International Women’s Day is tomorrow, 8th March, celebrating women’s achievements, increasing visibility and calling out inequality.
The equestrian disciplines are rare in sport, with men and women truly competing on a level playing field. Over the years Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials has celebrated the success of many female riders.
Having hosted national classes since 1977, Blair Castle presented its first three day event in 1989. Frances Oakden laid down the gauntlett for the girls with a win at the inaugural competition, America’s Ann Hardaway victorious the following year.
Looking down the Roll of Honour it is clear that women have comfortably taken more titles than men at Blair. Both Lucinda Fredericks and Ruth Edge have three wins apiece while Lucy Wiegersma (now McCarthy) topped the leaderboard four times. However, Queen of Blair has to be the current European Champion, Nicola Wilson, who claimed one of the international classes six times between 2009 and 2016.
At the 2007 Young Rider European Championships the individual gold went to Germany’s Sabrina Mertens and team gold to Britain’s all girl team of Charlotte Agnew, Dani Cuomo, Emily Galbraith and Georgie Spence. In 2011 it was a near repeat – the individual winner was Germany’s Freya Fullgraebe, Britain again taking the team gold although this time Team Olympic gold and individual silver medallist Tom McEwen joined Willa Newton and Dani Evans, a bit more boy power coming from the nephew of Blair’s 1989 winner, Wills Oakden.
Can the men step up at the 2022 event? Last year women swept the board: Rosie Fry won the Four Star, reigning World Champion Ros Canter the Three Star, European bronze medallist Sarah Bullimore the Two Star and both Katie Magee and Charlotte Cooke One Star long format classes, Ros having also claimed the Four Star short format.
For the record, William Fox-Pitt is Blair’s most successful male rider, winning five classes between 2007 and 2011. Time will tell if the men contesting the 2022 event can break last year’s girl power domination.
Rosie Fry & True Blue Too II © Trevor Holt