Monday, 22 August 2011

Blair Castle International Horse Trials

20th August 2011

The Blair Castle International Horse Trials is Scotland’s premier equestrian event, with some 35-40,000 visitors drawn to the Perthshire town of Blair Atholl each year for the 4 day festival, to enjoy both the three-day eventing, and the associated Country Fair.  The whole family made the journey up on the Saturday, this being Daughter’s pay-back for enduring East Stirlingshire and Cowdenbeath some years back (see entries on menu to the left).

Seeing all the horse-boxes and associated paraphernalia took me back to the late 1970s, when my Sister used to do this stuff.  My parents had bought her a small pony – ostensibly to try to keep her out of Cornton Vale, I think – from which she soon graduated to one of the big lads.  Wife-to-Be and I used occasionally to go and lend support at gymkhanas at such exotic places as Broxburn and Whitburn.  But Sister, or to be more accurate Dad, did not own a horse-box, so she had to ride the beast from Bathgate anything from 5-10 miles along the main-roads before competing.  I do not recall Sister winning many of these competitions, but she did came away with a fistful of seconds and thirds, much to the annoyance of the pack of affluent Tasmins and Melindas whose ponies had been transported to the event in motorised luxury.


Sis, back in the day.

We do not claim to know much about these sort of equestrian competitions, but we thought the cross-country event looked to offer most fun.  So we made our way up into the wooded area of the course, and spent a relaxing few hours camped beside a set of water-jumps; our day enlivened every few minutes by witnessing another horse and rider attempting to navigate the hazards with varying levels of success.  Most to be fair sailed across them, often barely noticing they were there, it seemed to me.  A few refused and had to be coaxed over, whilst another group just tipped their rider into the water, apparently for the sheer fun of it. 

My favourite was the horse who appeared to undergo a major crisis of confidence halfway through the second fence of the hazard, and actually ended up standing on it for a few precariously balanced seconds, before leaping upwards and onwards.  All Good Fun - although we were given a sharp reminder of the serious nature of the sport when a horse came galloping out of the woods sans rider, who we later saw being stretchered to a waiting ambulance.

We rounded off the afternoon by taking in a show-jumping event in the Main Arena and, although I found it quite diverting (you could at least, work out who was winning), Daughter was not much impressed.  All a bit tame after the rough and tumble of the cross country, I think.


Blair Castle.





This was one of the Swiss riders competing in the European
Young Rider Eventing Championship. 
It would have been quite useful had the competitors' numbers
been printed in the programme somewhere....but, no. 


The same rider - his horse slipped and fell seconds after this pic.


William Fox-Pitt was one of the few names I recognised amongst the competitors. 
This pic finds him walking his horse back down the course after retiring.





The perfect picnic spot.


It's all going so well..................


..................then in for a dip.





Galloping back down the hill towards the water jumps on the right.


The trade stalls and jumping arenas on the left, and the
lower part of the cross-country course on the right.

Panorama of the Main Arena with Blair Castle in the background.

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