing this venues' suitability for equestrianism.
What makes Lord Cholmondeley so happy to welcome 700-odd horses into his grounds, year in, year out? Houghton Estate's Land Agent Robert Miller explains: "We believe that a Horse Trials works hand in glove with Houghton. The deer park, through which the cross country course runs, provides terrific going which dries quickly however hard it rains - a crucial factor for riders deciding where to compete.
"It's a two-way street though. The Horse Trials has helped to put Houghton Hall on the map. The inaugural event eight years ago was our first proper event in the park. Back in 1998 the West Park, where the arenas and trade stands are erected, was arable land and the Ha-Ha was only restored in 2000. It's the perfect setting for an event like Houghton International, and a great way to showcase the work that has been undertaken to restore the Houghton landscape back to how it was in 1730s."
So there is a clear symbiosis between the Horse Trials and the Hall. Was there a similar relationship between the two Horse Trials and their 2014 title sponsor, EQ Life magazine in association with Eastern Daily Press? Magazine Editor Vanessa Britton believes so.
"The sponsorship created awareness of the EQ Life brand as a while, raising our profile as a serious brand within the local equestrian community," she says. "It worked especially well for us at Houghton as it is an event that incorporated so many disciplines, from top level eventing down to Pony Club and unaffiliated events.
"In return we brought comprehensive exposure of the event, not only to dedicated EQ Life readers but also to the wider online audience through out daily reporting and social media presence. Weekly coverage in the lead up to the event through the EDP [Eastern Daily Press] and EADT [East Anglian Daily Times], plus daily reporting in the EDP also proved popular."
Anne Basey Fisher, EQ Life's publisher, also describes the social benefits of sponsorship. "We invited a number of our EDP advertisers to lunch at Houghton. They thoroughly enjoyed the day, doing something a bit different in excellent company. The sponsors marquee provides a great base, with a relaxed atmosphere and good food. It was nice to be able to give something back to our customers, and make them feel special. Plus, editorially, we were ideally placed to give people in the county the coverage that they require from this type of event."
Also new in the sponsors line up for 2014 was Askham Bryan College, sponsors of the National Under 21 Championships which ran at Houghton. Philip Grant, Deputy Principal of Newton Rigg College [Part of Askham Bryan] deems the experience a great success. "It's our pleasure to be associated with the Under 21s and support the up and coming riders as they progress in the sport," he says.
"We have definitely committed to support the championship next year, and are looking to see how much exposure to young people the U21 series attracts. We have 14 land based centres in the country and with the scholarships we are able to offer, along with multiple opportunities associated with events such as Houghton, it is a relationship with great potential. Next year I hope to bring a team of students with me to Houghton, to see for themselves how the event works, and have the chance to meet some of the best event riders in the world."
Event Director Alec Lochore sums up the multi-faceted world of Horse Trials. "Without land owners there is no venue. Without sponsors there is no infrastructure. Without owners, there are no horses. Without horses there are no riders . . . . the list is endless. We highly value our sponsors and landowners, without whom none of this would begin to take place. I like to think that we are all one big team working towards a common goal, so that all parties benefit - and, as importantly, have fun in the process.
"There are so many ways businesses can get involved, from taking title sponsorship, arena sponsorship and fence sponsorship, to entertaining clients and guests through one of our corporate hospitality packages. There is still plenty of room in our big team to welcome newcomers for 2015!"
Askham Bryan National U21 Championships
Will Furlong and Livingstone II are the new National Under 21 Champions. On an influential final day, when just four horses left all the poles in their cups, Will moved three places up the leaderboard to claim the title.
“I went in to the arena focussing on jumping clear and hoping for a top three placing,” admitted Will. “There was definitely less pressure for me jumping fourth from last than for those above me. Livingstone has been great this weekend. We picked up quite a few cross country time penalties because he tired more than usual in the mud yesterday, but he came out today really fresh. I'm thrilled to have won.”
As part of his raft of prizes Will won the use of a Suzuki quad bike for 12 months, thanks to Suzuki ATV.
Sophie Beaty also climbed up the leaderboard with just one rail down riding Stanly to take the runner up spot while Isabella Innes Ker dropped one place to third with two jumps down.
There had been disappointing news in the morning with the withdrawal of overnight leader Navigator, also ridden by Sophie Beaty. Having enjoyed a fabulous cross country day, the only combination to complete on their first phase score, Sophie did not present Navigator at the final vet inspection.
Philip Grant, Deputy Principal of Newton Rigg College [part of Askham Bryan, sponsors of the U21 Championship] said: “It's our pleasure to be able to be associated with the Under 21s and support the up and coming riders as they progress in the sport. The weekend has been
a great success and very enjoyable.”
Lara de Liedekerke held her nerve to triumph in the CCI**, regaining the top spot that she had occupied after the dressage.
Riding the eight-year-old stallion Averouge des Quatre Chênes she jumped a faultless show jumping round,
and moved up to 1st place when leaders Willa Newton and Chance Remark brought down a rail.
“Competing in the UK against riders like Andrew Nicholson and Tim Price you can never expect a win,” said 26-year-old Lara. “
He did a super dressage, but he jumps so high over fences and we went cross country in the worst of the weather yesterday, so we were slower than usual – losing our lead. This was his last two star before he goes three star at Wiesbaden and he really deserved a win; he's always there when I need him.”
Just 0.1 of a penalty behind Lara, Matthew Wright and Shannondale Shinawil were the runners up, with Andrew Nicholson 3rd on Paul Ridgeon's exciting young horse Urma BK. Chance Remark finished 4th, with Willa's second ride Fernhill La Di Da 5th. The overnight leaders, Rebecca Howard and Xavier Faer, withdrew from the holding box at the final Vet Inspection.
Another year over
After an event where the weather produced a diverse selection from its portfolio the park has come through remarkably unblemished. Saturday's heavy rain had an adverse effect on the number of spectators attending – the Organisers had been looking for a significant increase on the gate for Saturday and the reverse was the case. But as Event Directory Alec Lochore said: “We were lucky last year when despite a very wet Friday the sun shone of the Saturday. You can't be lucky every year. The riders have given us very positive feedback about the courses and the ground over which they rode which is gratifying. The one thing we have no control over is the weather.”
Juliet Case, Chief Showjumping Steward for the International classes, in turn praised the competitors. “They behaved impeccably, even during the torrential rain on Saturday. It takes a huge number of volunteers to put on a show like Houghton International, and it makes a big difference to all who give up their time when riders are so polite.”
The 2015 Houghton International Horse Trials runs from 28th-31st May.
The CCI* could not be closer going in to tomorrow's show jumping phase; remarkably the top three remain the same, including a tie for the lead between Tim Cheffings on Donateur and Ros Canter riding Cekatinka. Both riders completed the cross country in 7:56mins [the optimum time was 8:05mins] so if both show jump clear the winner will be the fastest over the coloured poles.
“The course rode lovely, I had two fantastic rounds,” said Ros, who is also lying in 5th place with Calista. “I was thrilled with their dressage too – I'd come here hoping that they would produce good tests and they didn't disappoint me.”
Birthday boy Tom Rowland also kept a clean sheet today with Possible Mission and is just over one penalty behind the leaders. “I was a little concerned before the cross country because Possible Mission has not run an 8 minute course before,” admitted Tom. “Apart from being a little bit green jumping in to the water, and when I didn't see a great stride to the penultimate, he was fantastic and I had a brilliant round – a very good birthday.”
Less than one rail separates the top eight (a pole down incurs 4 penalties), so any mistakes will be costly. Those in with a shout of winning will have a tense morning – the show jumping is not scheduled to start until 1pm in the main arena.
In the CCI2* the top three remain unchanged from yesterday. Belgium's Lara de Liedekerke riding Averouge des Quatre Chênes leads the field with a narrow advantage over Pippa Funnell on her home bred Billy The Biz. There is an even smaller margin between Pippa and Carrie Byrom on Detective. Two star competitors start their cross country tomorrow at 9am, with Gaby Cook and Liberty Rock first out on course.
Two riders also share the lead in the Askham Bryan National Under 21 Championships, which run at Two Star level. Sophie How on Bojangles and David Doel riding Miss Caruso will be fighting it out across country tomorrow from 3.45pm.
In the CICO3* Mark Todd has taken the lead riding his London 2012 partner NZB Campino. Mark has a six point advantage over the chasing pack, which is led by Piggy French and Jakata, Lizzie Brown completing the top three and giving the New Zealand team the lead in the Nations Cup competition.
After a day packed with dressage tests across all the classes, the CCI* riders can now look forward to the cross country: all have completed the first phase.
The lead is currently tied between Ros Canter riding Cekatinka and Tim Cheffings on Donateur who both posted scores of 37.2. Just over one penalty off the pace is Tom Rowland riding Possible Mission and hard on his heels Claas Hermann Romeike with Meyer's Happy. Scores are incredibly close, however, with less than five penalties separating the top 10.
Their cross country starts tomorrow (Friday) at 11am, with Piggy French first out on course riding Carpe Diem IV, who currently lies in 8th place.
Thirty six of the 71 CCI2* competitors have performed their dressage tests, and the overnight leader is Belgium's Lara de Liedekerke riding Averouge des Quatre Chênes. She holds a narrow advantage over Pippa Funnell riding her home bred Billy The Biz, with an even smaller margin between Pippa and Carrie Byrom on Detective.
Their action kicks off again in the dressage arena at 9am, Louisa Lockwood and Another Proposition the first in front of the Ground Jury.
Piggy French and Jakata, winners here in 2012, lead the CICO3* ahead of New Zealand FEI Nations Cup team member Lizzie Brown and Henton Attorney General. Thirty eight riders still have to start their competition. Paul Tapner will be the first in action tomorrow – his test with Vanir Kamira is at 9am.
Last but by no means least, the Askham Bryan Under 21 National Championship contenders start their class in the dressage arena at 10am with Sophie Beaty and Navigator. They have all to play for – not just the Askham Bryan National Championship title but also the 12-month loan by Suzuki GB of an Ozark 250, which will be awarded to the highest placed British based rider.
Away from the dressage action, the Burghley Young Event Horse classes also took place today. The winner of the Four Year Old class was Ginny Turnbull riding Candara, with Alex Postolowsky on Hedgeholme Gospel runner up. The Five Year Old winner was Willa Newton riding Lauries Laudatio 2, who pipped Lucy Kemplay and Eires Rock to the top spot.
In the hotly contested Open Eventers Grand Prix Flora Harris took the spoils with Amazing VIII, with Polly West runner up riding Wigwam Bam.
Houghton International Horse Trials
2 Gate Cottage, Field House
Brancaster, King's Lynn
Norfolk, Pe31 8AG