Burgham International Horse Trials, which took place at the weekend, saw more than 500 horse and rider combinations compete at the prestigious event.
London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nicola Wilson dominated the two star International class while Badminton-bound Gemma Tattersall took first and third place in the International three star section.
This was the first time the event, which started running in 2012, hosted spring Fédération Equestre Internationale classes.
The only horse trials in the region to provide such classes and the first event of the eventing season to host International classes, the venue provides an integral chance for riders to gain qualification points and valuable experience early on in the year.
Providing classes from BE90 to CIC*** level meant the fixture attracted not only Olympians such as Andrew Hoy, Nicola Wilson and Caroline Powell, but was also hugely popular for more northern and Scottish competitors at grassroots level.
The weekend brought wet and windy conditions, making the running of the event difficult for the voluntary committee. Some southern horse trials had to be cancelled in similar conditions but this venue benefits greatly from well-draining ground.
Organiser Martyn Johnson said: “It was a challenging weekend, this weather does make everything slightly more complicated.
“We were pulling horse boxes both on and off site on the Sunday but we have a great team here who all pulled together to make everything run as smoothly as possible.”
The particularly muddy and ploughed up conditions in the show jumping caused many combinations, especially at the lower levels, to knock up a large amount of penalties and this proved highly influential on results.
Victories included first, second and sixth position being secured in the CIC** class for Yorkshire-based Nicola Wilson. Having won team medals at both European and World championships for Great Britain, Nicola showed her experience in the testing conditions, achieving double clears on all three of her rides. Burgham provides key preparation for these top event riders.
Nicola’s winning mount Annie Clover, with whom she led from start to finish, and second-placed ride One Two Many, are entered for the world-renowned Badminton Horse Trials in May, while sixth-placed Watermill Vision is bound for the Kentucky Horse Trials in America this month.
Gemma Tattersall also used this new International fixture as preparation for Badminton. Occupying both first and second place after the dressage on the Friday, two double clears from Gemma’s rides Chico Bella P and Arctic Soul gained her first and third position after the challenging cross-country phase in the CIC***. The cross country proved hugely influential in the FEI classes. Former Badminton winner Paul Tapner was the only international competitor to finish within the optimum time, despite picking up 20 jumping penalties.
Local riders also galloped to victory in the other national classes Burgham hosted. Saturday saw a double win for Lanton-based Jessica Mckie in the Intermediate section. A brilliant dressage score aboard Ask The Boss together with a handful of cross country faults secured a win.
Then came success in the Open Novice class for Jessica with Madams Law due to a double clear and a quick cross-country round. Jason Wood, who is based near Alnwick, topped Sunday’s Novice section which was the last class of the weekend. Partnered with The Causeway, the pair added nothing to their dressage score.
Jason, who is also on the committee for Burgham, said: “The horse coped amazingly well with the conditions. I used to think he didn’t like mud but I’m obviously wrong! The event ran very well considering what the weather threw at us.”
In the Open Intermediate section there was success for Leicestershire-based Angus Smales and his ride A Bit Much.
The Open Novice under 18 class was topped by Kerrie Dicken on her horse Faerie Myth and in the Saturday Novice section, former Burghley winner Caroline Powell, formerly based in the Borders, grasped the two top spots with two inexperienced horses.
Mr Johnson added: “I would like to thank all the sponsors as without them this event could not run.
“Our title sponsor Owen Pugh has been invaluable in helping with ground and course preparation and Longframinglington-based 4x4 dealership Dennis Common was invaluable in providing us with vehicles over the weekend.”
Now focus shifts onto the preparation and repair of the ground for the next international event at the venue, which runs from July 30 to August 2.
Visit www.burghamhorsetrials.co.uk for more information.
All pictures in the slideshow were taken by Trevor Walker Photography.