Bramham horse trials founder dies at 81

Germany's Kai Ruder receives his prize from George Lane Fox for winning the Bramham CCI3* in 2011.
Germany’s Kai Ruder receives his prize from George Lane Fox for winning the Bramham CCI3* in 2011. © Mike Bain

George Lane Fox, the founder of Britain’s famous Bramham Park Horse Trials, has died at the age of 81.

Lane Fox died peacefully at his home at Bramham Park in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, on October 9.

He was the ninth generation of his family to live at Bramham Park and started Bramham Horse Trials in 1973.  Lane Fox followed his father Joe Ward-Jackson (later Lane Fox) into the Household Cavalry and after 20 years’ service, returned home to continue the restoration work of the Park, started by his mother, Marcia Lane Fox, post-war.

He set the estate on to a modern business footing, developing the farming and forestry enterprises. However, it was the horse trials which were the highlight of his year and he put his heart and soul into building them into the international success they are today.

The first competition in 1973 was a one day event with George Lane Fox as event director and course designer.  He always had big plans; a year later it returned as a three day event and just seven years later it was awarded international status.  Event directors came and went but Lane Fox always made it his priority to ensure the event was a favourite amongst the riders and the supportive Yorkshire crowd.  He was immensely proud of his ‘home team’ of staff and volunteers, recruited to run the event, many of whom are still helping today.

George Lane Fox
George Lane Fox. © Kit Houghton

Lane Fox never missed a prize giving and was always smartly attired in his bowler hat and suit, adding tone to the occasion.  He had great satisfaction following his competitors and their horses in their careers on from Bramham, to four star and then to international teams, knowing that his home event had played its part in their success.  Equally, he loved to see amateurs venturing to Bramham for the biggest test of their lives and made a point of trying to talk to every one during the event.

This year, the trials were the last chance for many athletes to qualify for the Olympics, and the competition was extended to an extra 100 entrants after rain led to the cancellation of two other important UK equestrian events. Athletes from 12 nations on four continents battled it out, alongside William Fox-Pitt (GBR) who took both the CIC and CCI 3-star titles with Neuf Des Coeurs and Chilli Morning.

George’s eldest son, Nick, said: “I will always remember Dad taking me, as a boy, to choose trees to turn into his cross-country fences and I’ll keep a picture in my mind of him sitting at the marquee door, greeting every guest, at the Bramham Cocktail Party.  His tenacity in keeping the horse trials going for the first 10 years, when it cost him money, is an example to me and everybody else.”

His funeral will be held in All Saints Church, Bramham at 11.30am on Wednesday, October 17.

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