I go to Houghton Hall every year to watch and take photos, and it gets better and better. It’s a wonderful setting with a good range of tradestands with 3 different arenas in the middle of them (for CCI and CIC show jumping, affiliated BS jumping, and Arena Eventing), an entertainment area for the children (even a clown this year, although sadly she didn’t have many customers, as families with small children were scarce on a very wet day) and always an absolutely top class field of competitors across all the levels from 1* to 3*.
The weather seems to work only in extremes at Houghton: it is either roastingly hot, or there’s torrential rain. This year it somehow managed to do both, and there were ominous rolls of thunder at times too. See the pic I took just after a particularly heavy deluge -I have never seen a XC fence steaming before!
The CCI* show-jumping was fairly influential, with immaculate clears seeing Pippa Funnell rise four places to 2nd on the promising Billy Cuckoo, and JP Sheffield and the stallion Woodlander Wesuvio doing the same, for 3rd place, but Ros Canter on Cekatinka held her nerve for a clear to clinch the win.
The YR 2* was won by Will Furlong on Livingstone II, who did a double clear (very scarce in the top 10) to add to his good dressage. Joint dressage leaders Sophie How and Bojangles Hrs (which I finally worked out stood for Hows Race Safe!) retired xc, and David Doel had an unusual bad day at the office, retiring Chap on the xc and electing not to run his joint dressage leader Miss Caruso. Overnight leader Sophie Beaty withdrew Navigator before the trot-up, very disappointing after being the only one in the section to go clear inside the time xc, but hopefully had some consolation in finishing 2nd on her other ride, Stanly.
The 2* was led from start to finish by Lara de Liederkerke on the stunning chestnut stallion Averouge des Quatre Ch Nes, whose dressage of 44.4 was good enough to keep them in front in spite of 8.4 time penalties xc.
She won by 0.1 penalty from Matthew Wright, on the Ghareeb-sired Shannondale Shinawil, with Andrew Nicholson being the only one in the section to finish on his dressage score for 3rd place on the very promising mare Urma BK, who won her first two Intermediates last year. Definitely one to watch.
Houghton is often a final prep run for those aiming for Bramham, and this year was no exception. Many of the 3* horses go there next, and Mark Todd’s immaculate NZB Campino, who added just 3.6 time pens xc to his leading dressage of 32.3 to seal the win, has to be a hot favourite.
Coral Keen, 4th at Houghton with Wellshead Fare Opposition, heads to Bramham with her and Wiverna, having gone DC with both at Houghton.
Pippa Funnell takes Second Supreme, who did a good dressage and SJed clear, but had an annoying 20 pens xc, Ros Canter takes 9th placed Zenshera, and on-form Oliver Townend takes Black Tie, who he took quietly round Houghton after incurring 8 pens in the SJ, but I wouldn’t discount him!
It was great to see Piggy French back out with Jakata (who won this class in 2012) and he did her proud again with a double clear, sailing around the CIC*** course with 13.2 time penalties for eventual 7th place. I’m sure we all hope he’ll stay sound and continue to reward her and her team.
The dramatic weather led to sloppy conditions underfoot, which some horses ignored and others apparently detested, so the scoreboard was peppered with the evidence of problems.
Even Sir Mark Todd, having sailed round on NZB Campino making it look easy, came unstuck after a rare mistake with Oloa led to a very uncharacteristic ‘unseated rider’ moment.
In the Nations Cup competition, Team NZ won, thanks to 1st and 2nd places from Mark Todd and Lizzie Brown (on Henton Attorney General, the only combination to make the time xc, no mean feat!), backed up by a great double clear with just 1.2 time pens from Craig Nicholai and Just Ironic, with the last team member, Tim Price, 0.1 pen behind him.
Germany were second, due to particularly good performances from Andreas Ostholt and Class Hermann Romeike (son of Olympic gold medallist Heinrich), both in the top 5, with Team GB in third, and France in 4th.
Houghton is near Kings Lynn, and is well worth the trip. The courses are fantastic, and great entertainment is guaranteed, but, based on the previous few years, always take your wellies and waterproofs!
Bramham is this week, and it’ll be fascinating to see which combinations from Houghton might go on to take the honours.
With the weather we’ve been having, the going may well be similar, and those who ran at Houghton should be glad of the practice they had in mud and sloppy standing water, an inevitable result of sudden deluges. The list of entries is HERE, any predictions as to the top 3?!