Houghton horse trials - full preview

Emma KnightsThe global equestrian spotlight will fall on the county this week as a Norfolk stately home plays host to one of the country's newest international horse trials.Emma Knights

The global equestrian spotlight will fall on the county this week as a Norfolk stately home plays host to one of the country's newest international horse trials.

Majestic Houghton Hall, near Fakenham, will once again be the stunning backdrop to the Subaru Houghton International Horse Trials which is now in its fourth year and is in association with the EDP.

Top riders such as Olympic gold medallist and eventing legend Mark Todd, and 2010 Badminton winner Paul Tapner are among the equestrian stars heading to Norfolk along with Pippa Funnell, the only winner of the famous grand slam, Kristina Cook, a European gold medallist and Olympic bronze medallist, and Norfolk's own Piggy French, who is a European silver medallist.

'We have more than 350 international competitors this year. Houghton is the largest international event of its kind in the UK,' said Alec Lochore, the event director and course designer, who added that the horse trials had competitors from 17 different nations.

The international dressage will take place today and tomorrow, followed by cross country tomorrow and Saturday, and show jumping on Sunday.

Last year about 11,000 people came to watch the riders and their horses in action, and this year organisers are hoping for more people this year.

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Mr Lochore said the aim was to make the Subaru Houghton International an event that was inclusive to all, and that as well as the international competitions there was also a whole host of other classes for riders of all levels. In total more than 700 competitors will take part in the horse trials.

As well as all of the equestrian excitement, there is lots more for the whole family to enjoy, including having a picnic in Houghton's parkland and the chance to explore Houghton Hall and its beautiful gardens which will be open to the public today and Sunday.

Mr Lochore said: 'I want to make Houghton International a key sporting and social event for the spring.

'It is such a beautiful place to be and there are all sorts of things going on. It is a really fun weekend, so come along and bring all the family - including the dog.'

Among the activities for children throughout the horse trials will be a bouncy castle, circus workshops and face painting, and other fun for all the family will include terrier and lurcher racing and falconry displays.

There will also be more than 70 trade stands around the main arena selling everything from jewellery to wellies to dog beds to home-made cakes.

People will also be able to be in with a chance of winning a Subaru Impreza by buying a raffle ticket from the horse trials' official charity The Big C, a Norfolk-based organisation that raises money for cancer research and equipment.

Tomorrow there will be a special treat for car enthusiasts when The Hoste Arms Supercar Club visits from 11.30am until 2.30pm. More than 60 cars will be on display including Ferraris, Bentleys, Aston Martins and Porsches.

Later tomorrow at 5pm there will be a cricket match on Houghton's private cricket ground where the horse owners and riders will play against the sponsors.

On Saturday people will be able to enjoy a static display of Tigermoth bi-planes.

On Sunday families can also enter their dogs in a dog show, and people can also take part in a fun run around the cross country course.

t Each day the horse trials are from 8.30am until 6.30pm.

On Thursday tickets bought on the gate cost �5 for adults and children are free. On Friday tickets cost �5 for adults and �3 for children aged four to 14-years-old. On Saturday tickets cost �8 for adults and �5 for children, and on Sunday tickets cost �7 for adults and �4 for children.

Children under four are free on all four days.

Family tickets and four day passes are also available for the horse trials.

A special offer is available to EDP readers - see the advert on page 32.

Well behaved dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead at all times.

There is an extra charge to visit Houghton Hall and Houghton Gardens.

t For more details visit www.houghtoninternational.co.uk

Top competitors from 17 nations will be competing at the Subaru Houghton International Horse Trials.

Below are some of the sporting stars to watch out for:

Kristina Cook (GBR) - 2009 European champion and individual bronze medallist at Beijing Olympics 2008

Paul Tapner (AUS) - 2010 winner of Badminton and at Burnham Market CIC***

Emily Llewellyn (GBR) - European U21 champion 2008 and national U25 champion 2009

Andrew Hoy (AUS) - Olympic gold medallist in 1992, 1996 and 2000

Matt Ryan (AUS) - Three times Olympic gold medallist (twice as part of a team and once as an individual)

Mark Todd (NZL) - Two times Olympic champion, five times winner of Burghley, three times winner of Badminton, and winner of the Subaru Houghton International Horse Trials 2009

Joe Myer (NZL) - Team member at Beijing Olympics 2008

Mark Kyle (IRL) - Two time Olympian

Clayton Fredericks (AUS) - Silver medallist at 2006 World Championships and 2008 Olympic Games

Lucinda Fredericks (AUS) - Winner of Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky) on Headley Britannia who is competing at Houghton, and was also in the silver medal-winning team with husband Clayton at 2008 Olympics

Piggy French (GBR) - European silver medallist

Pippa Funnell (GBR) - The first rider in history to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing

Alex Hua Tian (CHI) - China's first ever equestrian Olympian at the Beijing Olympics

Our canine chums will also have the chance to take centre stage at Houghton this weekend.

For Sunday will be the first PoochCorner DTC Companion Dog Show With Obedience, supported by MedicAnimal.

The show, which is in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind, is open to all dogs, and all entries should be made on the day.

As well as pedigree and obedience classes, there are also a number of novelty classes.

These include:

Best crossbreed

Prettiest bitch

Handsomest dog

Best veteran (over seven years)

Best rescue

Best handler under 15 years old

Dog that most looks like its owner

Dog with the waggiest tail

Strangest brace

Dog with the most appealing eyes

Best trick

The show will be from 9am to 6pm on Sunday, and entries cost �1 per class.

For more details on the different classes visit the horse trials website www.houghtoninternational.co.uk

People will be able to follow in the hoof-steps of competing horses on Sunday, 1.30pm, in a unique fun run around Subaru Houghton International's cross country course.

The Only Fools Fun Run is being organised by the leukaemia charity The Anthony Nolan Trust, and is open to anyone over the age of 14.

Sharon King, the charity's regional fundraising manager, said: 'This is a fun run with a very big difference as runners will be tackling the well trodden cross country section of the horse trials, clambering over horse jumps, slithering down the grassy banks and splashing through the water obstacles.

'They will quite literally be following in the hoof steps of the competing horses!'

Everybody who takes part will be given a certificate and a medal to mark their achievement, and prizes will be awarded for the fastest runners and the best fancy dress.

The Anthony Nolan Trust takes back lives from leukaemia by managing and recruiting new donors to the UK's most successful bone marrow register. They also undertake vital research leading to improvements in the effectiveness and safety of bone marrow transplants.

t For more information or to register for the fun run visit www.anthonynolan.org.uk or call 0303 303 3000.

A cross country course on which several hundred horses will be competing may seem like an unlikely place for a work of art.

But that is exactly where a new creation from graffiti artist Busk will be at Houghton.

The artist, whose work combines the realism of classic portraiture and the urgency of graffiti, has been working his artistic magic on a new fence for the horse trials.

Busk, who has been painting for 25 years, was part of the Hip Hop movement in the early eighties and was introduced to graffiti in 1985.

He is known worldwide as one of the most technically proficient craftsmen in aerosol art, and has work on permanent display at the prestigious Ivy Club, above the world famous restaurant in London's Covent Garden, alongside the likes of Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol.

He has done a lot of work with the music and film industry and has produced artwork for album covers, music videos and film premieres.

Read more about the horse trials from the EDP's equestrian correspondent on page 41.

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