World class:

Ex­hil­a­rat­ing world class eques­trian com­pe­ti­tion comes to Nor­folk in May at the stately Houghton Hall

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Rachel Buller PHO­TOS: Ian Burt

Top­drawer event­ing at Houghton Hall

At­tract­ing top com­peti­tors from across the globe, the Houghton In­ter­na­tional Horse Tri­als is con­sid­ered one of top events on the eques­trian cal­en­dar.

Since gaining in­ter­na­tional sta­tus 12 years ago, the event held in the spec­tac­u­lar grounds of Houghton Hall now wel­comes more than 700 horses and hosts the only Bri­tish leg of the FEI Event­ing Na­tion’s Cup, where teams from as far afield as Aus­tralia and New Zealand bat­tle it out to top the ta­ble come the fi­nal event in Hol­land in Oc­to­ber.

Cur­rent event­ing world cham­pion Ros Can­ter, who grew up, and is based in neigh­bour­ing county Lin­colnshire, has com­peted at Houghton many times, and says it has be­come a hugely im­por­tant part of in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

“Houghton is a beau­ti­ful set­ting so get­ting to spend a few days stay­ing in the park is spe­cial in it­self. The com­pe­ti­tion is also very com­pet­i­tive so it is a great chance to see how you are do­ing against in­ter­na­tional com­peti­tors and nor­mally the weather is just start­ing to warm up which al­ways makes it lovely.”

For those who don’t know what to ex­pect dur­ing the week­end, Ros says there are three very dif­fer­ent, but equally com­pelling, phases of event­ing

“The dres­sage is the first phase. The rid­ers have a set rou­tine to ride with move­ments be­ing marked out of 10. Dres­sage should look el­e­gant and ef­fort­less and the low­est score from this phase takes the lead. The next phase is the cross coun­try. This is a com­bi­na­tion of speed, endurance and brav­ery of both horse and rider and it is ex­cit­ing and adren­a­line-filled.

“One mis­take can knock you right of the com­pe­ti­tion and here you will see lots of ac­tion in­clud­ing the odd tum­ble! The showjump­ing phase comes last. This is an­other jump­ing chal­lenge but here the jumps knock down, so the need for pre­ci­sion is great. The chal­lenge is made more dif­fi­cult be­cause the cross coun­try phase the day be­fore might have taken a lot out of the horse and the com­peti­tors

What do peo­ple en­joy most about the ses­sions?

Rid­ers en­joy the feel­ing of be­ing in com­mand; of achieve­ment; the feel­ing of move­ment of the pony un­der them. Chil­dren like be­ing phys­i­cally taller than the grown-ups. Coaches fol­low a les­son plan to en­cour­age each rider to use their phys­i­cal and men­tal abil­i­ties to the max­i­mum to con­trol the pony and carry out ex­er­cises and tasks.

What do you look for in the horses and ponies?

There is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that Rid­ing for the Dis­abled needs old, slow, ‘bomb-proof’ ponies. A good tem­per­a­ment is vi­tal, but we also need them to be fit, healthy, happy, ready to work and ca­pa­ble of help­ing our rid­ers achieve their very best. They should be quiet, good with sud­den noises and move­ments and be pa­tient.

When were the Nor­folk groups set up?

Rid­ing for dis­abled chil­dren be­gan in Nor­folk in 1968, one year be­fore the na­tional char­ity was formed. Ma­jor Derek All­husen and his wife of­fered ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing on their ponies to the dis­abled chil­dren of the Clare School, Nor­wich. It be­came Nor­folk’s first RDA group and the first in the UK to re­ceive a visit from RDA Pres­i­dent the Princess Royal. This spring saw the es­tab­lish­ment of new groups at Wals­ing­ham and Worstead, bring­ing the to­tal to 10.

How did you get in­volved?

I started as a helper and im­me­di­ately found the re­wards of see­ing the rid­ers’ progress and en­joy­ment to be the high­light of my week. I en­joy meet­ing rid­ers and volunteers and see­ing how rid­ers of all abil­i­ties cast aside their dis­abil­i­ties to achieve so much and have so much fun do­ing it.

Do you need volunteers?

Volunteers are al­ways needed. No RDA group can func­tion with­out vol­un­teer helpers and most groups do not have any salaried staff. Anyone from age 16 can vol­un­teer and there

RIGHT: Bri­tish event­ing rider Kelly Al­dous at the Houghton In­ter­na­tional Horse Tri­als BE­LOW: Ros Can­ter and Pen­cos Crown Jewel pre­par­ing to com­pete in the Houghton In­ter­na­tional

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.