Entries for the eventing classes at this year’s FEI Defender Blair Castle International Horse Trials are nudging towards 400 horse and rider combinations – and still coming in. Competitors, who come from 14 nations, include senior team medallists and five-star winners Ros Canter (GBR), Gemma Stevens (GBR), Piggy March (GBR), Caroline Powell (NZL), and not forgetting Scotland’s very own multiple medallist Ian Stark – also a past Blair cross-country designer – who has three Badminton wins to his name and the, to date, unequalled record of being the only rider to finish first and second the same year, in 1988.
Adding a bit more stardust, Zara Tindall, World Champion and BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2006 when already the 2005 European Champion, and later to win a team silver medal at London 2012, will be bringing her Defender Burghley Horse Trials entry, Class Affair, to perform the four-star ‘guinea pig’ test. This is a test ridden at the start of the dressage phase, which gives the three judges the opportunity to ‘get their eye in’ and discuss their marking before the official competitors enter the arena.
A further 300 combinations will run in the Scottish Grassroots Championships and national classes.
The event also hosts a wide range of showing classes – with a record number of National Pony Society entries this year. Additionally there will be National British Showjumping and Pony Club Games, so there really is something for all equestrian enthusiasts.
Daily, season and weekend general admission passes are still available, with prices starting at just £18 per person, plus parking. Alternatively, why not treat yourself to a VIP hospitality package, which includes forward parking, access to the exclusive VIP pavilion, teas and coffees, a three-course lunch and beverages.
If you don’t want to go the full monty with VIP hospitality, it is still possible to enjoy some of the benefits of our hospitality offerings. Hugely popular last year, The Blair Bistro offers small/sharing plates in the Members marquee on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. You don’t need a Membership ticket to book dinner at The Blair Bistro, in fact you don’t even need a Horse Trials ticket as dinner sittings start near the close of competition for the day. You do, however, have to book ahead – full details are on the horse trials website.
Another ‘don’t miss’ offering is Cairngorm Gin’s gin tasting in the Sponsors tent on the Friday night, for which tickets must be pre-purchased via the website. The Cairngorm Gin Company, which uses water from the River Spey in its small batch premium spirit, was established in 2019, making it one of Scotland’s newest micro-distilleries.
Back after a 15 year absence is The Blair Castle Cross-Country Challenge, sponsored by The Roundhouse and Cob Leather, where contestants only need two legs, not six (four plus two!). The Challenge sees athletes running the same cross-country course as that used by the horses at Blair, subject to the weather. A maximum of 50 athletes will take place, who must be aged over 14 years. With a plethora of prizes, all competitors will also receive a medal for completing the event.
There are few more glorious places to be in the summer than the Scottish Highlands, and Blair Castle has to be one of the most beautiful locations – throw in world class equestrian sport, delicious food and drink options, and fabulous shopping and it is a week not to be missed.