The Garden of England Circuit started as a way to showcase the evergrowing disciplines of Western riding in the UK and has since become one of the premier Western showing circuits in the country. Catering for all abilities, breeds and ages, the Garden of England team pride themselves on providing horse shows that are relaxed, fun and often entertaining whilst allowing competitors to compete for some of the largest purses and most envied prizes in Europe.
Our events are always open to the public so come along, shop, spectate and find out all there is to know about the many different types of Western riding on offer.
'From small acorns grow great oaks is a phrase that seems to fit the Garden of England International horse show'
In 2002 Francesca Sternberg, a keen NRHA and AQHA member, had a thought and rang Jane Muir, an experienced show secretary, about holding a small one day show. Summer in England in July brought about thoughts of strawberries, cream and Pimms and with this in mind three sponsors were lured onto a sofa beneath an oak tree to watch a small but delightful show take place. It was judged by Doug Allen, Francesca’s husband, Francesca was the ring steward, and it was over in time for tea.
Over the next few years Francesca and Jane continued to egg each other on to have bigger and better ideas, always with cries of “it is ALL your fault” The show grew in to firstly a two day show, then three, then five and now two large International events. Francesca says she can’t quite believe how it all unfolded. Jane said it was Francesca’s doing, and Mary La Pla, who runs Francesca’s office, just sighs and can only barely be seen underneath the pile of export licenses, health papers and ferry bookings needed to get the foreign riders on and most importantly off the island. Strawberries and cream have morphed in to a sumptuous sponsor’s cream team with champagne, and the prize money has over the years been high enough to make or break many world champion titles.
Keen each year to keep raising the bar, and finding new unique angles ,the show has introduced elements such as Live steaming, a first for the UK, with hits as far afield as Japan and Australia, let alone the USA, Canada, and across Europe, clicking on to see the quintessential British Horse show set against the back drop of the fabulous Bodiam Castle. In 2012 the show became the first category A show in the UK with $50,000 added prize money. Along the way CRI’s were added in to allow British riders to qualify for World Equestrian Games (WEG). but soon the Europeans were flooding in to gain their star ratings and also qualify for FEI competitions in Europe . World Class judges from around the world fly in to join commentator, Boris Kook from Germany who introduces riders in their own native language. Roland Hahn, also from Germany, organises all the cables and WiFi so the show can be viewed worldwide and Dirk Buttner bedecked in cameras captures the images in his unique and amazing way.
Whilst there is the serious competing there is also huge amounts of fun to be had. The show is a firm fixture on the calendar with families attending for the week to camp against the backdrop of the Castle and have fun with their children. “Small Fry” classes were held and many of the graduates can now be seen competing Nationally and Internationally. As Francesca said, “we have seen people grow up here at the show over the years and many are riding horses that are the produce of their original show horses, or even grand children of them. It is amazing to see. Some are still riding the same horses that they started on some fifteen years ago and there is a memorable “win“ picture of the schoolmasters with their riders, five horses whose ages added up to over 100 years and with records so long that they would need to be printed on toilet rolls! It is about celebrating the old as well as the new in the case of this show!
2023 will mark the 21st year of what started out as a fun “Pony Party” It has helped Reining become a firm fixture on the British Equestrian calendar and raised the profile of a sport that has become much loved by many. As Francesca says “We realise and appreciate that many of our competitors give up a large proportion of their holiday time to come to Bodiam to show and for that we are very grateful . We love welcoming back the familiar faces year after year and watching the children grow up as well as greeting new people just starting out and watching them progress season after season.