Gatcombe Horse Trials

Friday 4th -  Sunday 6th August 2017

This renowned event takes place at Gatcombe Park, spectacular home of the Princess Royal and her family and incorporates the British Open, Intermediate and Novice Championships. As well as a weekend of top class eventing there will be a shopping village, arena attractions and entertainment for all the family. To buy tickets visit www.gatcombehorsetrials.co.uk/

What is a Horse Trial?

Three-day eventing provides a comprehensive test of all round ability for horse and rider, and tests the partnership between the two. The sport was originally developed as a military event, drawing on the requirements for an Officer’s charger – steadiness on parade, the ability to cross the country at speed in battle and the fitness needed to carry on with duties the following day. Known as Concours Complet International, or CCI, the modern international three-day event is overseen by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). The sport has evolved from the original military requirements to the three modern-day disciplines that we see today –dressage, cross country and show jumping. In order to succeed, riders and their horses must be highly skilled in all three disciplines.

Dressage, the first phase, is designed to show off the horse’s suppleness, rhythm and, most importantly, obedience and harmony with the rider. It is used to show that a horse that can later go on to complete a long, challenging cross country course, also has the training to be graceful and precise. It is amazing to watch such large animals floating along seemingly with no directions from their rider.

Cross Country, the most popular phase, requires extreme fitness and trust from both rider and horse. The course is built of several incredibly solid, natural fences, over a long course.

The Trot Up is the make or break time for many horses. Before the event, each horse is assessed to make sure they are fit enough to compete over these grueling days, and then once again, on the Sunday morning. This is a very formal affair, and each horse must be turned out to perfection, along with their neatly dressed riders. A vet will then give them a pass, allowing them to continue into the Show Jumping Phase, or a fail, meaning their dreams of that prize have to come to an end. Andrew likes to watch this in the morning with his bacon butty before he opens up shop.

The Show Jumping Phase is used to test the horse’s fitness and agility. The course is made of around 12 knock down, coloured fences at around 1m20 in height. Riders must jump every fence clear, within the time limit. The course is small compared to most show jumping competitions, but remember, each horse has had to take it’s rider around a long course the previous day, so to do any of the jumps is an achievement in itself. Competitors jump in reverse order, leading to a tense atmosphere as the leading riders enter the ring to jump. 

However, Gatcombe is a Festival of British Eventing, so not only does it have the fantastic 3 day event; it also has other activities ranging from the Burghley Dubarry Young Event horse finals, to the Shetland Grand National Final. If you haven’t ever met a Shetland, think Thelwell and you’ll be there. Now think Thelwell pony going as fast as it can over small fences in a race against other Thelwell ponies… and you have the Shetland Pony Grand National Final. Don’t forget the Dressage to Music and the Natural Horsemanship Display on the Saturday and Sunday as well.

What to wear

England being England, the weather is never a certain thing. Despite being in the middle of summer, the weather can range from Heat Wave to Torrential Rain, sometimes within the weekend itself, so prepare for all eventualities! Lightweight clothes are a must though, whatever the weather. In heat waves, it will stop you from overheating, and if it decides to pour with rain, they can dry easily. There is nothing worse than having to walk a cross country course wearing wet jeans.

Wellies and a coat are also a good idea to have in the back of your car so that if it does decide to pour with rain, you can quickly change; even once it has stopped raining, the grass will be soaked and you may end up with the two-tone trouser effect.  Chuck a sunhat and suncream in the back of the car as well, so if the sun does appear, you can be prepared for it, and avoid looking like a tomato.

Footwear wise, stilettos are really not recommended. Even in incredibly dry weather, your heels will end up disappearing into the ground. Flat, comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in are a good idea for when it is dry. Blisters are your worst enemy, and they tend to prey on anyone who thinks they can “get away with it”.

And last but not least, jewellery. It just wouldn't be the same without some stunning Sterling Silver Jewellery to match your outfit, whatever the weather. We'd recommend our fabulous Equestrian Collection. Dress to suit the surroundings, without worrying about your jewellery tarnishing. So how about putting on your snaffle necklace and earrings, and rocking the Trials in style. If you don't have one, fear not, just pop by our Equestrian Collection and treat yourself.

Where to stay

There are several really nice places to stay in the area. Our pick of the bunch is the Old Lodge in Minchinhampton. Alternatively, you can visit www.laterooms.com to see the brilliant selection of accommodation available. Or if you want the more luxurious approach, take a peek at some of the top quality hotels available at www.offpeakluxury.com.

Where is it?

Gatcombe Park is just south of Stroud in Gloucestershire. It is very clearly signposted from the M4 and M5. If you wish to use your SatNav, the postcode is GL6 9AT.