HOYS ambition achieved for Mark with ‘thrilling’ charge

IN the days when showjumping was his hobby, it was always Mark Atkinson’s ambition to compete at the Horse of the Year Show.

He never quite made it but this year, some 20 years on, he will be making a rather spectacular appearance there.

“It’s taken along time to get there but I’m going to be there with our stunt team, at the most famous horse show in the world,” said Mark.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In October, the team from Atkinson Action Horses will perform The Final Charge, a display they have developed specially for this event.

It is set on the battlefields of the First World War, when the heroes of the story receive unexpected orders, setting them off on a race through Europe, where they encounter enemy fire and terrifying obstacles.

“We decided on the theme because it was Jubilee year and also because of the success of War Horse,” said Mark, whose team of nine riders and 10 horses – including Mark and his son Ben – will perform the display every day at HOYS as well as twice on the Saturday and Sunday.

They cannot reveal too much about what is involved just yet, but Helena Pettit from the organisers Grandstand Media, described it as “a real thrill-a-minute spectacular with real skill and expertise.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The team had to do two auditions, one at the Royal Armouries in Leeds where they perform regularly and one at Bishop Burton College, before they were given the go-ahead to produce a display for HOYS.

“That’s one place where as well as entertaining the crowd, you are there to show off your horsemanship too, so it will be quite a test,” added former dairy farmer Mark.

“It’s one we are totally looking forward to.”

Mark moved into working with horses full time when he and his wife decided to start a livery yard and riding school when their two children were young.

Mark started to provide horses for historical re-enactments, working with English Heritage and the Royal Armouries Museum. Now the whole family is involved in providing horses for films and TV and for public events. Five members of the team, including Ben, worked on the film War Horse and they also supplied nine horses for the filming of Wuthering Heights, much of which took place near Hawes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Based on their farm at Eastrington near Howden, the Atkinsons keep their horses in training for a variety of events from jousting and chariot racing to pulling a gun carriage. Ben, who will take a leading role in the HOYS display, can often by seen in the village riding his grey Andalusian stallion, Alnanzor, without any tack. The pair’s “liberty” work promises to be a moving feature in The Final Charge.

The members of the team, meanwhile, are busy preparing for a couple of events that are coming up much closer to home. They will be putting on a display loosely based on the story of Dick Turpin, at Driffield Show on July 18 and also appearing at Howden Show on July 1.

Related topics: