Top international riders back in Norfolk for the EQ Life Houghton International Horse Trials

Pippa Funnell. Pippa Funnell.

Saturday, May 17, 2014
6:30 AM

Four days of spectacular sporting competition are in store at the EQ Life Houghton International Horse Trials next week.

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Andrew Nicholson.Andrew Nicholson.

ADAM LAZZARI reports.

The Norfolk home of Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, will be welcoming some of the world’s top eventers next week.

And fans of the Houghton International Horse Trials can expect unrivalled coverage with this year’s event sponsored by equine magazine EQ Life in association with the Eastern Daily Press, as official media partner.

Added expectation comes with news that record crowds attended the EQ Life Burnham Market International Horse Trials last month, with gate numbers up by more than 15pc on previous years.

The Burnham Market event also saw more than £1,400 raised for Norfolk and Waveney’s Big C, which is the first official charity of both events.

Event organiser Gemma Walker said: “Burnham Market went fantastically well so we are expecting that Houghton will also be a big success this year.

“I think the fact that it came three weeks before the Badminton Horse Trials meant we had a great field of top international riders taking part and that helped to bring in the crowds.

“We have some world class riders coming to Houghton as well, which is a fantastic location, and the park is looking absolutely stunning.

“The weather forecast is good as well and there will be many things going on for all the family to enjoy so we are expecting a really great event.”

About 15,000 people are expected at the EQ Life Houghton International Horse Trials, which run from May 22 until May 25.

The finishing touches are being put to the cross country courses, stables are being erected and arenas strung in preparation for the 700 horses that will be heading to Norfolk.

Affiliated eventing entries are strong, amongst them the FEI Mitsubishi Motors Badminton winner Sam Griffiths, who is bringing two of his younger horses to Houghton.

He will be joined by many of the biggest names in the sport, including Pippa Funnell, Andrew Nicholson and Sir Mark Todd.

The action kicks off on Thursday with international dressage, the first phase of a three-day event.

The Burghley Young Event Horse classes will be showcasing the stars of the future as they strive to qualify for the Championship final at Burghley in September, and the Sema Lease Open Eventers Grand Prix will spice up the excitement in the main arena.

On Friday the international dressage continues, alongside the first of the international cross country rounds and a raft of show jumping classes.

Friday is also the start of the two-day Norfolk Festival of Showing.

In the evening Big C, Norfolk and Waveney’s cancer charity, is hosting a quiz where expert quiz master Graham Jones will be joined by Look East presenter Susie Fowler-Watt as they test the knowledge of the teams of competitors. Anyone can enter and all proceeds go straight to Big C.

Saturday is the big cross country day as both the CCI and CIC horses gallop around the stunning parkland.

With picnic parking available by the water jump, if booked in advance, this is a perfect place to watch the action.

Back at the main arenas spectators can get up close to the stars of the sport as they tackle the international show jumping.

There will also be plenty to see in the Sema Lease Novice Eventers Grand Prix, Inter-Schools show jumping and day two of the Norfolk Festival of Showing.

The horse trials draw to a close on the Sunday, with more show jumping, unaffiliated dressage and the Pony Club Team show jumping.

The organisers of the EQ Life Houghton International Horse Trials wish to thank their sponsors and supporters, which include: EQ Life; the EDP; Askham Bryan College; Howes Percival; Shadwell Stud; Smith & Williamson; Equi-Trek; TopSpec; Newmarket Equine Hospital; Mirrors for Training; Ben Burgess; Ames Nissan; Suzuki and Bedmax.

For more information and tickets, go to www.houghtoninternational.co.uk

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