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Issue 88 - Enjoying Equestrian Excellence

Scotland Magazine Issue 88
August 2016

 

This article is 16 months old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Enjoying Equestrian Excellence

Michael Morris looks forward to his next visit to Blair Castle's annual horse trials and country fair

The Blair Castle Horse Trials – or to give the event its full name, the Blair Castle Equi-Trek International Horse Trials and Country Fair – is Scotland’s leading equestrian event. Attracting competitors from across the UK, it is one of the last big events of the season and acts as a capstone and culmination of the summer, before the countryside community is beckoned towards indoor pursuits over the autumn and winter months.

The event’s popularity has been proven year on year as more than 40,000 people make their way north to the spectacular Highland setting of Blair Castle, causing the small village of Blair Atholl to spring to life with the kind of hospitality which is only found in Scotland. Although equestrian action lies at the heart of the event, Blair has much more to offer and should be bookmarked by any countryside enthusiast as a great day out for the whole family.

As the only competition of this calibre in Scotland, spectators are guaranteed to see some of the most prolific riders in the sport of eventing, partnering with their top horses. Dressage, the only phase not involving fences, tests the years of training necessary to perform a complex sequence of movements in perfect harmony and decides the individual standings going into the cross country phase on the next day.

This year, the event will take place on Thursday 25 to Sunday 28 August. On the Saturday, the parkland around the castle will play host to the rumble of hooves as horse and rider gallop over obstacles including water, ditches, logs and even a miniature replica of the Forth Road Bridge! After this gruelling test of speed, accuracy and courage, the riders must come out fighting fit to contest a round of delicate show jumping fences in the main arena on Sunday.

Outside of eventing, the Bruadar Country Fair on the Saturday and Sunday provides a haven for foodies and shopaholics alike. More than 190 different vendors make the trip north each year, with an incredible selection of garments, crafts, nibbles, homewares and animal accessories available. This year, country outfitters Joules is set to supply a range of official branded clothing to the event’s volunteers, which will also be available to purchase from their trade stand. The friendly atmosphere which encompasses the entire event can certainly be found in the Country Fair Arena, which runs a packed schedule of stunt riding, falconry displays and even give-it- a-go terrier racing, providing great entertainment for all ages. As a real treat for this year, the d’Onno Les Amis Stunt Riding team will travel all the way from France to showcase their beautiful Friesian and Andalucian horses by performing daring tricks at a full gallop, while their fearless riders juggle with swords and sabres!

The equine attractions continue beyond the eventing competition to the more traditional Highland Pony showing classes. This is a fantastic opportunity to see the best of the breed on display as they compete to be crowned Champion Highland Pony. A particularly special class harks back to their roots working on the mountains with a display of traditional harnesses and panniers.

The action ramps up over the weekend with a full schedule of British Show Jumping classes, including a Speed Horse class which is sure to thrill audiences. On Sunday it is the turn of the golden oldies, speed demons and giants, as veteran horses (including ex- racehorses and ridden Clydesdales) compete for an array of prizes in their own programme of showing classes.

Whether you are seeking to cheer on a favourite rider as they challenge for one of the eventing titles on offer, spend a relaxed afternoon perusing the tented shopping village or catch the wide array of show jumping and showing classes in the Banvie or Tilt arena, Blair Castle Equi-Trek International Horse Trials & Country Fair has something for people from all walks of life.

Visitor Information

Blair Castle International Horse Trials & Country Fair
Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Perthshire, PH18 5TL
+44 (0) 1796 481 543
www.blairhorsetrials.co.uk