Cornbury Horse Trials was a welcome treat in a 2020 British Eventing season which had been savaged by the spread of the COVID-19 virus and resulting safety restrictions on sport.
The bigger the event, the more they are reliant on the presence of the paying public, trade stands and big sponsorship to run. We lost both British five-star long competitions and all but one of the four-star long format events, including British Eventing’s own flagship event at Blenheim Palace.
What a shot in the arm it was to have a new event on the calendar on a neighbouring estate.
The Cornbury Estate, built as a hunting lodge for Blenheim Palace, is owned by Robin Cayzer, Lord Rotherwick, and came up for lease in 2006. The Howden family took it over in 2007. The estate hosted horse trials until the 1990s and, with two keenly equestrian daughters in the family, it wasn’t long before David Howden began to plan a revival.
A great deal of work needed to be done. Water features needed to be created, ground flattened, viewing areas created and even a route created through a wood.
Much of this was made possible by a twist of fate. The very wet winter months had all but halted progress for course designer David Evans and his team and he was set to leave for Japan to continue his Olympic course designing duties there when lockdown happened in late March. David and his crew became part of the Cornbury “bubble” and were able to continue their work on this course instead.