Organisers of the 2005 FEI Open European Endurance Championships are planning an “Olympic-style” opening ceremony for the prestigious 100-mile race ride, which is taking place in Britain for the second time in its history on 3-7 August.

In the run up to the championships, riders from around the country will be supporting the event by taking turns in carrying a promotional baton along a 200-mile route from the 1993 championship venue at Southwell in Nottinghamshire, to Alfred’s Tower, two miles north-west of Stourhead House at Mere in Wiltshire. The ride will raise funds for the championship’s adopted charity Spinal Research, and the British Horse Society Access Department.

Jonathan Miall, chief executive of Spinal Research says: “We are delighted to be involved in this fantastic event, providing all riding disciplines the opportunity to participate in the European Championships. We hope that many riders will join us to help raise funds for both charities.”

The landmark feature of the 2005 European Championships will be Alfred’s Tower, which is a 160ft high triangular brick structure sitting on the edge of an escarpment over-looking Salisbury Plain. The opening ceremony will culminate with the tower being lit up to announce the arrival of more than 180 competitors, plus back-up crew and team officials, from some 30 countries around the world.

Championship organiser, John Hudson, says: “I see the lighting of Alfred’s Tower as a symbolic ‘Olympic flame’, which will be visible like a beacon across three neighbouring counties. The official lighting up will be the climax of the opening ceremony. We have the support of the National Trust and this will be the first time that Alfred’s Tower will have been floodlit.”

The race is being promoted under the slogan “One Horse, One Rider, One Hundred Miles” and the riders will follow a route taking them past the tower, which will remain floodlit throughout the championships.

Despite experiencing some disappointment at the recent World Championships in Dubai, hopes are high in the British camp for success in the European Championships. In 1993, the last time the event was held in this country, Britain won team gold and individual gold medals.

Supporters of the championships include Somerset-based Hilton Herbs, who are purchasing a new start/finish gate for the race, which will also be used at other rides in the future.

Tony and Hilary Self, directors of Hilton Herbs have been involved with the sport of endurance for some 10 years. Their company has been principle sponsor of both the famous Golden Horseshoe Ride, and more recently the Hilton Herbs Alfred’s Tower Ride. Hilton Herbs also runs its own endurance team and sponsors two endurance riders in France.

Hilary Self says: “Hilton Herbs is delighted to be involved as a sponsor of the European Championships and to be helping to host such a prestigious event on British soil.”

Hudson said: “Having worked with Tony and Hilary as sponsors of endurance events for a number of years, their support and encouragement has been second to none. Their dedication to helping foster the growth of endurance is much appreciated and their support in building the Alfred’s Tower event has been crucial in enabling us to host the championships in the UK.”

The organising team are currently looking for other sponsors to offer support to the event, including sponsoring the symbolic lighting of Alfred’s Tower. Interested parties should contact John Hudson (tel: 07779 797170) or Karen Jones (tel: 07952 970748).

Photos courtesy of Eric Jones