Several of the world’s leading eventing riders will be at next week’s Blair Castle International Horse Trials in the Scottish Highlands, in a final showing before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Championships in France.
The fairytale Blair Castle, situated between Perth and Inverness, hosts next summer’s FEI European Eventing Championships, so riders will be keen to try out the new reverse-routed course devised by Ian Stark. However, Stark has promised that few clues as to next year’s track will be visible.
Among the riders entered this year is British squad member Nicola Wilson, who will be heading straight from Scotland to France after the competition. Her team veteran Opposition Buzz, now retired from the very top level, will start as one of the favourites for the CIC3*, a class he has won twice before. Wilson has four horses entered in the CIC3*, but ‘Dodi’, who won at Blair in 2009 and 2010, is likely to get the biggest cheers from the crowds. Her other rides are Watermill Vision, One Two Many and Beltane Queen.
Defending title holder Lucinda Fredericks has two horses entered in the CIC3*, last year’s winner Flying Finish and Mr Sydney Rocks. Fredericks will be keen to prove the Australian selectors wrong for having left her out of the WEG team. Ireland’s Mark Kyle and his London 2012 ride Coolio will be a prime contender as he is very much back on form.
Lucy Wiegersma will also be one of the favourites for the CCI3*. She rides last year’s CIC3* runner up, Mr Chunky, who recently finished fifth in the British Eventing Open Championship at Gatcombe Park. Wiegersma will bet a run for her money from Louise Harwood, who rides Whitson, one of the reserves for the British WEG team and who was placed third at Gatcombe earlier this month.
There is a raft of younger talent in the CCI2*; past youth team medal winners Willa Newton, Ben Hobday and Emily Parker among them. In contrast, Matthew Wright brings the 17-year-old Hugginstown, who has contested this class for the last five years, winning in 2009 and 2010, runner up in 2011 and 2012 and finishing fifth last year. Wright is never one to just come along for the ride and the Scottish Highlands obviously suit Hugginstown, Charlotte Cole’s son of Puissance.
The Blair Castle International Horse Trials and Bruadar Country Fair runs from August 21 to 24, with showing, show jumping and Pony Club classes taking place alongside the main event.
Complimenting the horse sport will be the Bruadar Country Fair, offering non-horsey visitors plenty of entertainment with a wide range of demonstrations each day. Performing this year will be Ridgeside Falconry and Dogs, the Quack Commandos and Riders of the Storm amongst others, and there will also be a Vintage and Classic Tractor Cavalcade.
Blair Castle dates back to 1269. It is the ancient seat of the Dukes of Atholl and home to the Atholl Highlanders, the last remaining private army in Europe, and it houses countless fascinating historical artifacts detailing 700 years of Scottish history.