Eat Your Way 'Round Europe's Major Horse Trials

Eat Your Way 'Round Europe's Major Horse Trials

Each time I go to a three-day event (which I do - for work - a lot), I make the same resolutions: I will walk the entire cross-country course, briskly, each day, including Sunday. I will resist the press office sandwiches and cakes and snack on salad, or some such worthy form of nutrition. I will drink only water. I will, therefore, return home slimmer, fitter and exuding moral superiority.

It's Pimms o'clock. Photo by Erin Gilmore.

However… life is meant for living, right? You only live once, etcetera, etcetera. The problem is that it’s all too easy to eat like a king at major horse trials – and I’m thinking Henry VIII, not Edward Longshanks. There are all sorts of novel, delicious indulgences on offer all over the world and it seems almost obligatory to sample them.

  • At the CCI** Lühmuhlen Horse Trials, held in Luhmühlen, Salzhausen, Germany, Horse & Hound’s Eventing Editor Pippa Roome primed me about ‘ångos’, a Hungarian dish made of deep fried dough. These have a sort of lightly fried (I know) dough base and are topped with sour cream, cheese, and ham. The hangover food of the gods, and much-needed after the epic Thursday night party held at the event. ‘Flammkuchen, also known as ‘tarte flambe’ in other parts of the world, is essentially a German take on pizza. They have a thinner base so I automatically qualify them as the ‘healthy option’.

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  • Pippa Roome (who is irritatingly slim despite her expansive food knowledge) is also responsible for my awareness of ‘’poffertjes’ small, fluffy pancakes they sell by the plate-load at the Boekelo CCIO3*, the great Dutch end-of-season party (sorry, three-star horse trials). Traditionally served with melted butter and covered in powderedg sugar, they can be obtained with all manner of other toppings as well. The Tuesday night party at Boekelo is the big one and several plates of poffertjes are necessary to aid recovery.
  • Les 4 Etoiles de Pau, the French four-star about an hour from the Pyrenees, is typically very sophisticated and famous for its oysters and foie gras. The latter is ubiquitous – in baguettes, in great chunks on its own – and is gorged upon by foreign visitors, albeit slightly guiltily.
  • No visit to Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials, a very jolly three-star in Yorkshire, UK., is complete without buying a bag of homemade fudge. Completely essential for the journalist who has to drive three and a half hours home on Sunday night and then write 2,500 words on a deadline for the following morning. I often thought my reports should say “powered by fudge” in small letters at the bottom of the page.

    Bramham International Horse Trials. Photo: Erin Gilmore
  • It shows how far the food on offer at three-day events has come, that at Badminton this year I noticed people tucking into ‘pheasant goujons’ - essentially chicken tenders, but made with pheasant. Not your standard chicken nuggets, but yummy strips of this particularly delicious gamebird coated in breadcrumbs and fried.

Reminiscing on my foodie adventures across the many three-day events, I remember outstanding pasta while at Pratoni del Vivaro for the 2007 European Eventing Championships, the sausage roll that was consumed every morning while standing in line to go through security on the corner of Greenwich Park during the London 2012 Olympics, the spectacularly gooey brownies that got me through the five-day eventing bonanza that was Blenheim last year, and much more. The only major equestrian event at which I have been too busy to eat was Aachen, the incomparable German show. Running flat out between arenas to cover the top-level dressage, showjumping and eventing single-handed meant that I actually did lose weight that week, and collected blisters rather than calories. It might be time for another visit, this time, with plenty of food.

And let’s be honest - unless you are a competitor, walking the cross-country course thoroughly once is quite enough. And water is nice, but so is wine.

Feature image by Benjamin Clark.