Entries have now opened for FEI Houghton International, which this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary. After just one year as a straight National horse trials, Houghton gained International status in 2007 and now welcomes over 700 horses each year, with more than 350 International competitors.
Over the last decade the event has gone from strength to strength and not only hosts the only British leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup series but also the British Eventing Askham Bryan National under 21 Championships.
Houghton Hall’s flat parkland is ideal for those tackling their first Three Day Event, and the CCI1* is always popular. Local Norfolk rider Martha Craggs will be just one of many making her debut at this level, riding her eight-year-old gelding Corbett, as is Stowmarket’s Emma Freeman with her ten-year-old Lady Bouncer.
Past Badminton winner Paul Tapner has already thrown his hat in the ring for the headline CICO3* class with both the relatively experienced Up In The Air and the up-and-coming Counterparty. Competition is sure to be fierce in this class; not only is it one of the legs of the Shearwater Insurance Grand Slam and its associated £50,000 ‘winner takes all’ prize pot, but this is also an Olympic year and Houghton is a popular fixture for overseas riders trying to catch the eye of their national selectors and earn their place on the plane to Rio.
Most notable last year were the frustratingly unstoppable Germans who almost made it a clean sweep across the levels. They claimed the Nations Cup team competition, filled all three top spots in the CCI1* and took the CCI2* to boot. Andreas Ostholt only just missed out on making it a German whitewash, finishing runner up to France’s Luc Chateau in the CICO3*.
As ever, it’s not just about eventing. Running alongside the International classes, there are Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifiers, affiliated British Showjumping classes, Arena Eventing, unaffiliated showjumping, Pony Club team showjumping and unaffiliated dressage – along with great shopping and a new Vintage Fair and tea room.