Saddle up as thrilling chariot races return to Leeds

Leeds may be only just recovering from Olympic fever, but an event in the city this week will give young and old an insight into dangerous and chaotic events that characterised the Games in their ancient form nearly 3,000 years ago.

Tuesday, 23rd August 2016, 8:34 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd August 2016, 9:34 am
The Royal Armouries is to host a thrilling display of chariot racing.

Equestrian events were some of the most spectacular sports in the ancient Olympic Games in Greece, which are thought to have begun in 776 BC, with chariot racing one of the most dangerous and popular.

Spectators gathered to watch as magnificent horses raced charioteers in wheeled carts around the track, with only the bravest and most skilled able to finish the hairpin events.

On Thursday, thrill-seekers can enjoy a daredevil interpretation of the ancient sport during two shows put on by Yorkshire’s Atkinson Action Horses at the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Royal Armouries events manager Rachael Beavan said the races, which are part of the museum’s summer season, featured ‘death-defying stunts’ by experienced riders who had previously done stunt work for TV and live shows.

She said: “With Rio 2016 finishing we have been exploring a different Olympic event every Thursday, something that has a connection with what we do and that people can get excited about.

“The original chariot races were in a venue that is very similar to our arena and oval-shaped. They will be running the length of the arena.”

She said the original Olympics held in ancient Greece featured chariots pulled by as many as ten horses, though the shows in Leeds will feature fewer horses per chariot for safety reasons.

The thrilling horse shows continue over the weekend with a spectacular battle between Medieval Saxon and Norman warriors to mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

The audience will be able to feel the thunder of hooves as the Norman heavy cavalry smashes against the Saxon shield wall and witness the fierce resistance of the Saxons as they fight to protect their land with sword, axe and spear, during the spectacular battles held on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Organisers say it will be an action-packed show bringing to life the brutal conflicts that changed England’s identity forever.

Visitors will be able to meet the team and the horses for great photo opportunities and the chance to get up close to the weapons and armour. Each show takes place daily between 27 and 29 August at midday and 2.30 pm (Adult £5/Concessions £2.50/Family (2 adults + 2 children or 1 adult + 3 children).

After each show visitors will be able to meet the team and the horses for great photo opportunities and the chance to get up close to the weapons and armour.

Fittings from Saxon weapons can be seen in the museum in the Warrior Treasures exhibition which showcases exquisite objects from the Staffordshire Hoard collection, the largest gold Anglo-Saxon hoard ever uncovered and owned by two local councils.