Germany triumphed in the international team competition at Houghton horse trials over the weekend, forcing British riders into second spot.
Reigning world champion Sandra Auffarth and her team-mates Andreas Ostholt, Nicholas Bschorer and Dirk Schrade finished almost 15 points clear of the Brits, Pippa Funnell, Georgie Strang, Francis Whittington and Sarah Bullimore, who snatched second place from the French team after the cross-country phase.
The home crowds at Houghton Hall were rooting for the British contingent and, in particular, for Pippa who started her illustrious eventing career in West Norfolk where she was based and trained for many years and is still very much a local favourite.
As well as putting up the best British performance in the team section – the British leg of the FEI Nations Cup competition – Pippa was third overall in what was her horse Billy the Biz’s first serious event at this level. She said afterwards that the team was delighted with their performance given that they were fielding relatively inexperienced horses.
French honour was restored by Luc Chateau who claimed the individual 3* class honours riding his homebred Propriano de l’Ebat.
The CCI1* was also a German whitewash. Dirk Schrade took first and third places, separated by Joern Warner.
Around 600 horses took part in the trials completing dressage, a cross-country course across the Houghton parkland, and finally show jumping. It was a truly international event including riders representing European countries, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Finland, France, America and Italy.
They were met with a mixed bag of weather including torrential rain and wind on Friday, sunshine on Saturday and more showers on the Sunday.
Germany’s winning streak continued on the final day and this time it was another international star, Bettina Hoy, taking the spoils, riding Seigneur Medicott. Bettina has brought horses to Houghton every year since 2010, and it was the Westfalian nine-year-old gelding’s second visit to Norfolk, but his first CCI2*.
She said: “The success of my fellow German riders really motivates me, and I feel like I am on a bit of a roll at the moment. I love coming to Houghton, it has always been a happy place for me.”
The top three remained as it had been throughout the competition. Runner-up was Australia’s Chris Burton riding Nobilis, a horse sold to him by third-placed Dirk Schrade, who this time was riding Mr TomTom. Five British riders were in the top 10, Matthew Wright the best of them in sixth place.
While the top horses were in action there were also classes for showing, dressage and show jumping which attracted full entry lists and many riders from Norfolk and neighbouring counties keen to compete in such a stunning setting and mingle with the international stars.
Houghton Hall’s owner, Lord Cholmondeley, said everyone on the estate was “delighted to be involved with a sport which complements the park so well and look forward to its growth in future years”.
Houghton International Horse Trials is over for another year. Next year will be its 10th anniversary; and planning the celebrations starts next week.