Osborne Horse Trials - the new showcase of eventing | An Eventful Life

Osborne Horse Trials - the new showcase of eventing

       View our full Osborne Horse Trials photo gallery here


As many new initiatives do, it all started with a problem waiting to be solved

English Heritage, the organisation entrusted with the care of a collection of significant buildings and monuments including Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, underwent a restructure in 2015 and, at a dinner hosted by Sir Tim Lawrence, Chairman of British Heritage and husband of the Princess Royal, guests were encouraged to think of new ways that these buildings could be made more accessible and interesting to the general public

“Well, the first thing that immediately sprung into my mind as a keen eventing supporter and owner” Diana Brown told me as we stood in front of the magnificent ‘palace-by-the-sea’ on the Isle of Wight “Was that Osborne House would be the perfect place to run a horse trials!”

It took several years to turn her ‘mad idea’ into reality but last week it all came to fruition. Diana, Chairman of the Osborne Horse Trials, watched from the famous terraces as the World Number One eventing rider Oliver Townend won two of the classes at the  Osborne Horse Trials and told the spectators at the packed presentation that he had loved his first visit to the Isle of Wight “I don’t know why you keep this beautiful place such a secret!”


     Stuart and Anna Buntine of BEDE Events have brought a new initiative to the sport at Osborne House


It was never going to be easy to run a horse trials on the island but, when you have a challenge like that, there is no better man to take it to than Stuart Buntine at BEDE Events. For the past few years Stuart and his team have making quiet trips across the Solent to work out all the logistics, plan the event, cajole sponsors and supporters and basically get the whole show on the road. The stress on his face was clear as he oversaw the first day’s competition on Wednesday but by Thursday afternoon his face was relaxed and smiling as the event was obviously a success with both the spectators and riders

Over 5,000 spectators came through the gates of Osborne House during the two days of the event. The dressage phase for two of the classes and the show jumping took place on the Durbar Lawn at the side of the house where the crowds focussed their attention each morning, creating a real atmosphere for the horses and riders, while the cross country action took place each afternoon in the grounds below the house

This ‘showcase’ format proved perfect for the venue, the spectators and the warm weather. The shortened dressage test seemed to be a hit with the riders, particularly with the walk work coming at the very end of the test, and it was just long enough to show off the horses’ ability and give the crowds, many who were new to the sport, a taste of the first phase.


      Claire Deuten talks to John Kyle after her dressage test on Ustinov Van Elsenham


Commentator John Kyle chatted to several of the riders as they finished their test, giving the fans a chance to find out more about the competitors and their horses. Liz Halliday-Sharp thought that her experienced horse Fernhill By Night knew dressage tests so well that he came out of the arena wondering ‘what happened to the rest of the job’ and Oliver Townend’s Cillnabradden Evo was a bit bemused by the lack of applause. As the walk out of the arena was part of the test, spectators were asked not to applaud until the horse had left the arena rather than at the final halt, which Cillnabradden Evo found a bit unappreciative

“We halted, I saluted and he looked around as if to say, come on then, I know what happens now, where’s my applause!” Oliver told John

With the dressage done, it was time for the crash crew to jump in and set up the show jumping course. The size of the arena and the closeness of the crowds again added to the atmosphere and also the difficulty, especially on the first day when the horses were generally less experienced in the Open Intermediate classes competing for the River Lodge Equestrian The Albert Bowl and Bede Events The Warrior Bowl


      Oliver Townend and Black Tie II fly the last


Amy O’Connor’s lovely Sankro, winner of the CICYH1* at Osberton in 2016, led the River Lodge Equestrian The Albert Bowl after the dressage but nine penalties in the show jumping dropped them down the leader board and Hector Payne on Top Biats moved in the top spot after jumping a clear round. But Oliver Townend piled on the pressure with a clear cross country round on Black Tie II, who hasn’t competed for 12 months, and it just wasn’t Hector’s day with a stop at Fence 4, the Harwoods Bathing Hut and then another at Fence 20, the Red Funnel Beam when Hector decided to walk home.

Matt Heath on Sportsfield Lord Livesey and Alex Bragg on Barrichello also gave the cross country a good crack, adding just 1.2 and 2.8 time penalties respectively, to finish in second and third places of this class – you can listen to our interviews with Matt and Oliver here

The big surprise of the day was Izzy Taylor having problems on both of her horses in this class during the cross country with Monkeying Around being eliminated at Fence 9 and Tregolls picking up 20 penalties at Fence 10, two of the most influential fences on course

Emily Baldwin led The Warrior Bowl class after dressage on board Vivian 47, the very elegant bay mare previously campaigned by Germany’s Josephine Schnaufer, but Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal pipped her in the show jumping with a clear round on Fit For Fun Raa. He then stormed around the cross country course with the fastest time of the day on board his other mare Fialotta, adding just 0.4 time penalties, to take the win and third place while Emily King squeezed between them on board the young stallion Quinlan Z - you can listen to our interviews with Ludwig and Emily here


        Matt Heath produced two very fast rounds


Ludwig’s ride was the fastest of both days, although Matt Heath once again came close on Sunday riding One Of A Kind on Sunday with just 0.8 time penalties in the The Victoria Bowl class. The cross country was certainly a little tougher than the competitors had expected, especially with the hilly terrain which came as a bit of a surprise


       A great view but some hilly terrain on cross country


“I came here for a bit of an easy run and, as I was walking the course and getting puffed going up the hills on the first evening, I thought ‘what have I let myself in for!’ admitted Oliver

Andrew Hoy has ridden around more top class courses than most and he too found it a testing course even though it was a ‘showcase’ event


Andrew Hoy


      Andrew Hoy and Cheeky Calimbo


As Andrew says, it always makes the drive sweeter when you’ve had success but it is made even sweeter when there is good prize money on offer. Oliver’s first and second places in the headline Grand Prix class on Thursday, winning on Cillnabradden Evo and taking the runner up spot on Mitsubishi Motors Badminton runner up Cooley SRS, saw him take home a total of £17,000 for these two placings.

The top prize money went down to fourth in each class so Andrew’s third place on Cheeky Calimbo, earned him £5,000 and fellow Australian Sam Griffiths was fourth, adding £3,000 to Badminton 2014 winner Paulank Brockagh's career winnings.


      Sam Griffiths and Happy Times