(image credit: Somerford Park Farm)
An idea first mooted on Facebook – to raise funds in support of the people and animals affected by the Australian bush fires – has morphed into a premier dressage event in less than a week.
Like so many people across the country, Natalie Heaton was deeply saddened by the ferocious bush fires currently being seen in Australia.
Ten days ago Natalie wrote a post on social media to gauge whether any of her friends may be interested in attending a charity dressage competition in support of the people and animals affected.
The response was overwhelming and within hours ‘Horses for Hope GB’ was born.
Horses for Hope GB will be an inclusive dressage competition and the idea seems to have struck a chord with the UK equestrian community and wider population.
Within hours of the idea being suggested, Somerford Park Farm, one of the UK’s premier equestrian competition centres, was secured as the venue – and the date for the competition was set as Sunday 26th January 2020.
Open to all
The competition is open to all riders, ranging from novices and juniors all the way up to professionals – with classes catering to all abilities.
The overarching theme is a desire to help those affected by the terrible natural disaster in Australia, whilst also having fun!
The dress-code rules have been relaxed and competitors are encouraged to wear Australian-themed outfits.
The event has received an overwhelming level of interest and the organisers were forced to close entries after only three days – seventeen days earlier than expected – due to phenomenal demand.
The venue generously agreed to donate use of an additional arena, enabling more entry places to be made available – these subsequently sold out within one hour of being released.
Horse Monkey, and equestrian events organisation, handled all the entry sales and donated the money charged through booking fees. The event is one of the fastest-selling events the company has ever handled.
The equestrian business community has thrown its weight behind the competition too – with donations of prizes from the likes of Dubarry, Fairfax & Favor, Bolesworth International Horse Show and Le Mieux amongst many others.
Organisers have also been touched by the number of smaller, local businesses and retailers who leapt at the chance to be involved in such a worthy cause.
Natalie said: “It is humbling to see how the equestrian community has pulled together.
“Within hours of announcing the event we were flooded with offers of support from businesses large and small, enabling us to offer prizes for the winners of each class, rosettes for every competitor, not to mention a really fabulous raffle.
“We even have an equine sports massage therapist and Theraplate there on hand to offer treatments throughout the day.”
The event has caught the eye of professional riders too with prize donations from Olympic grand prix rider Gareth Hughes and grand prix rider Matt Burnett.
Olympic event rider Andrew Heffernan – who is based at Somerford Park Farm – is getting into the spirit of the event too, with the offer to ride Blue the Cob in one of the intro classes.
Blue made a miraculous recovery from illness last year and his owner Mairead Martin entered the competition with him.
She also set up a Just Giving page to raise money for Horses for Hope GB. Having heard about this Andrew offered to partner Blue in the test in top hat and tails.
Natalie added: “Of course the aim of Horses for Hope GB is to raise as much money as possible but we also want everyone to have an absolutely fabulous day out.
“There will be plenty of things going on throughout the day to keep everyone entertained from stalls to browse, delicious food and drink to sample, a fun Instagram wall to pose in front of and a DJ.
“So even if you don’t know one end of a horse from the other, we promise you will still have a fun family day out.”
Horses for Hope GB organisers have set the target of raising £15,000.
Horses for Hope GB
Horses for Hope GB is a charity dressage event which has been set up to raise funds to support firefighters battling the bush fires in Australia and to aid in the care and treatment of animals caught up in the fires.
The money raised will be split equally between The Equestrian Fire Relief Fund (EFRF), the NSW Rural Fire Service and the WWF Australia bushfire emergency fund.
All aspects of the competition (time, services and prizes) have been donated and 100% of the money raised will go to the named charities.