Spanning two decades, The Garden of England Shows have been pace setters and record breakers since the inaugural show in 1988. The original show held the first NRHA approved UK competition, hosting two Lawson Bronze Trophy Reining classes, with $2,000 each in added prize money. In those days this level of prize money was unusual, with perhaps only two other shows in the whole of Europe matching it, one being the famous Americana. Competitors traveled from all over the UK as well as Europe to attend. The Open Lawson went home to Germany with Lyle Jackson, resident trainer for Johannes Orgaldinger of Jomm Ranch.
Fast forward to 2004, The Garden of England ran a double AQHA and single NRHA show giving British competitors a chance to once again compete against the beautiful back drop of the Kent and Sussex border. The weather that weekend was unseasonably hot and the ring Steward traded her usual cowboy hat for an enormously large lamp shade style creation, in order to avoid sunstroke! Large amounts of cold drinks and ice cream were consumed and the handful of sponsors relaxed on sofas under the trees, enjoying a delicious cream team whilst watching the competitors slide by. It was a relaxed and very enjoyable weekend with almost every rider winning a prize in the many classes offered. One International competitor made the trip from Holland to compete.
The Show committee then took the decision in 2005 to once again break records and jettison Reining in to the lime light. This time the show offered Prize money in excess of $25, 000. All divisions were offered in the first ever Double NRHA show, where two sets of classes ran back to back over four days. Also included was the first ever CRI , an FEI approved class, which kicked off strong competition for the qualification for “The Masters” event, held later that year in Oklahoma City. As well as being very busy in the Reining arena there was a full slate of AQHA Classes and Jackpot Western Pleasure and Hunter Classes.
Competitors from 13 Nations competed, with the first ever South African reining entry. Media interest was high and the show featured on Local and National TV and appeared on several satellite programmes. Magazines and newspapers sent reporters to the press call and several of the International riders gave entertaining interviews. A commemorative DVD was made for promotional purposes and the list of Sponsors grew to such a level that the Champagne and Tea tent had to be extended! The International flavour was further enhanced with the commentary being given in several languages by Sasha Jacqueroud from Switzerland. The photography was handled by the well known specialist, Dirk Buttner, from Germany of Horse and Light. Rudi Kronsteinner from Austria and Giuseppe Provosti from Italy battled it out on the Saturday afternoon in the $10,000 added NRHA Open, as this would be a deciding factor as to who would be the 2006 NRHA World Champion A Diamond Necklace and Designer Watch were sponsored by Collins and Sons, Royal Jewelers for the high point Lady and Gentleman Reining Riders. These prizes went to Rudi Kronstiener and Francesca Sternberg who also took home the honours in the Open and Non Pro Classes. The Jackpot Pleasure class was won by John Calder’s Zip Chip Leaguer and a special “Endeavour award” was won by Rosie Thompson, who had made it to the show despite Chemotherapy and had not stopped smiling all weekend! At close of business the show was heralded as the best Western Show England had ever seen.
The Show organisers planned to take a step back in 2006 as it was a World Equestrian Games year and many of the International riders were busy planning their preparation for that big event. However even with this in mind the show ran full steam ahead with once again a double NRHA show, AQHA show and jackpot Hunter and Pleasure classes. The Lawson Bronze Trophy went home to France with Oliver Van Den Burgh and the Open Pleasure and Hunter Prizes staying in the UK with Mary Griggs and Clare Bowler, respectively.
The 2007 show was a fabulous success with all classes very well supported and some exciting reining with two of the riders vying for the NRHA World Champion title in both the Open and the Non Pro. The fabulous NSBA classes showcased some of the top horses from Europe competing against some of our own local heroes. The show was the first British horse show to go live stream on the web and we had hits from all over the world including North America, Canada, Japan and Australia. Saturday night was a great social event and we had many pledges from our overseas competitors that they would be returning again in 2008, stating that this was one of the best horse shows they had ever attended.
In 2008 the Garden of England became a member of the Six Nations Challenge held by the European Reining Alliance. All shows hosted $30,000 NRHA Open classes and $20,000 Non Pro classes, as well as CRI’s. This made Garden of England the first ever Category A Reining show to be held in the UK and was once again one of the most prestigious venues in Europe.
We have many regular competitors so in 2010year we decided to offer people the chance to have their own number for all the shows there this season, and benefit a charity. It was decided to support the Macmillan Nurses, a cause we can all relate to. For £5 a number competitors were provided with a laminated number with the Macmillan logo on. This was well supported and number 13 was auctioned for the grand sum of £100.00. Funds were going well and we were prepared to give a £665 cheque to MacMillan Nurses at our major International show in July. On the Friday afternoon of the show Tabitha Sternberg-Allen (12 years old) and some of her buddies decided to go around the show asking people to sponsor her father, Doug Allen (one of the country’s top Reining riders and a member of the British Team flying to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in September) to ride in pink in the main class of the evening. They also persuaded people to put up prizes for a raffle. Due to their efforts, and Doug’s sportsmanship, a cheque for a final amount of £1145 was presented to Shirley Bennett from the Tenterden Branch of MacMillan Fundraising. This money will be used to support people with cancer and in need of nursing support in the local area. For more information on MacMillan Nurses please see www.macmillan.org.uk