For eventing fans, the British Eventing calendar is well inscribed on our memory: a familiar schedule that sees us through from March to October, whether as a spectator or a competitor.
Easter weekend? It must be Burnham Market Horse Trials. Beginning of September? It’s time for Burghley. But wind back the decades and the calendar and plum dates had very different occupants.
Here we remember Wylye three-day-event – lost, but not forgotten…
W STANDS for wet, windy and Wylye which was, for 30 years until 1990, a major autumn three-day event organised by Lord Hugh Russell and his wife Rosemary at their estate not far from Stonehenge.
“Lady Hugh” was paralysed following a fall, but designed the courses, taught students and acted as chef d’équipe at overseas events from the wheel of her all-terrain Mini Moke.
Long before the multimillion-pound World Class programmes were envisaged, Wylye was the British team’s regular pre-championship base.
“I don’t ever recall paying to take horses there or to stay in the house,” says eventer Jane Starkey. “What the Russells did for the sport was remarkable. We’ve never had anything quite like it before or since.
“It always seemed to rain on Wylye weekend, so while the cross-country was not as difficult as Burghley, the mud made it challenging enough. The roads and tracks were fun — we crossed the A303 and trotted round some ancient burial mounds,” adds Jane.
This week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (11 January 2017) is dedicated to nostalgia: those great idols of yesteryear
Lady Hugh painted black splodges at the exact point she wanted a schooling fence jumped, leaving riders quaking should they disappoint.
“She could be fierce, but she also had a wicked sense of humour — once you’d found your way into it,” recalls Jane.
“She kept Rhodesian ridgebacks in the boot room. They often wouldn’t let you in and, if they took against you, they wouldn’t let you out!”
This article was first published in the 11 January 2018 issue of Horse & Hound magazine