Star riders relish Norfolk challenge

The £21,000 prize pot and the challenging cross-country track bring the world's top riders flocking to the Easco Burnham Market Horse Trials, which run from Thursday to Saturday, April 11-13.

The £21,000 prize pot and the challenging cross-country track bring the world's top riders flocking to the Easco Burnham Market Horse Trials, which run from Thursday to Saturday, April 11-13.

Riders taking up the challenge include European double gold medal winner Zara Phillips and current world No 1 William Fox-Pitt.

The trials include one of only two World Cup qualifiers in the UK and are at Sussex Farm, which is two miles west of Burnham Market, on the Ringstead Road.

Entry is £6 for adults and £4 for children, with further details available on 08707 879985.

Success in this sport depends not only on dedication and courage, but also on careful planning of fitness and training.

This builds a unique and special partnership between horse and rider.

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Every cross-country asks questions of both horse and rider and a partnership are formed based on judgement confidence and trust. The rider brings his horse up through the grades by picking the right competitions, which build experience, confidence and fitness while preparing for the ultimate goal.

Course building is skilled and courses are designed to meet the needs of training competition horses. Riders seek out the best courses to prepare for their goals and Burnham Market, where the challenging course was designed and built by Hugh Lochore and Joe Weller, ticks all the boxes.

Each year the course has developed new challenges to both horse and rider. This is a relatively long track with 29 fences and 38 jumping efforts to be completed in an optimum time of seven minutes.

At an average speed of 570 metres per minute and an uphill start followed by undulating terrain, a faster cruising speed has to be achieved.

The course is known to be big and bold rather than trappy and encourages forward thinking and an attacking approach from both horse and rider. The going is imperative and the course benefits from good natural drainage, which is perfect for a spring event.Much preparation is given over to ensuring that, whatever the weather, the going is good and on top of the ground, which reduces the risk of wear and tear on the horse's legs.

After the uphill start, the first big question comes quickly at fence five, a triple of bales on a left hand bend.

Next, fence seven, the EDP “double of brushes” at a maximum height of 140cm, presents an imposing challenge.

The course unfolds and, as they approach the far side, there is a leap of faith over the new Adnams “hanging log” into the woods.

Here the horse cannot see the landing and ii is a real test of trust between the horse and his rider.

Recovery must then be quick to then negotiate the HSBC skinny “big brush” corner back into the light. Onwards swiftly through the spectacular EASCO 'water complex' situated below the viewing mound to the last part of the course, where the downhill approach to the finish requires the ability of the rider to keep control of a tiring horse.

With the growth of the event over the past few years, the course has developed into an integral part of the preparation plan for riders aiming for eventing's most coveted prizes, the annual event at Badminton - the sport's most prestigious and sought-after prize.

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