December 9 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Some of the world’s finest riders descended on 75 acres of Cambridgeshire countryside for the Maxavita Little Downham Horse Trials.
The three-day cross country, show jumping and dressage event at Ely Eventing Centre finished yesterday.
The event, which is now in its 12th year, has gone from strength to strength.
This instalment attracted 700 horses and Olympians including New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, the world number two and a World Equestrian Games gold medallist.
Also competing was Jonathan Paget, who won Badminton and Burghley this year, becoming the first man to do the illustrious double in 24 years.
More than 1,000 riders, volunteers and spectators set foot on the grounds each day.
Organiser Tina Ure said: “We’ve had three days of good riding, happy customers and the weather’s been great, especially for October.
“We are fortunate to have some of the best riders in the world taking part but the beauty of this event is you have riders of all levels competing against each other, because elite riders can compete on novice horses.”
Mrs Ure praised the contribution of the 200 volunteers who helped organise the event.
Dedicated teams of scorers, stewards, timekeepers, runners and fence judges’ work together to make what could be a logistical nightmare run smoothly.
She said: “We have a workforce of 200 volunteers who give up their time to make this event work. We could not run it without them.
“On the advanced cross country course there are 27 fences which need to be manned by two judges each.
“In our first year we ran the event for one day and had 200 horses. Now, we have 250 horses competing each day.
“The key to our growth has been to do the job well. The support of the riders has been crucial, but at the same time if the course was not good enough they would not keep coming back.
“We have volunteers here off all ages and sizes, some as young as 12.
“I’m very pleased with how it has come together. It’s like a massive jigsaw puzzle but the pieces fall in the right place.”
Elite riders flew around the testing 3,455m advanced cross country course in less than six minutes.
Its centrepiece was the “Inland Waterway” complex, which was used at the London Olympics and donated to the centre by the British Equestrian Federation as part of the Olympic legacy.
Keeping track of all the riders would be quite a challenge but thankfully there is a group of commentators who keep spectators up to date with the various competitions.
One of the commentators, Benji Unwin, revealed the secrets of his trade.
He said: “We have judges who radio us information at each fence then we plot their progress on a board and broadcast updates over the speakers to the spectators.
“The riders fill in sheets with information about them beforehand and we use that to help give background and enhance our commentary when they are on the course.”
Mr Unwin, a commentary veteran of 13 years, praised the Little Downham event.
He said: “I do events all over the country and this is a really good one.
“It has gone from strength to strength and attracts really good riders.”
Groundsman Gary Voutt was pleased with the quality of the course.
He said: “There are 75 acres to take care of, which is a lot of work, but we have had good weather and the ground is good.
“The feedback from the riders is that they are happy with it and the course poses the right questions.”
The event attracts riding fans from all over the country.
David Chadwick came down from Liverpool with his wife to take in the competition.
He said: “This is my first time here. You get to see high level competition, which is not the case at a lot of events.”
Janette Moore, of Suffolk, watched her friend Becky Woolven take part.
She said: “This is my second time here. There’s a really nice atmosphere.”
But the event has also proved a hit with horse lovers closer to home.
Jo Lawrence, of Little Downham, said: “I’ve been coming here with neighbours and friends for the past ten years.
“You get to be up really close to professional riders.
“It is a lovely event. There is a great atmosphere and the people are really friendly.”
To find out more about the trials go to www.elyeventing.co.uk