Belsay International 2021 Wrap Up | An Eventful Life

Belsay International 2021 Wrap Up

   Phoebe Hughes and Fabris, winners of the CCI Junior 2*-L class


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The sound of galloping hooves, the chatter of excited spectators and the echo of cross country commentary rang through the fields of Belsay Estate last weekend as the much anticipated International classes debuted in the Northumberland countryside for Belsay International Horse Trials.

Belsay saw its first ever trot up open an exciting few days of international competition. With tweed jackets, feather hats and long boots galore, competitors trotted up in front of the gorgeous Belsay Hall.

Designed by Adrian Ditcham, the course designer at the 2018 European Pony Championships held at Bishop Burton, the cross country course ran in an entirely new direction this year with fully re-designed combinations for competitors to tackle.

Owned by the Middleton family for over 800 years, Belsay Estate has stories to tell of a long equestrian heritage as the family bred and trained racehorses at the estate during the 18th and 19th century.

Now representing the current generation of the Middletons, the de Wesselow family established Belsay Horse Trials in 2013 with the land’s natural features making for an exceptional venue.

This venue has now gone on to host the British Pony Championships, CCI Junior 2*-L and CCI2*-S classes this year. The British Pony Championships represent the greatest test for pony riders under the age of 16-years-old and this year, due to the cancellation of the European Pony Championships for British combinations, Belsay wanted to make up for the disappointment many young riders faced.

Belsay International’s organiser, Laura de Wesselow, was determined to show riders a fantastic event to make up for the absence of the Europeans and the team certainly succeeded.

A tough few days of competition culminated with Anna Price winning the British Pony Championship title riding Black Jacko on an overall score of 36.2.

“I was so, so happy when I won. It has been such a journey and to finish off my time on ponies this way is so special, especially on Bobby who is my best friend,” beams Anna.

The 13-year-old 14.2hh gelding has been with Anna for three years and has grown in confidence during his time with her. Completing the cross country on her mum’s birthday made the clear rounds even more special as her mum has produced her second ride, Top The Class, from being a five-year-old.

“Belsay was an amazing event which was run exceptionally, and the weather was definitely on our side which made the week even more enjoyable. The cross country was a proper championship track, very influential, and meant that it wasn’t just a dressage competition,” she adds.

Anna and Black Jacko showed their partnership and stickability on cross country, surviving a couple of ‘moments’ on course but coming home with just 0.8 time penalties in a field where only half the competitors jumped clear on course



Belsay also hosted a CCI Junior 2*-L class last weekend, led by Phoebe Hughes riding Fabris, and a CCI2*-S class which was won by Alexandra Farrar-Fry riding Grey Finnsky.

“My aim for this season was to win an International, I never expected it to come quite so soon, if at all,” says Alexandra.

“The course was incredible to ride, it walked big and technical for each level and the show jumping was so much fun offering a technical track that you could ride a little like a jump off.

Grey Finnsky loves to go fast and we lost brakes and a stirrup going into the final water but we still made it through to take the win,” she laughs



Emma Hobday led in both BE100 Section J on a fantastic dressage score of 20.8 and in BE100 Section K. Other BE100 winners included Sara Bowe in Section T on board Jane Peart’s Hector, Olivia Graham in BE100 Open U18 Section L riding A Shivers Tale and Farrah Cunningham in BE100 Open U18 Section M on 15hh gelding King Cotton Legacy.

Victoria Gregg and Highspeed Van De Kapel led the way in BE90 Section O on a dressage score of 26.5 with Claire Light leading BE90 Section Q and Lottie Combe winning BE90 Open U18 Section N.

“It's nice to jump hedges, ditches and walls at Belsay. It’s so true to hunting and a true day out with views and shopping as a bonus too,” says BE90 Section P winner, Annie Sandell.

Bought as a yearling, Murrah Hall Midnight Maelstrom is the first horse Annie has ever evented and, whilst Annie was six months pregnant, the pair were crowned Scottish BE90 Open Champions at Blair in 2019. After a tough year due to Covid, Annie was thrilled to be back out doing what she does best with her 10-year-old gelding.



With high demand for entries at Belsay 2021, a fourth day of competition was added on the Sunday with extra Intermediate, Novice and BE100 classes.

Olympian, Jeanette Brakewell, led in Novice Section S on Sunday riding Joanne Brett’s North Astor Cooter alongside other Novice winners over the weekend including Tyler Cassells in Novice Section R and Holly Woodhead in Novice Section D.

Belsay’s social media content was extraordinary all weekend showing us what it’s like behind-the-scenes at an international event. This was all thanks to Georgie Wood, who was also super busy finishing in 11th place in Novice Section E on Saturday, a class led by Wills Oakden.

Wills also took the win in Intermediate Section F riding Cooley Amigo. The first of many Intermediate classes was also led by Harry Mutch riding 7-year-old gelding Shanbeg Cooley, local Olympic rider Nicola Wilson led Open Intermediate Section G and Matt Hecking took the win in Open Intermediate Section V. 


   Wills Oakden and Cooley Amigo


“This weekend was our second Intermediate win on a trot, I cannot believe it. It was made so exciting and special by the fact that the competitors’ scores were so close going into the cross country,” says 21-year-old Lucy Sugden, winner of Open Intermediate U21 Section H.

Lucy has recently started running her own yard where she produces young horses for her clients. Although from a non-horsey family, Lucy left sixth form 4 years ago to be a working pupil for Heidi and Ian Woodhead at DHI Event Horses where she met I Am Quality TN, known as William at home. 

“He arrived at DHI the same week as me and I adored him from the start. Heidi and Ian allowed me to ride him and Ian always told me he was the one for me so I convinced my parents to buy him and we went on to qualify for the BYEH finals as a five-year-old and then contest the Six and Seven-Year-Old Championships. He’s a remarkable horse considering we’ve both had to learn together to be competitive at that level,” she says.

“William produced the performance of his life last weekend, it felt so easy for him. The cross country course was fantastic, it was big and bold so you could attack it and had undulating ground to test the horses’ fitness then technical elements later on to make sure you had control. The going was perfect and we had a ball out there.

“Belsay has always been a favourite venue for me since it started. They've always tried so hard to give it a big competition feel"

"This year the organisers excelled themselves, the cross country course was beautiful as well as the show jumping area with the trade stands and double decker bus bar and the non-British Eventing competitions that were running, it was like a mini Bramham. I will definitely be back,” she adds.

From national competitors to pony riders and all the people behind the pony eventing scene, Belsay couldn’t have been a success without the dedication and love of horses from everyone.

And, as the last lorry left the estate on Sunday evening, gratitude and appreciation was felt for the whole team at Belsay for hosting an unforgettable International event for 2021.

Laura de Wesselow summed it up best herself at the British Pony Championships prize giving “We hope that you’ve all made friends for life at Belsay.”

Article by Kelly Aitkin