An ambitious stud farm and equestrian business has set its sights on horse show glory after creating a successful eventing arena in the Norfolk countryside.

Wakefield Farm Stud in Foulsham, near Fakenham, is run by Neil Holden, his partner Jo Durrell and her son Tom Saunders.

Mr Holden, originally a cattle and sheep farmer, bought the 25-acre former military property in 2011 to fulfil a lifelong dream of owning his own farm.

He previously had "no experience whatsoever" of working with horses, but he became convinced of the opportunities after renting out three wooden stables to an equestrian tenant.

Eastern Daily Press: Wakefield Farm Stud and Livery owner Neil Holden (left) with stud manager Tom Saunders and head groom Jo DurrellWakefield Farm Stud and Livery owner Neil Holden (left) with stud manager Tom Saunders and head groom Jo Durrell (Image: Denise Bradley/Archant 2022)

More expertise came on board after he met Jo in 2015, and her son Tom - who is now an equine veterinary nurse.

The following year, Mr Holden decided to have an outdoor arena built at the back of the stable block - but the footings gave way after torrential rainfall and the building collapsed, leaving him with a "massive insurance disaster".

After the payout was eventually settled, he took the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to invest almost £500,000 on an indoor arena complex, which was completed in 2020.

And now the busy venue is up and running, the focus is now to ramp up the stud's breeding and showing successes - with lofty ambitions at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

"I am very driven, I am very ambitious, and I am a winner," said Mr Holden. "I love to be an underdog, so if somebody throws a gauntlet at me, I get inspired.

"After Tom came on board in 2020 with the showing side we are now getting to the point where I want success.

"We are on the brink, with what we have achieved with all our horses, we are probably going to end up at HOYS next year with one or maybe two horses, and the dream will then be that we get there and win the supreme champion of the show. That is the ultimate goal now.

Eastern Daily Press: Horses at the Wakefield Farm Stud and LiveryHorses at the Wakefield Farm Stud and Livery (Image: Denise Bradley/Archant 2022)

"It has taken all this time to build our horse venue and get up and running, and now we are going on to our next chapter. I want our horses to compete with the very best.

"We will win. People say Rome wasn't built in a day, but if you don't get on with it, it won't get built at all.

"We have worked really hard, day in day out. Now we are getting the reward we deserve to get."

Wakefield Farm Stud has already won 98 rosettes in the last 18 months, including 38 class titles, 12 championships, and four supreme championships, from various county and equestrian shows across the country.

Mr Saunders said one of the best national competition prospects is a horse called Regal Tiger, whose brother Tiger Cub won a HOYS supreme title in 2019.

Along with its breeding programme and livery yard, he said the stud is also launching a new service next year to take on boarding mares, working in conjunction with other local vets and studs across the country.

Eastern Daily Press: Head groom Jo Durrell at Wakefield Farm Stud and Livery with her two-year-old Falabella stallion called SilverioHead groom Jo Durrell at Wakefield Farm Stud and Livery with her two-year-old Falabella stallion called Silverio (Image: Denise Bradley/Archant 2022)

Meanwhile, the indoor arena has been hosting show jumping, eventing and dressage events as well as puppy training and dog agility - and attracting some big names.

This weekend, Norfolk-born equestrian star Piggy French has been running a three-day clinic for aspiring riders.

"It makes me proud, because she loves the venue, and I didn't even have to ask - she asked us if she could come," said Mr Holden. "It shows how far we have come in such a short period of time.

"We didn't realise the arena was going to take off as well as it did. People coming here say it is incredible, what we have done.

"I have still got my farm, and I have still got sheep, but this was more like a sideline - now it has taken over as the main business."