World’s best head for Houghton Hall

All smiles on the first day at the EQ Life Houghton International Horse Trials. Picture: Matthew Ush

All smiles on the first day at the EQ Life Houghton International Horse Trials. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

The EQ Life Houghton International Horse Trials got under way yesterday as some of the world's greatest riders flocked to the Norfolk event.

Day one started with the dressage phase of the international classes where riders perform perfected movements to be scored by watching judges. Each movement is scored out of ten, with an average calculated from the total score, with riders aiming to get the lowest mark possible.

Despite a terrible forecast predicted, but thankfully not materialising, riders turned out to do their best with each class holding a very competitive field.

In the CCI** section Lara de Liedekerke on the Selle Francais stallion Averouge des Quatre Ch Nes scored an impressive 44.4 to slip just in front of favourite British rider Pippa Funnell on Billy the Biz, who scored a respectable 45.3.

Lara, a successful Belgian rider, will be aiming to capitalise on a great start tomorrow, but has to hold her lead as the rest of the 2* riders compete in the dressage today.

Averouge has a reputation for being hot blooded and temperamental but has a wealth of experience at this level, winning the CIC** at Arville last year, so is a serious contender going into the last two phases.

In the CCI* class Nation Cup team rider Rosalind Canter and Cekatinka took an early lead on 37.2 and in joint first with them is Tim Cheffings on Donateur.

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The big class of the weekend, the CICO*** which is also the Nations Cup competition where countries go head to head to be crowned global champions, also got under way with British riders taking a firm foothold on the leaderboard.

Norfolk born rider Piggy French made a welcome comeback in the CICO***, taking the lead on Jakata, one of her horses picked for the 2012 London Olympics but which had to pull out due to injury. Jakata, owned by Michael Underwood and Wally French, has a fantastic track record at Houghton, winning this class in 2012. Niggling injuries have seen this horse withdrawn from many competitions in the past two years, including Badminton at the beginning of May, but Piggy will hope to come back fighting and reclaim her title.

Other events contested were the Burghley Young Event Horse qualifiers and the Eventers Grand Prix. Ginny Turnbull and Candara took the four-year-old class while the five-year-old class went to Willa Newton and Lauries Laudatio 2.

The Eventers Grand Prix was fiercely contended but eventually went to Flora Harris on Amazing VII.