Crowds enjoy enthralling weekend of sport at Houghton

Alongside the excitement of a home win for the British team in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup, there were many highlights from four days of unmissable eventing action at the Barefoot Retreats Houghton International Horse Trials in Norfolk (26-29 May).

It was a doubly rewarding weekend for Tom McEwen, who not only helped the British team secure the home win in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup but also took the CCI-S 4*O title with Fred and Penny Barker’s gelding, Bob Chaplin. Tom was delighted with the performance, which he felt was ideal preparation for the horse’s first 5* run at Luhmuhlen in Germany in a couple of weeks’ time.

Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin win the CCI-S 4*O at the Houghton (image, Hannah Cole)

“Bob Chaplin was amazing today,” said Tom. “He flew round the cross country and made it feel really quite easy. It was a perfect prep run for him for Luhmuhlen, so I’m very excited. I’m very excited for his owners, Fred and Penny Barker as well, because they’ve been good supporters of me, and they really support the sport; so, it’s fantastic.”

Tom and Bob Chaplin added just 0.4 time penalties to their dressage score across the weekend, to finish the competition on a score of 25.8. Kitty King took the runner up spot with Ceylor L A N with a score of 29.3 and Heidi Coy rounded off a superb weekend for herself and Russal Z when taking third on a score of 30.3.

World Number One, Oliver Townend enjoyed another successful weekend riding for the Caunton Manor Stud. He took the top two places in the CCI 3*-L with the lovely young mares, Crazy Du Loir and Caunton First Class, owned by Sir John Peace and Charlotte Cole. Both finished the competition on their dressage scores, 21.3 for Crazy Du Loir and 22.5 for Caunton First Class. Tom McEwen and Luna Mist completed the top three with a three-day score of 26.2.

Oliver Townend wins the CCI 3*-L with Crazy Du Loir

Oliver is really excited about what the future holds with these mares and the rest of the Team Caunton horses. “I think it’s brilliant for Team Caunton, who are my new bosses, and great for Sir John and his daughter, Victoria Peace. Hopefully it’s the start of something very, very special,” said Oliver.

“It’s their third international win this season with this bunch of horses and I think it really shows the intention of Team Caunton on what they are wanting to do. The mares are away to stud this week, to have embryos taken off them, and it’s definitely nice to have this on their resume as future mothers.”

The British Eventing National U21 Championship also took place over the weekend, with a commanding win for Gloucestershire’s Ibble Watson and Aristoteles S Z. Ibble took an early lead in Friday’s dressage with a superb score of 21.7 and maintained her lead throughout the weekend, jumping clear in the show jumping on Sunday to secure the win. Last year’s winner, Oliver Jackson delivered another strong performance with Viktor Krum to take second and Saffron Cresswell finished third with Funny Guy.

Ibble Watson and Aristoteles S Z on their way to winning the National U21 Championship (image, Adam Fanthorpe)

“I had been aiming for this competition, but I never thought I would come out and win it,” said Ibble. “It would have been nice to just do well and, as long as he jumped well today, I would have been really proud of him. He’s been a legend this week. My ultimate goal with him would be Badminton, maybe in a few years.”

The CCI 2*-L courses are built to encourage and develop the younger horses and the class often throws up stars of the future. Piggy March brought three seven-year-old horses to Houghton this year, hoping to qualify for the World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers later in the season. All three finished in the top ten, with Cooley Anything You Like owned by James Midgley and Gaie Scouller coming out best to take the win with a score of 27.1.

Piggy March and Cooley Anything You Like take the honours in the CCI 2*-L (image, Athalens)

The higher end of the leader board in this class was exceptionally close, with the top 22 horses separated by just one show jump – a show jump down was extremely costly! The top 12 all completed on their dressage scores, with Sarah Bullimore and Quiwi Sprite taking second and another of Piggy’s rides, Brookfield Future News, third.

“They are all a really lovely, exciting bunch of young horses,” said Piggy of her rides. “I was hoping they would be competitive. I wouldn’t have called which one would probably have beaten the other two, which is very lucky for me that they’re all such lovely horses. To have three in the top 10 is great. They finished with a smile on their face and they’re happy to progress for the rest of the season.”

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