I like all things British – their television, food, architecture, history, etc. In 2004, I attended the Burghley Horse Trials in Stamford – about two hours north of London. What an amazing event. With over 600 vendors, some people just go for the shopping. I always have to thank the monthly Maryland magazine “The Equiery” for allowing me to go as their photographer.
I’ve been to quite a few British events – Badminton, Blenheim, Barbury Castle and Blair Castle and Floors Castle in Scotland. In 2011 I attended the Olympic Test Event in Greenwich. It occurred to me maybe I would enjoy branching out a little to another country.
In 2016, I checked the FEI table of games, championships, and finals which shows the bidders for international championships and the winners of the bid. I noticed the 2017 European Eventing Championships would be held in southwest Poland at the Strzegom Equestrian Center. I was looking for a group trip so completed a Google search and the (British) Event Horse Owner’s Association (EHOA) popped up with a group trip organized by Zip Travel – Ian Dennis. But, in order to join the trip, you had to join EHOA and provide your membership number to Zip Travel. I e-mailed EHOA membership and they provided me with the bank information to complete an international electronic bank transfer.
I printed it all out and went to my local bank. And the bank teller said, “Are you sure this isn’t an internet scam?” And I replied, “No, this is real.” Now, I have to admit I don’t actually own an event horse (in any country) but this is a minor detail. The electronic payment was sent and I e-mailed Zip Travel to make arrangements for my trip.
I arrived in England a few days early to adjust to the time change. Through Landmark Trust I arranged to stay in the Georgian House (built in 1719) at Hampton Court Palace (built 1515) southwest of London. Landmark Trust advertises “holidays in historic buildings.” Zip Travel arranged for a driver to pick me up the day the group was flying from London Stansted Airport to Poland. (I don’t drive in the U.K. not ever!) The driver called me ahead of time and said, “What’s this address? Do you mean Hampton Court Palace ROAD?” And I said, “Just pull up to the main gate of Hampton Court Palace.” Hampton Court Palace has 24/7 security so I made sure they knew my schedule.
For anyone who has ever gone to London Stansted Airport during the peak of summer travel time, you know it’s just jam packed. I just don’t think it’s anyone’s favorite airport.
The European Championship event in Poland was very well organized. All the EHOA members had pre-paid for the hospitality tent, so we had a big buffet every day. This included the Polish smalec (pork lard) – you’re supposed to put it on bread with a Polish pickle.
The only glitch with the whole trip was our group drank up all the hotel gin, so we had an interesting side trip to a local grocery/liquor store. After flying back to the U.K., I went to Woodstock to spend two days exploring Blenheim Palace. (Yes, I like all palace type places.)
When the World Equestrian Games was awarded to the Tryon International Equestrian Center, North Carolina, yes, you guessed correctly, I arranged to go with EHOA. Yet another well organized, successful trip. And we did a side trip to the Biltmore Estate which included a wine tasting.
In May 2019 I attended the Badminton Horse Trials and for the first time Zip Travel was a vendor promoting their upcoming trips. They have a big banner with a group photo from Poland — see photo above.
In 2020, Zip Travel is organizing a trip to the Tokyo Olympics, but you are not required to join EHOA. Ian Dennis – Zip Travel is not an equestrian himself so since 2018 the “expert competition analysis and discussion” has been provided by Julia Fairbank who has competed up to the CCI3* level.