Posted on 9th June 2021


North East’s First Big Sporting Event is A HUGE SUCCESS


Competitors and visitors alike enjoyed the most amazing few days of weather at Belsay International Horse Trials, the North East’s first big Sporting Event since the Covid 19 pandemic.

It was Belsay’s first year as an international event and there was a huge buzz of excitement surrounding the three big competitions – the CCI2* British Pony Championships (the CCI2*-S for Ponies), the CCI 2*- Long Format for Juniors and the CCI 2* Short Format competition for seniors.  Cross Country from the event was live streamed by Horse & Country TV and individual rounds were filmed for video by An Eventful Life.

Gate numbers were definitely up on 2019, the last time the event ran, as several thousand headed out to enjoy a fabulous weekend of sporting action and family entertainment, all in the outdoor covid-safe environment of the Grade 1 parkland surrounding Belsay Hall and Castle.  Belsay’s loyal sponsors, headed by Barbour, Womble Bond Dickinson, Ryecroft Glenton, Galbraith and Lycetts were out in force to support the event.  Belsay’s Equestrian Sponsors were led by Saracens Horse Feeds, Equine Products, Voltaire, Empire Coachbuilders and AW Jenkinson Forest Products. There were over 35 trade stands with an array of shopping and eating opportunities.

The international event began with the ‘Trot up’ on Wednesday 2nd June and competitors were overawed by the beautiful backdrop of Belsay Hall as they paraded their horses and ponies in front of the Ground Jury of FEI Judges to have them formally accepted into the competition. 

Dressage took place on Wednesday and Thursday for the international classes, with Cross Country on Friday and Show Jumping on Saturday.  National classes, from Open Intermediate to BE90 ran on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile the Castle and Hall Arenas hosted National Schools Equestrian Association Show Jumping on Friday, the British Show Pony Association Area 1a Working Hunter Pony Show on Saturday, with Arena Eventing, Young Horse Performance Classes and the popular Inter-hunt Relay Competition on Sunday.

Competitors were delighted with the new cross-country courses at Belsay this year.  Designed by Adrian Ditcham (who designed the Pony Europeans at Bishop Burton in 2018 and was a course builder at the London Olympics in 2012, as well as at numerous other events in the UK) and built by Robert McSkimming from Penrith, the courses were true championship style tracks making the most of Belsay’s incredible landscape, natural features and undulating terrain.

Laura de Wesselow, organiser of Belsay said: “We are overwhelmed with the fabulous feedback we have received about our first International.  It has been a gargantuan effort to put this event on in the face of Covid and at a time when so many event organisers have just given up. 

“The British Pony Championships and the CCI2*-L for Juniors were meant to be the major trials for selection into the GB team for the Europeans but British Eventing announced just 10 days before Belsay that due to Covid they were no longer able to take teams to Sweden.  This was a major blow to many young competitors so we tried to make Belsay extra special for them to make up for the disappointment.  It was such a happy event and everyone had such a good time.  People have come from all over the country to compete in our international classes and all of them have been so delighted to discover Belsay and Northumberland.  I think its definitely put us on the map and we will be aiming at hosting a CCI3* next!”.



The British Pony Championships (aged 16 years and under riding ponies of 14hh – 14.2hh) was undoubtedly the highlight of this year’s Belsay and provided plenty of thrills and spills, especially on cross country day.  After a tense final of show jumping on Saturday, where less than once fence separated the top four riders, Anna Price from Bedfordshire was crowned British Champion on her pony Black Jacko with a final score of 36.2.

Joining her on the podium were 2nd placed Wiltshire based Maisy Spratt, riding Cumbrian John Thornton’s Sycamore Lad (previously a medal winning team GB pony with Molly Faulkner in 2017) and 3rd placed Ivy Fisher from Norfolk riding her 17 year old pony Smokey Diamond, another pony well known on the pony trials circuit.



The CCI2*- Long format competition for Juniors (aged 18 years and under riding horses) had a host of well-known young riders including the offspring of some of the UK’s best known equestrians. 

The daughters of Tina Cook ( the 2009 European Champion and a three-time Olympic medallist, winning individual and team bronze medals in 2008 and team silver in 2012. She has also won two World team golds (1994, 2010) and four European team golds in 1995, 1999, 2009, 2017), Lucinda Fredericks (winner of Burghley, Badminton and Kentucky on the famous Headley Brittanica on whom she also competed for team GB at the 2008 Beijing Olympics), Charlotte Bathe (who won Burghley in 1992 and competed at the 1996 Olympics on Cool Customer, and was in the 1998 World Championship Gold Medal Winning Team with Tina Cook) and Erica Watson (5* eventer who has competed at Burghley and Badminton) were all in action in this class alongside a number of other rising stars who have come up through the Pony and Youth programmes of British Eventing.

The Junior competition was won by Phoebe Hughes, based with Hector Payne Eventing in Wiltshire, who led from start to finish on her own Fabris, an 11 year old bay gelding, on a score of 24.6.  The competition was closely fought though with just 0.3 marks separating 2nd placed Ibble Watson on Aristotele S Z (daughter of Erica), 3rd placed Ellie Fredericks (daughter of Lucinda) on the stallion Brittania’s Mail (son of Headley Brittanica) and 4th placed Xanthe de Wesselow on CDS Rock Away Beach (daughter of Belsay International organiser Laura de Wesselow).  Belsay’s 18 year old Xanthe (who competed for GB and was 10th at the 2019 Europeans in Poland on her pony Baramona Lass), was also 11th in the Junior competition on her other ride, Wil She Ever.

Former 2019 Gold medal winning Pony Rider Finn Healey was 6th on his ride, Father’s Compromise, while Tina Cook’s daughter Isabelle came 7th and 13th on her two rides and Daisy Bathe, daughter of Charlotte, came 17th and 32nd.  Winner Phoebe Hughes was 33rd on her other ride, Top Biats, formerly ridden by Hector Payne and William Fox-Pitt; while Ibble Watson’s second mount, Candito, was unfortunately eliminated in the cross country phase.


Alexandra Farrer-Fry was the winner of the CCI2*-S competition with her own Grey Finnsky on a score of 29.9.  She was joined on the podium by Scottish and GB International rider Wills Oakden riding DHI by Design in 2nd place on 32.7 and Rachel Hatherill riding Shanbeg Pandora in 3rd on 33.6. 

Other competitors in this competition included former Olympian, European and World Championship GB team Rider and Badminton winner Ian Stark (18th on Chatsworth Diamond owned by the Duchess of Devonshire), Dutch former Olympian and Netherlands team Coach Andrew Heffernan ((31st on Ballylaffin Juno) and Lissa Green (Igor B – withdrawn after dressage), daughter of the legendary Lucinda Green (Prior-Palmer).


Intermediate and Open Intermediate Classes

Wills Oakden had success in Intermediate Section F on Cooley Amigo, while Matthew Heath bagged 2nd (Rum Punch) and 5th place (Sugar Rush TH); 3rd place went to Sally James on Satyr.  Yorkshire based Olympian and Team GB rider Nicola Wilson, a Belsay regular, was 10th in this section on Caunton Well Connected.  Local rider Kirsty Hetherington, based at Colwell, was 13th on Timeless Crusader.

Nicola Wilson won the Open Intermediate Section G on Helen Scott’s Hawk Eye; 2nd was Scottish rider Douglas Crawford on Shadow Lad while Andrew Heffernan was 3rd on Gideon II.  Local rider Katherine Hague, from Morpeth, was 5th on Cooley Timepiece.

The Open Intermediate under 21 Section H was won by Yorkshire’s Lucy Sugden riding I am Quality TN with Gracie Lovett-Brunt from Cambrideshire in 2nd on Jamakin Faer Trial and Scotland’s Jodie Caig in 3rd on Hespo.

Sunday’s Intermediate Section U was won by local lad Harry Mutch, who has been based at Alnwick Ford Equestrian for the past year, riding his own Shanbeg Cooley.  Second was former GB Olympic and World Equestrian Games team medallist Jeanette Brakewell from Staffordshire on Dissington Wizzard and 3rd Yorkshire’s Sara Bowe on MHS Seventeen.

The Open Intermediate Section V on Sunday was won by Leicestershire’s Matt Hecking on Harle Belle, with Victoria Wilson in 2nd on Don’t You Know and Tina Canton in 3rd on Just A Game.


Novice Classes

Holly Woodhead headed Belsay’s Novice Section D on Jackpot DHI with Andrew Downes in 2nd on Safira and Lucinda Atikinson in 3rd on Millrose. Jack Mantel, now based in Belsay, was 4th on Jack Daniels.

Wills Oakden headed yet another section, Novice F, on Jumble with two more Scottish Riders, Daniel Scott (Harlequinn Jubilee) and Douglas Crawford (Twilight A Z) in 2nd and 3rd.  On Sunday, Novice Section R was won by Cheshire based Tyler Cassells on MC Parco Pete; Amy Hawley from Denby Dale was 2nd on HHS Sterling with Adam Morgan 3rd on Manfriday.


Grass Roots Classes – BE100 and BE90

Friday’s BE100 section was won by Lucinda Atkinson on Take it to The Stage, owned Mr and Mrs Edward Pybus from Hexham – a special win for them as they used to organise Hexham Horse Trials and were co-organisers of Belsay for three years until 2016. Chloe Pearson from Leicestershire was 2nd on Hope Springs with Yorkshire’s Holly Richardson 3rd on Calzache.

Local Riders dominated the 100 Sections on Saturday.  Emma Hobday from Todburn, Longhorsley, won Sections J and K on Leo Santos and Cougar PC Z – winning herself the Auchendenny Carnegie Trophy for the Highest Placed Northumbrian Rider in the process. 

Emma had a busy week at Belsay, not only competing in multiple classes but also performing a demonstration for the international competitors staying over on Thursday evening and providing the ‘Guinea Pig’ test ride for the CCI2*-S class.

James Adams from Stockton-on-Tees was 2nd in Section J riding Foreman III which he co-owns with Belsay organiser Laura de Wesselow. Philippa Nixon from Little Whittington, Corbridge was 2nd in Section K on MBF Buster.  Caroline Taylor from Berwickshire took 3rd in Section J on Beau Baldini Z, while Venetia Thompson took the same spot in Section K on Statesman Vivendi.

Sunday’s BE BE100 Section T was won by Yorkshire’s Sara Bowe riding Hector, with Emma Savage 2nd on Mummy’s Dream.  Sara also took 3rd spot on Captain Morgan G Z.

Young riders continued to shine at Belsay in the BE100 and BE90 under 18 classes.  BE100u18 Section L was won by Oliva Graham on A Shivers Tale, with Amy Simpson 2nd on Jonjo Star and Cassie Ramsay from Berwickshire 3rd on ETI SMH.  BE100u18 Section M was won by Farrah Cunningham on King Cotton Legacy with Grace Barr 2nd on Balnashallog Maestro and Oliver Kitching in 3rd on Cavalier Mind.  Lottie Combe won BE90u18 Section M on Ballyneety Cool Diamond, with Lucille Jones in 2nd on Billy Bank and Becky Forster in 3rd in Rossdarragh Hickstead.


The remaining BE90 sections on Saturday were closely fought.  Victoria Gregg won Section O on Highspeed Van de Kapel with Stephen Rankin from Ponteland in 2nd on Castleforbes Roscoe and Scotland’s Douglas Crawford in 3rd on Twisnaeme. Stephen, who has been a long term sponsor of Belsay through Metnor Group, was also 5th in BE90 Section Q.

BE90 Section P was won by Annie Sandell on Murrah Hall Midnight Maelstrom.  Chloe Fairley was 2nd on Behey Boy II with Rachel Slinger 3rd on Hermes Image. Claire Light took the win in Section Q on Ruby Red II with Rebecca Harrison in 2nd on Finn VII and Sara Ireland in 3rd on Ballymurphy Molly.

Inter-Hunt Relay – Sunday

A total of 7 teams representing the Tynedale, Morpeth, Haydon, Berwickshire, Border and Braes of Derwent Hunts took part in Belsay’s popular Inter-Hunt relay, the last event to take place on Sunday afternoon.  It was a wild chase round the various obstacles and after two heats, the Morpeth B team took the win – a fantastic time was had by all. 

“So many organisers of British Eventing Horse Trials, as well as regional and local shows have just given up trying to arrange events this year amid all the uncertainty of Covid.  We were desperate to continue and have done

everything possible to give competitors, sponsors, volunteers and visitors the most fabulous experience, generous prize money and some great entertainment.  We really urge people to come along and support this local event.”

Belsay Horse Trials has a specially designed ‘International Arena’ which has state of the art sports drainage, as well as a cross country course, which has been re-designed for 2021 by Adrian Ditcham, who was responsible for the track at the 2018 European Pony Championships held at Bishop Burton.

In addition to Belsay’s International and National Eventing classes (from BE90 to Open Intermediate), there is a shopping village with over 35 trade stands as well as numerous food options and children’s fun rides.  ‘Belsay Sunday’ on 6th June 2021 will feature an exciting Arena Eventing Competition, as well as Young Horse Performance classes and the popular Inter-Hunt Relay competition.