Much was written in the press, and broadcast on both BBC Radio Norfolk and ITV Anglia, about the two fixtures. New champions were crowned, riders qualifier for future competitions and dozens of rosettes were handed out. Good weather and effective publicity helped spectator numbers at Burnham Market which enjoyed record crowds while, in contrast, the spectacular parkland of Houghton Hall survived all that the elements could throw at it on the Saturday, and has bounced back remarkably quickly, enforcing this venues’ suitability for equestrianism.
What makes Lord Cholmondeley so happy to welcome 700-odd horses into his grounds, year in, year out? Houghton Estate’s Land Agent Robert Miller explains: “We believe that a Horse Trials works hand in glove with Houghton. The deer park, through which the cross country course runs, provides terrific going which dries quickly however hard it rains – a crucial factor for riders deciding where to compete.
“It’s a two-way street though. The Horse Trials has helped to put Houghton Hall on the map. The inaugural event eight years ago was our first proper event in the park. Back in 1998 the West Park, where the arenas and trade stands are erected, was arable land and the Ha-Ha was only restored in 2000. It’s the perfect setting for an event like Houghton International, and a great way to showcase the work that has been undertaken to restore the Houghton landscape back to how it was in 1730s.”
So there is a clear symbiosis between the Horse Trials and the Hall. Was there a similar relationship between the two Horse Trials and their 2014 title sponsor, EQ Life magazine in association with Eastern Daily Press? Magazine Editor Vanessa Britton believes so.
“The sponsorship created awareness of the EQ Life brand as a while, raising our profile as a serious brand within the local equestrian community,” she says. “It worked especially well for us at Houghton as it is an event that incorporated so many disciplines, from top level eventing down to Pony Club and unaffiliated events.
“In return we brought comprehensive exposure of the event, not only to dedicated EQ Life readers but also to the wider online audience through out daily reporting and social media presence. Weekly coverage in the lead up to the event through the EDP [Eastern Daily Press] and EADT [East Anglian Daily Times], plus daily reporting in the EDP also proved popular.”
Anne Basey Fisher, EQ Life’s publisher, also describes the social benefits of sponsorship. “We invited a number of our EDP advertisers to lunch at Houghton. They thoroughly enjoyed the day, doing something a bit different in excellent company. The sponsors marquee provides a great base, with a relaxed atmosphere and good food. It was nice to be able to give something back to our customers, and make them feel special. Plus, editorially, we were ideally placed to give people in the county the coverage that they require from this type of event.”
Also new in the sponsors line up for 2014 was Askham Bryan College, sponsors of the National Under 21 Championships which ran at Houghton. Philip Grant, Deputy Principal of Newton Rigg College [Part of Askham Bryan] deems the experience a great success. “It’s our pleasure to be associated with the Under 21s and support the up and coming riders as they progress in the sport,” he says.
“We have definitely committed to support the championship next year, and are looking to see how much exposure to young people the U21 series attracts. We have 14 land based centres in the country and with the scholarships we are able to offer, along with multiple opportunities associated with events such as Houghton, it is a relationship with great potential. Next year I hope to bring a team of students with me to Houghton, to see for themselves how the event works, and have the chance to meet some of the best event riders in the world.”
Event Director Alec Lochore sums up the multi-faceted world of Horse Trials. “Without land owners there is no venue. Without sponsors there is no infrastructure. Without owners, there are no horses. Without horses there are no riders . . . . the list is endless. We highly value our sponsors and landowners, without whom none of this would begin to take place. I like to think that we are all one big team working towards a common goal, so that all parties benefit – and, as importantly, have fun in the process.
“There are so many ways businesses can get involved, from taking title sponsorship, arena sponsorship and fence sponsorship, to entertaining clients and guests through one of our corporate hospitality packages. There is still plenty of room in our big team to welcome newcomers for 2015!”