In one week’s time lorries will be pulling in to the stabling area at Blair Castle, ready to contest this year’s classes. Whilst the eventing action is at the heart of the Blair Castle Equi-Trek International there is so much more, both equestrian and non-equestrian.
One of the ‘don’t miss’ activities on the final day of the event is the opportunity to zip wire off the top of the 90′ castle tower. It’s a perfect, and rare, opportunity to enjoy spectacular views over the estate while descending down the 300m wire – all the while raising money for Blair Castle International’s official charity Barnardo’s Scotland. Pre-registration is required, and the charity asks that participants aim to raise £100 by October with full details available on the website.
Barnardo’s Scotland spokesperson Kara Gillies said, “We are delighted to be the official charity of the Trials this year and wanted to come up with a memorable experience for all involved. The money that is raised by participants taking on the Zip Wire challenge will be spent supporting vulnerable young people across the UK, from those with disabilities to families living in poverty.”
The Bruadar Country Fair runs on both Saturday and Sunday. The Fair is a major attraction at Blair Castle International, providing a raft of entertainment for those with a finite interest in equestrianism. On display this year will be flyball and falconry demonstrations, terrier racing, vintage tractors, and not forgetting Les Amis d’Onno equine-canine stunt team and the Drakes of Hazard.
There is plenty going on earlier in the week too. Blair Castle transforms into shopping heaven for the duration of the horse trials. For four days the showground will be home to over 200 trade stands, offering something for all tastes and budget. Avenues of quality shops will be selling their wares, from bespoke jewellery and fine art to boutique clothing, traditional tartan and even gourmet dog treats.
Retailers travel from far and wide to exhibit their wares at Blair. Long standing exhibitor Urchin Clothing, which produces a wonderful British made range from its base in Leicestershire, will be returning yet again, claiming Blair is the best show of the season.
Closer to home, Edinburgh’s Joey D’s unique handbags sell like hot cakes, while Rena Holford’s glass sculptures, created in the North of England, are both stunning and original. Perhaps more mainstream, if you want to buy a car you can buy a car. A horsebox? No problem. Everything a horse or rider could need – covered, several times over.
And as for food and drink… The fabulous food hall will be bursting with deliciousness; organic meat, fine wines, handmade chocolates, cheeses, the list goes on. Blair Castle International’s official drink this year is Bruadar, a locally blended liqueur made from single malt Scotch whisky with a hint of honey and sloe berries. Kenny MacKay, Managing Director of Morrison and MacKay Ltd, creator of the liqueur, admits: “We are looking forward to introducing lots of new people to the delicious taste of Bruadar – as well as catching up with customers we have met over the last 10 years of our involvement at Blair.” Visitors would do well to ensure they arrive with plenty of empty space in their suitcase or car for purchases.
However, horses are the lynchpin of the event, but again there are classes to suit a wide range of tastes. On Thursday hunters and Highland ponies will be fighting for their spoils; Highland ponies, a favourite with Her Majesty The Queen, are an integral part of life in the area, and these classes are well worth watching. Thursday is also the day when the Arena Eventing takes place, as does International eventing dressage. British Showjumping kicks off Friday’s action, and spectators can also take in the NPS Scotland Finals, more International eventing dressage and the first of the eventing show jumping.
The pace picks up further on Saturday with the ever-exciting cross country presenting the perfect reason for visitors to venture out around the course. With over half a tonne of horse and rider galloping at around 25mph, tackling Course Designer Alec Lochore’s beautifully built fences, it is always an exhilarating way to spend a few hours.
The new Event Rider Masters class, featuring many of the best event riders in the world, provides the day’s dressage action, there are further British Showjumping classes, and perhaps the most competitive action of all – the Pony Club Games. All of the International eventing classes come to their finale on Sunday, with more cross country and show jumping.
Famous for its parties, Blair will host its usual array of Scottish hospitality each evening of the event, with charity malt whisky tasting, a ceilidh, live band and disco as well as the onsite bar where friends can meet up to discuss the day’s events.
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “The Blair Castle Equi-Trek International Horse Trials is always the highlight of the Scottish eventing season and things are shaping up nicely for another memorable occasion at one of Scotland’s most scenic venues.
“Supported via EventScotland’s International Funding Programme, the event offers lots for all the family to enjoy, in and out of the arena, and demonstrates exactly why Scotland is known worldwide as the perfect stage for events.”