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Debbie Graham looks at the 2010 programme of events in the equestrian sport that provides a thrilling day out in beautiful settings

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The best of British Eventing

Debbie Graham looks at the 2010 programme of events in the equestrian sport that provides a thrilling day out in beautiful settings

Spring has definitely arrived and with it the new season of British Eventing, the highly-charged, multi-disciplined equestrian sport.

Running from March to September eventing tests both the horse and the riders skill at dressage, control and accuracy in the show jumping arena and questions their bravery and speed over imposing cross- country jumps.

And whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned spectator you can be assured of a great day out.

Herefordshire and Monmouthshire may not play home to the biggest fixtures but the regional events have a friendly charm all of their own, a beautiful setting and offer a chance to view rising stars, both equine and human, of the future. Some events are free.

Howick Horse Trials at Howick in the Wye Valley on April 3-4 is first off the mark and considered perfect for introducing the rigours of competing to the beginner.

Running over well-drained old turf its inviting cross-country course aims to give both horse and rider confidence rather than scare them. With BE80(T), BE90 and BE100 classes (the new 80cm training class and the old intro and pre-novice) spectators can see combinations at the very start of their horse trials career. Organiser Hannah Matthews says: Howick is a great event with a view of the whole course where it is possible to watch true grassroots riders and hopefully stars of the future.

The mid-week Sapey horse trials on April 20-21 in the unspoilt countryside of north east Herefordshire is certainly worthy of an escape from the office as it attracts some of the countrys top riders on their young horses. Previous competitors include Olympian Mary King, and the up-and-coming local girl Rosie Thomas.

Her top horse Barrys Best had his first outing here back in 2002 and she says: Sapey is friendly and perfect for spectators as it is compact and you dont have to walk very far to watch all the action. If you cannot make it in April then mark August 17-18 off in the diary as this is when the second horse trials take place and is equally worthy of a visit.

Mount Ballan trials is in the new time slot of May 22-23 instead of October and offer a BE90 and 100 classes along with a Novice. They are held at the David Broome Equestrian Centre, near Chepstow.

Thanks to Monmouth County Council the cross-country course partly runs through the beautiful parkland attached to the stunning Caldicot Castle. This forms a dramatic backdrop to the event, allowing the spectator to savour the excitement of an adrenaline filled sport in a truly beautiful and historic setting.

August 2-3 sees the very first horse trials at the beautiful Homme House set in Capability Brown Parkland at Much Marcle, near Ledbury. Organiser Anne James says: There is wonderful terrain for the cross-country with excellent visibility for spectators.

Monmouth horse trials is on September 18. Having run for over 20 years, this is a firm fixture on the eventing calendar and boasts among others the international riders Matt Ryan, Lucy Wiegersma and Andrew Nicholson as regular competitors.

The cross-country course is described by organiser Sue Fairweather as old-fashioned with lots of natural fences like ditches and hedges across rolling farmland.

This area not only has beautiful events going for it but also an abundance of talented young riders beginning to make a name for themselves. Ones to watch this season include Louise Skelton who after a successful 2009 is aiming for a top 15 placing at Badminton and Burghley and Franky Reid-Warrilow of Presteigne who is in contention for a slot on the 2010 young rider team. Frankie says: I am kicking of what I hope will be my best season yet at Gatcombe. Dolley Little Wiseguy and Dolley Rosslare, owned by my father, will be doing the Intermediate Novice. If all goes to plan my top horse Little Wiseguy will move up to advanced and be aimed at a 3 star towards the end of the year which is very exciting.


For more information see www.britisheventing.com

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