Many of the biggest names in eventing will be heading to Belton House this weekend for the annual Belton International Horse Trials.
A key pre-Badminton run for the sport’s top stars, 100 horses will contest Sunday’s Lycetts Grantham Cup.
Mark Todd OBE has entered his two most recent Olympic partners, NZB Campino and Leonidis – an indication of the quality of the athletes performing. Past World and European Champion Zara Tindall (Phillips) is also entered, while Ireland’s Rio Olympics success story, Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift, who placed ninth in South America, are also Belton bound.
The Advanced class has attracted 60 entries, with another legendary Kiwi rider, Andrew Nicholson, a strong contender on the evergreen Nereo, three times Burghley runner-up and a World Games bronze medallist. Meanwhile 2014 Badminton winners Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh are also on the start line, the pair having narrowly missed out on a medal in Rio last summer.
Aside from the headline eventing classes spectators can enjoy Retrained Racehorse performances, Pony Club Games, an Inter-Hunt Relay and the heart-stoppingly Gate Jumping class.
Grantham Cup course designer Captain Mark Phillips has again devised a beautiful, challenging course for competitors. So, where are the best places to watch the action?
“Between the car park and the golf course, to the right of the start and finish, is the perfect place for viewing,” said Captain Phillips. “From there spectators will have a clear view of 12 fences, with two more in the distance. There are some challenging questions in this area, without much of a walk to get there.
“Venturing a further 150m on towards Grantham visitors will find the Water Complex and the Hollow. These are historically tricky combination fences and this year is no different. I have made several changes around the course from last year, and think that I have given the riders plenty to think about.”
However, it’s not all about horses – Belton International has developed a well deserved reputation for fabulous shopping. More than 90 retailers will be offering their wares, from quirky sole traders to well-known brands. With an extensive range of quality clothing – much of it made in Britain – plus leatherware, jewellery, accessories, art, crafts, garden furniture, food and drink and, not surprisingly, equestrian paraphernalia, even the most hardened shopper will be kept busy for hours.
For the mechanically minded, Sunday’s Classic Car Show is a must.
Over 100 vehicles have entered this year, and past exhibits have ranged from a 1920s Bentley to a 2006 TVR – it's a perfect way to while away a few hours talking classic lines, colour schemes and carburettors.
Inspired by Crufts? ‘Have A Go’ dog agility is back. Not only will Agility Antics be putting on impressive displays with their dogs, but spectators can test their and their own dogs’ skills – which inevitably entertains the rest of the family.
In addition, Jerry Green Dog Rescue will again be hosting the fun dog show, another opportunity for your dog to shine.
With plenty of dog-related trade stands, you pooch can be rewarded with treats, a new bed – even its own handmade furniture!
Also returning this year is the hugely popular Interactive Zone. Set in the main shopping village visitors can meet the South Notts hounds and the Pakefield ferrets – or try their hand at arts and crafts, willow weaving and face painting.
So without even looking at a horse there is plenty to see and do, plenty to eat.... and also plenty to listen to, with a range of live music playing over the weekend. Jazz band Lounge About will be performing on both Saturday and Sunday, while U.S. will be serenading the crowds with ballads during three performances on Saturday, and on Sunday Foss Dyke Brass Band take to the stage.
There really is something for all members of the family to enjoy.
Gates open at 7am with competition starting at 8am.
Tickets start at £10 per adult, £3.50 per child for advance purchases on the Friday, up to £20 per adult and £8 per child on the gate for the weekend. Children under 5 are free of charge.
Information and tickets: www.belton-horse.co.uk
**Friday, March 31
Dressage, show jumping and cross country, primarily for Novice and Intermediate level competitors
**Saturday, April 1
Dressage, show jumping and cross country for Intermediate and International 2* riders
Advanced and Grantham Cup dressage
Fun dog show and dog agility
Live music and shopping
**Sunday, April 2
Grantham Cup and Advanced level show jumping and cross country
Gate Jumping competition
Unaffiliated Dressage Championships
Classic Vehicle Show
Grantham Cup 10k Trail Run
H&M Dog Display Team
Pony Club Mounted Games
Pakefield Ferrets display
Retrained Racehorse Quadrille
Fun dog show and dog agility
Live music and shopping
DID YOU KNOW?
*Twenty two riders are competing at this year’s Belton International have won, between them, the following senior Championship medals: 28 Team & 10 Individual Golds; 19 Team &7 Individual Silvers; and 18 Team 8 Individual Bronzes.
*The field includes 10 Badminton/Burghley winners, who have claimed either or both of the biggest events in the world an astonishing 33 times.
*It includes last year’s Grantham Cup winner, Christopher Burton. He won last year on Nobilis 18 who went on to win the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials four months later.
*Riders from 15 nations will be represented, from Holland to Hong Kong, France to Finland, Japan to Germany.