BICTON INTERNATIONAL HORSE TRIALS

Devon’s first ever international horse trials saw three days of intense competition in the picturesque East Devon village of Budleigh Salterton. Organised by Westcountry event rider Helen West, who manages the arena full time as well as eventing a string of horses, the fixture reinstated itself as a must for local riders as well as world class competitors, with riders including Mark Todd, Jock Paget, Sam Griffiths and Mary King competing.

“I wanted to create something really exciting for spectators which by making the main arena one of the focal points it has really worked. I am thrilled with the crowd which is way beyond what we had hoped for and it’s fantastic for the county of Devon too as it’s the first time an international competition has been staged and we proved that we have the capability of doing it,” said Helen.

The event benefited from Helen’s experience as an international jockey.

“Entries were full across all three days which is testament to the reputation Bicton is rapidly gaining as a premier competition venue and riders have been really positive. Being a rider myself we’ve been able to pay attention to the extra details which have helped turn a good competition into an excellent one.”

Nineteen-year-old Ella Hitchman from Cheltenham was crowned the inaugural winner of the Empire Coachbuilders-sponsored CIC**riding Rocky Rockstar. The pair added just 3.3 time penalties to a dressage score of 44.4 to finish ahead of Sarah Holmes, from the Isle of White, on Lowhill Clover in second and Surrey’s Laura Normand riding Vardigo in third.

“The course rode really well. I had some worries because as soon as you got to fence seven, until fence 15, there was no let up and it did need attacking. You had to kick all the way but I have so much trust in my horse and he was fantastic. I’ve never done anything like jump into a main arena before and it really added something to the course,” said Ella.

Ella purchased Rocky three and a half years ago to introduce her to novice level. Last year they were on the junior squad and finished ninth as individuals at the Bishops Burton under-25 championships and this season they have their sights set on selection for the young riders squad with their first trial at Aston Le Walls in May.

Cullompton-based Janou Bleekman finished seventh riding the former Lucy Wiegersma ride Granntevka Prince owned by Gerry Mills. Janou’s mum, international event rider Clarissa Bleekman, said: “It has been a super event and I’ve heard nothing but praise for it. It’s really putting Devon on the map and everything has been perfect.”

The event showed the true community spirit eventing is renowned for with riders pitching in to help when they had completed. Exeter University student Sarah Gulliford who manned the road crossing after competing in a BE90 section, said: “I’ve loved every minute of it. It has been so well organised and very friendly, all the students have been very encouraging.”

Fellow volunteer Louise Sharpe added: “It’s amazing that Devon has staged its first international event. It’s really good for the south-west and the facilities are superb. Helen and her team have done a fantastic job.”

With her sights set on adding advanced classes and going up another rung and staging a three star competition, Helen isn’t resting on her laurels.

“I have huge ambitions for this place. We’ve proved this weekend we can do it and I would love now to get a three star competition,” she said.

Across the three days 750 combinations started with 49 contesting the CIC**.

Report Courtesy of Natalie Clark

Photography by Tanzy Lee – Please get in touch if there are any images you would like, Enjoy!

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