With just under a week to go until the Land Rover Blair International Horse Trials, Eventing Worldwide caught up with Event Organiser Carola Brighenti to talk about course preparation, entries and what it takes to put on an event of this scale.
Blair Castle is the proud host of one of Scotland’s premier Eventing competitions. Each year, the Blair Atholl Estate in the heart of Perthshire becomes a hub for the sport, attracting hundreds of riders who compete for top honours in international competition with spectators flocking to watch them compete for top honours.
This year, entries have been streaming in for all the classes – which range from the CCI* to CCI***. Event organiser Carola Brighenti, who rode at Blair herself in the European Young Rider Championships in 2011 when she finished 12thwith Road Runner, , commented: “Entries are coming in very well. We already have more entries than last year. Blair is a long way for riders to come. But they know they will have good ground and testing courses. We’re expecting more entries to come in over the next few days – and hopefully good ones.”
Alongside these competitions will be the final leg of the 2018 Event Rider Masters Series, which runs in a CIC*** format. Brighenti comments: “It is very exciting for the event. Last year it was great for the spectators to be able to enjoy another day of cross country on the Sunday. It adds a different element to the event.”
With the unseasonably hot weather the UK has been experiencing, a lot of attention is being paid to the ground preparations for the event. But this is not a short-term job. As soon as the previous year’s event ends, a dedicated team start work to prepare the ground for the next year.
Brighenti comments: “Preparations are going very well. The Scottish weather is helping us a lot with the ground, which is perfect at the moment – we have green grass everywhere. The courses are out and ready and we are making the final touches to everything. We cannot predict what the weather will be so we will have the aggravator on site but at the moment it is perfect.
“After every event we repair the ground, particularly take-offs and landings and the arenas. Obviously, the event is held on an estate so we have the farmers treating the ground throughout the winter. The main arena is an exception – we treat it in a different way to other areas all year. It gets mowed every two weeks from three months ago.
And what can riders and spectators expect from this year’s course?
“The course will be run the same way as last year,” says Brighenti. “There will be some new additions this year too. Alec Lochore, the Event Director and Course Designer, has developed a new idea for the top lake on the theme of a Lost Garden where spectators will be very much be able to enjoy watching the competition. We also have a combination in front of the Castle which is very cinegraphic.”
And for the first time Blair Castle will host the British Eventing Scottish BE90 and BE100 Championships. Brighenti comments “We will have two new and different courses for the grassroots competitors. It will be a true championship course. It will run at the bottom of the estate. It’s a very nice course and spectators will be able to enjoy this competition as well. For the grassroots riders it will be a great opportunity to compete at Blair alongside all the international riders. We hope a lot of spectators will come along and watch them. And after the conclusion of their event, competitors will be able to enjoy the rest of the event and stay on site for the duration of the international competition.”
No event would be able to run without the support of the volunteers. In February, applications for event volunteers were open and such was the response the required roles were filled early with people taking on jobs such arena crossing point stewards, cross country crossing point stewards, arena party, office runners, lorry parkers and collecting ring stewards.
Brighenti comments: “This year we have 460 volunteers plus 120 fence judges. We were very surprised to get a lot of applications so soon after the programme had opened. I was able to close it earlier than expected as all the shifts had been filled. Our volunteers are super stars; the weather can be challenging at Blair but they don’t mind. They want to help and enjoy the event at the same time.”
For anybody who hasn’t visited Blair Castle Horse Trials before, why should they put the date in their diary?
Brighenti says: “It’s a magical place. The UK is very lucky to have such fantastic venues, and this is one of them. It’s nice to be able to have a trip to the North and enjoy such a well organised event; it has good courses, good ground for horses and riders, and there is lots for visitors to enjoy including a large shopping village, so there is something for everyone over the course of the week.”
The Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials runs 23rdto 26thAugust. The British Eventing Scottish Championships will be held on 22ndand 23rdAugust. For more information visit www.blairhorsetrials.co.uk.