Eventing will be returning to Longleat this year — at unaffiliated level.
A new company, Longleat Horse Trials Ltd, has been set up to run a two- and three-day event on Lord Bath’s Wiltshire estate from 30 August-1 September 2013.
This venture has come as a surprise to some, given that in 2011 — after 25 years of affiliated horse trials at Longleat — British Eventing (BE) announced that the fixture could no longer run there due to a change in land management policy.
But the new organising team insists they are working with the estate’s blessing to ensure the new event provides “an exciting — and much-needed — opportunity for grass-roots riders in the south-west”.
Event director Chris Eden explained that the horse trials will take place outside of the safari park’s busiest time of year — a concern with the BE event, which used to run in mid-June.
“But the estate was happy for us to run later in the summer,” he added.
There will be two classes at each level — 80cm and 90cm for the two-day event and 90cm and 1m for the three-day. The course will be designed by Eric Winter and built by one of the London 2012 course-building team.
“The cross-country course will take in more of the park and there will be roads and tracks and steeplechase phases,” said Chris.
To secure a place in advance, entrants have already been given the opportunity to pay £30 as a deposit for one of 50 guaranteed places in each class.
“We wanted to demonstrate to potential sponsors that there was the demand,” said Chris.
“The guaranteed places have already been filled, but we anticipate being able to run up to 500 horses altogether, so people will be able to enter as normal before the event.”
Unaffiliated rider Julie Sears said: “I’m excited about it. I can’t afford to affiliate this year, but this will give me something to aim for.”
Former Longleat organiser Lt Col John Colson, whose team relocated to set up nearby Nunney International last year, admitted that he was surprised to hear that horse trials were returning.
“But I wish them the best of luck,” he said.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (10 January 2013)