The Duke Of Wellington Estate was delighted to host the Wellington International Horse Trials (WIHT) & Country Fair 2023 over the 25th August – 28th August. The event has been running annually over the August Bank Holiday weekend for the past 12 years and has international status awarded by the FEI since 2020.
Here is a round up from the team at Wellington…
This year was all about celebrating WIHT sporting firsts:
- First time the course has been completely reversed
- First ever horses went through the new lake complex
- First time for the public to fully access upper areas of the course
- First time hosting the CCI1* class
WIHT 2023 had 11 nations represented at FEI level, 13 Olympians compete along with numerous high profile riders from around the country – many who went on only a few days later to Burghley.
“With many combinations seeking MER’s in a turbulent year all the stops were pulled out to deliver the highest level of sport our team has to offer.” – David Sheerin, WIHT Organiser
This year’s event was a resounding success again and it is such a compliment to have consecutively high entries year after year. 2023 entries were at the maximum even before ballot date, with 1253 entries received and numerous waitlists facilitated.
“Congratulations to Wellington & the amazing team for all their sterling work in putting on such a successful event.” – Nicky Salmon, FEI
There were 34 sections in total over the 4 days of eventing action – 1075 came down the centre line in the dressage, 977 showjumped across the main and national arenas with 912 progressing to the cross country phase.
“I love coming to Wellington & bringing the whole yard along. It’s wonderful being able to take pretty much the whole yard to one event because the schedule caters for BE100 horses up to Advance which is which is really brilliant for a rider and great for the owners because it saves some money on transport” – Kitty King
We have a longstanding Officials Team who year after year return for the love of the sport despite their busy calendars & their immeasurable experience makes the smooth running of the event feel like an extended family gathering. They unequivocally prioritise safety & enforce the rulebook with the utmost respect whilst communicating with compassion, encouragement & smiles whether dealing with an Olympian or a first time BE100 competitor.
“With the ever changing landscape of the sport this year’s entries required a Herculean effort to deliver from our staff, officials & army of volunteers.” David Sheerin
This event & like so many others, would literally not be possible without the dedication of our volunteers who so generously gave up their precious time off to help with these 4 days of sport.
“A huge thank you to Wellington for putting on such a great event for all the helpers & volunteers and everyone who made it run like clockwork. I’m sure we’ll be back.” – Millie Juleff
With 207 volunteers involved – each individual played an invaluable role whether fence judging, pole picking & or running dressage sheets to those completely non horsey who just enjoyed the sense of community & family fun by assisting with the Country Fair.
Our volunteers’ enthusiasm & energy was unwavering despite the long days, pepped up with cakes & our grateful appreciation to have them as a pivotal part of Team WITH 2023!
“Our ethos across the Wellington Estate & Wellington Riding is to allow opportunities for all ends of the sport whilst brining communities together.” – David Sheerin
The event kicked off on the Friday just for competitors & then opened the gates to the general public who attended in droves from Saturday to Monday with a record number of tickets.
“I was delighted with all three horses. It was a fantastic atmosphere with very good crowds which was good practice for the horses.” – Pippa Funnell
The atmosphere was buzzing from every angle of the event. The new site layout & the trailer tractor rides allowed the spectators to get as close as possible to the action in each corner of the course, cheering on the competitors into the early evenings.
“The Country Fair was teeming with happy faces & it was special to be able to explain what was happening with the eventing side…” – Nicky Salmon, FEI
The backdrop of the cross country course enveloped the Country Fair. Everything from facepainting, circus games, traditional fun fair rides to daily dog shows was happening as competitors galloped passed the giant inflatable assault course & bouncy castle without hesitation.
“The whole atmosphere of the event, the country fair, food stalls & shops made it feel like a real destination event” – Millie Juleff
The main arena played centre stage to the FEI dressage then the showjumping phase & was flanked by the VIP Hospitality Marquee where sponsors & guests enjoyed ringside action over lunch.
“Being able to jump & dressage in the main arena on grass added another level to the event & the show jumping had such a great atmosphere with the cheering crowds, it made it feel very special.” – Millie Juleff
“The ground conditions at Wellington were brilliant this year & the courses were fantastic” – Kitty King
The event’s location at the Highfield Park site is set within the wider Estate of 7,000 acres & is specially reserved all year only to be used for the horse trials to guarantee the best ground care possible for top quality sport.
“As far as the ground is concerned I don’t think we could have wished for better, we are very lucky to be allowed to permanently fence the course off & spend so much time preparing it, cutting it & making sure that it is at its best….this is testament to Wellington Riding who allow us to do that as its normally only for the domains of Burghley & Badminton.” – Adrian Ditcham
From the start box to the finish line, the ground was as good for the BE100 hooves on Friday as the Advanced riders on Monday.
The Estate are very proud to have an event where the investment in ground maintenance never disappoints regardless of the weather.
“We’ve had such a wet spring so to run on ground with a with a good bottom was great” – Alex Hua Tian
This reliability of the ground allows both the showjumping & cross country courses to be designed to really challenge while giving a platform for optimum performance through the levels, all set within a true international event atmosphere.
“The ground conditions improve each year, a huge effort from the Course Builders Team.” – Nicky Salmon, FEI
“Overall I think it was well received that the course went the other way around. When you set about reversing a track there’s a lot more to do that you think, some of our fixed fences had to be turn around which allowed us then to deal with some of the ageing revision as we first put in the course in 2012.” – Adrian Ditcham
Always striding to improve & with approximately 14 new fences added for 2023, the investment in reversing the track gave even the most experienced riders a reinvigorated approach to such a favourite event of many.
“Having been to Wellington for some years it seemed very different running the other way round. The horses had plenty of inviting fences earlier before it got more intensive….
Starting at the first water where there was quite a tricky turn to the approach of the double of logs into the water, fortunately for me it rode well.” – Pippa Funnell
Horses seemed to really settle into their rhythm earlier with the new flow of the courses across & were finishing strong.
“It was nice to go different way around having gone the original way for quite a few years now it took a little bit of getting used to but it was nice to have a have a change & the tracks are really good very educational at all levels.” – Kitty King
The gentle rolling hills, natural dips & hollows of this old estate parkland gave Adrian Ditcham a great field of play to design technical but encouraging tracks where riders can real test their horse’s gears.
“Chico doesn’t have the biggest stride so this technical course really played to his strengths. He is a really nifty rideable horse, very bold & I can always attack the inside line with him which really suits Chico.” – Alex Hua Tian
Reversing the cross country course also enabled more fresh ground to be incorporated with new fences & complexes added to accommodate an additional ninth track for our inaugural CCI1* class.
“The course was well designed as usual & asked a few questions but allowed the horse to gallop on what was near perfect going.” – Indiana Limpus, CCI1* Winner
THE NEW LAKE COMPLEX
“The lake was a fabulous addition & will be a huge asset in the future.” – Nicky Salmon, FEI
The reinstatement of a fishing lake within this Estate land has not only been an exciting conservation project since November 2020 but also provided a whole new iconic feature to the event site for Adrian Ditcham to creatively weave into the course for all competitors to experience over the next few years.
“Coming back to Wellington we really loved the cross county track especially the addition of the new water complex, it had some good questions & rightfully rewarded correct riding & lines. Viktor cruised round & I had a great run on him.” – Millie Juleff
This year only the Intermediate & CCI3* competitors enjoyed the thrills of the new lake complex set up with a 3 part combination, with each horse through under the expert eyes of Adrian Ditcham as he diligently assessed it rideability for its staggered introduction into the other 7 tracks in the future.
“The new water complex was an exciting new addition, inviting & it rode very well, I’m sure we will see it in next years advanced class.” – Pippa Funnell
Almost 200,000 tonnes of topsoil were added to allow the grass to build up around the lake. It is 19ft deep at its central fishing point safely separated from the equestrian side by a ‘cofferdam’. The new lake complex will continue to be invested in by the Estate to increase the spectator experience & the event site map will evolve further around it as more class tracks are gradually incorporated.
“Our new lake complex offered an opportunity for our growing number of public attendees to get close to the cross country action.” – David Sheerin
Over the next 3-4 years, the further careful landscaping & planting of the lake will allow it to blend seamlessly into a beautiful backdrop of willows to look as natural & inviting as our original water complex. Interestingly not only do we share our fixtures calendar week with Burghley as well as our course designer Adrian Ditcham, now the connections literally grow deeper as five special willows trees which have come courtesy of Burghley’s lake have been planted into our new water complex.
Admittedly not always the favourite phase for eventers, dressage is often the deciding factor in securing the competitive lead from the outset as Pippa Funnell demonstrated in the Advanced class. Winning the Advanced Section Y with Billy Walk On with a dressage score of 26.3 the only lower score across the entire class was her 25.8 with MCS Maverick in Advanced Section Z. Unfortunately for MCS Maverick, two unlucky poles in the main showjumping ring meant Pippa just missed out on a double whammy to dominate both Advanced sections.
Although his first time ever competing at this event, Alex Hua Tian is no stranger to the Estate having been based here with his horses in Stratfield Saye until his move to Cheshire a decade ago. Alex’s mother Sarah Noble on the other hand has been giving up her Bank Holiday weekends for years as one of our trusted start team. It was wonderful for the Wellington Team to be able to welcome him back with huge congratulation for his Advanced Section Z victory.
“Chico’s been brilliant & did his best test ever. I wasn’t particularly chasing the time so to come away with the win was great.” – Alex Hua Tian
Topping the dressage leaderboard with an impressive dressage score of 24.5, Millie Juleff & her newest partner Viktor Krum both achieved PBs with their CCI3* win.
“We had a great time at Wellington with Viktor Krum, he is a very special horse who I acquired only 3 months ago after our agent Charlotte Crumley found him for us……
Jumping wise he is an amazing jumper but can be strong and tricky across country & we’ve had a couple of blips whilst I continue to get to know him but we’ve done a fair amount of work in a short time with my training team at home. &Caroline Moore. I was really pleased that he got the result he did in the 3* because he really deserved it, leading from the front.” – Millie Juleff
Barely off the podium the entire weekend, Kitty King competed 8 horses across the levels with 5 top 3 placings including the CCI2* win, 2nd in CCI 3*, 2nd BE100, 3rd BE105 while finishing on a high on Monday with Erano M’s 3rdin the Advanced.
“I’m absolutely delighted with my 6 year old in the 2* as it was a massive section so for him to win that was very exciting…..
Erano M finishing third in the advance was brilliant he’s a new ride to me this year so we’re just kind of forming a partnership & he was absolutely fantastic in the jumping phases, he’s just so much fun to ride & he really enjoyed himself.” – Kitty King
Indiana Limpus with Champagne Supernova won our inaugural CCI1* after lying in 7th place after dressage with a score of 32.5, it was her classy clear showjumping round that secured her poll position within a very competitive cross country field.
“We were delighted to have won the Wellington 1*……
The 1* is a great introduction to the FEI events, especially for young horses just stepping up to Novice level as in our case but it is also more inclusive for the riders. Thank you to the team for hosting such a well organised event. We will definitely be back next year, hopefully to contest the 2*” – Indiana Limpus
We were very proud to host the prestigious PC110 Championship for a third year which welcomes The Pony Club competitors from across the country for their national championship.
Charlie Piper & Just Sid were crowned 2023 PC110 Champions & Charlie also took the reserve champion podium placing with Zadock D – only a margin of 1.6 differentiated the winning score.
The generational comradery fostered through The Pony Club while still encouraging competitiveness is truly unique within a sporting discipline. The families & friendships bonded over many rallies over many years over many special ponies really shone through at the event.
“As always a joy to be able to have the Pony Club Open Championships, to try and spot the future stars of tomorrow.” – Nicky Salmon, FEI
“It was great to have so many owners with us at the prize givings with the podiums & how you offer such brilliant prizes & prizes in kind. The owners all seem to really enjoy it so thank you very much for a great event.” – Kitty King
As we have highlight on social media through the event, owners are key stakeholders & essential to the longevity of the sport.
“It seemed a great day out for all, particularly the owners without whom many of us wouldn’t compete so it was great that they were acknowledged at the prize giving.” – Pippa Funnell
The support owners bring is crucial to the sport, not just financially but also their encouragement & loyalty to riders can make or break career trajectories.
Kitty King further highlighted what it meant to have Kantango’s owners (Penelope Holley, Joanna Jones, Jane Boggis & Jane Tolley) here at her 2* win; “It’s wonderful that all his owners could actually be at the event as it’s the first time they’ve all been at the same event together – four great ladies own him & they’ve all been very long time supporters of the sport & myself so it’s wonderful that they could be there.”
Along with owners, the impact of sponsorship must be acknowledged as extremely significant to the viability of the event & to the positive impact on prize givings. We are very proud to have a strong portfolio of 2023 WITH Sponsors, from leading equestrian brands across the industry sectors to equine entrepreneurs to local businesses & non equestrian luxury businesses.
“It’s great as a rider when you’ve put all that effort in to be able to celebrate that with supporters & connections & come away with some goodies and a lovely rosette.” – Millie Juleff
The majority of our WIHT sponsors are longstanding Annual Affiliated Sponsors of Wellington Riding whose sponsorship fees are directly reinvested in enhancing the competitor experience across the disciplines.
“David & the team at Wellington always put on a great show whether it be eventing, show jumping, dressage or masterclass, as competitors we really appreciate all the hard work that goes in to running such a successful event.” – Pippa Funnell
The WIHT Organising Team are already planning ahead for next year’s expansion centring around the new lake complex as well as liaising with the FEI to apply for future CCI4* status.
All images credited to Lottie-Elizabeth Photography