David Howden and his family taken in front of Cornbury House
29 July 2020
Launching a brand-new sporting event in 2020 may seem like an unusual thing to do, but one man’s passion for horses and his determination to see an historic equestrian venue spring into life again means that Cornbury House Horse Trials (11-13 September) is set to become a highlight of the eventing calendar.
Event President David Howden moved to Cornbury House in Oxfordshire in 2017, and discovered that its beautiful surroundings had been the site of a major horse trials in the 1990s. Given his family’s love of and deep connection with horses, he was inspired to make it so once again.
With the help of experienced organisers Richard Clapham and Pattie Biden, cross-country course-designer David Evans and course-builder Adrian Ditcham and their teams, David Howden has brought this exciting dream to fruition. Cornbury House Horse Trials’ inaugural running will take place between 11 and 13 September 2020, and will feature the best possible facilities and conditions for the world-class equestrian athletes expected to compete there – and substantial prize-money for the senior international classes.
“It has been quite a challenge; first last winter’s weather held up our plans, and then along comes Covid-19,” said David. “For me, Cornbury House Horse Trials has always been about three things: the riders, the horses and their owners. I really wanted to focus on the sport, and to do that, we needed to be able to produce exactly the right conditions for them, which has meant considerable investment.
“We are delighted to be able to offer high levels of prize-money - £2,500 to the winner of the CCI3*-S and £1,250 to the winner of the CCI2*-S - in our first year, and we can’t wait to welcome riders and owners to this spectacular setting in September.”
The event site has the ancient woodlands of the Wychwood Forest as a backdrop and looks down on Cornbury House and the town of Charlbury. Although this year’s horse trials is likely to be held without spectators, in accordance with government guidelines regarding sporting events, the event will be filmed and broadcast so that fans and those connections to the participants who are unable to be there don’t miss out. David Howden plans that in future years, the event will reflect his passion for sustainability and the importance of the local community, with locally-produced food and goods available to visitors in an intimate setting but with all the technology and innovation of a major sporting occasion.
“We want to offer a lovely day out with thrilling sport in a magnificent setting,” he said. “We are determined to put Cornbury House Horse Trials on in 2020 with the very high standards that we always envisaged.”
Cornbury House Horse Trials will stage international classes at CCI3*-S and CCI2*-S level, and national novice and intermediate classes. It will also host two NAF-sponsored Youth Performance sections at CCI3*-S and CCI2*-S, offering opportunities for the country’s best under-21 riders in a year in which many of their principal targets have been lost.
Jude Matthews, CEO of British Eventing, said: “NAF are wonderful supporters of up-and-coming young event riders and we are very grateful to them for their support of these extra classes at Cornbury House. We are also grateful to Cornbury House Horse Trials’ President, David Howden, for providing this brilliant opportunity for our under-21 competitors.”
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