Having been to Blair Atholl Horse Trials about 7 years in a row my friend and I fairly know our way around and generally have a plan of action. This year we brought our boyfriends with us so while we could very easily sit and watch class after class then spend the rest of the day going from stand to stand shopping, having people who are non horsey with us ment we wanted to do a few things that they would also find interesting.
We arrived at 9am on Friday morning after a two hour drive up from the south. We went in and had a look around before going to set up our tent. Then coming back in we spotted that Mary King was signing her new book so hurried over to that, her book looked really good but unfortunately I didn’t have enough money on me at the time to buy it – I in tend on buying it the next time I am paid! I still got a postcard signed and a photo though!
On the Friday we signed ourselves up to the course walk in afternoon guided by an event rider, beforehand you have no idea who the rider is but they will have at least one horse going round the course it is a good way of really seeing the cross country phase and hearing what they think will be influential jumps, we knew we would love it while at the same time giving the guys a better idea of what happens on the x-country course . When we arrived we found out that our course walk would be guided by the one and only Sir Mark Todd!! For those who don’t know the name he is a double olympic gold medalist, he has competed in the olympics six times and has won Burghley five times and Badminton four times. So for a wannabe eventer like myself and my friend we were awestruck! I think the boys found him pretty cool to.
In the evening we went for dinner at the local pub then went back into the grounds for whiskey tasting, this is something that was pretty much for the guys as both of them quite like their whiskey. While I don’t mind whiskey the peaty ones at the end were painful! Of course the whiskey my friend and I took a liking to was the one that costs £130 per bottle! We then tottered over to the live band on in the bar and shortly after the wandered back to the tent followed by a few more ciders at the tent.
On to Saturday and surprisingly after the day and night before we were all up early and ready to go! We were all a little dehydrated but nothing to complain about. So just before nine we made our way in, grabbed our bacon rolls and headed straight up on to the cross country course. We set ourselves up at the first water complex we had good seats as we could see the jumps before the water, the water combination and the fence after.
We stayed there a while then went to have a wander round the shops, I spoke to a few feed company stands as I am wanting to change my mares feed but I am very aware of how easy she can go a little loopy so I don’t want to buy a bag of anything without thinking that is our best way forward.
We then made our way back out to the cross country and set up at the second water complex ready to watch Mark Todd. While on the course walk he had said he was unsure about this jump and would see how his horse was feeling but might do the alternative, which was an extra three jumps.
This is a picture of the jump as you can see its a fair ditch underneath and the other side is straight down hill in to water. A bit scary!!
We watched in anticipation as we heard his progress on the course over the speakers. He came over the jump before and rode straight for the jump, the horse hesitated and slid and unseated Mark Todd and both horse and rider landed in the ditch!!
Both horse and rider were ok but it was absolutely terrifying to watch! A sharp reality of the dangers of the sport! Very shortly after another rider came through, everyone was watching intensely as she came up and flew over the jump with out a problem. Of course she would of had no idea of what had just happened at that fence! Out of the – I think – 12 riders that started out on the course only 7 made it home! It was a very influential course this year at Blair! It wasn’t one jump catching riders out but a variety of them. Blair is known for its hills so it does tend to be a fairly challenging course due to the hill work alone that is involved.
After watching a few more through that jump we decided it was time to go and get showered before dinner. At the campsite they had moved the showers so instead of having two blocks at either side of the campsite they had the one location for all the showers and loos. Normally the facilities are really good and I have never had an issue with them but this time the water pressure was off so you would get some ok water followed by dribble. Then half way through my shower the water cut off ! The whole block of showers was out! I could hear everyone from the other blocks shouting for the water to come back on! It was about 5 minutes before it eventually came back on at which point I finished my shower as fast as possible before it went off again! The loos were a bit on the dirty side as well as everyone from the whole campsite was heading for the same blocks. So over all I was disappointed with the facilities purely because normally they are really good!
We went for dinner up at the castle as we had a 10% off voucher that we got with our programme then in for the “disco” which was good but I think we would of enjoyed it more if we were a little less knackered and a little more tipsy so we stayed until about 11 before heading back to the campsite and straight to bed.
Sunday morning I was up first and started getting ready and packing up a few things before the others woke up. We packed up our tents so that when we left that night we could just drive away. We went in to watch the showjumping phase of the event rider masters leg which was a very interesting round! Emily King unfortunately had two refusals at the second jump and had to pull out! (Later on social media she announced her horse was suffering from a muscle condition that they only discovered after that round). We watched another rider casually put his bridle back on while still on the horse after a bit of a hairy jump! Watch the video of it on Horse and Hound! Over all there were very few clear rounds!
After that we went and watched a bit of the Clydesdales ridden class in the other ring as my friend and I have a bit of a soft spot for that breed having ridden a few of them for other people in our time. It was quite a big class this year and we enjoyed picking out the ones we thought should do well with our “expert eye”.
We then went out to watch a bit of the cross country for the event rider masters, sitting up at the first water complex again we could see several jumps as we had the other day. There wasn’t many starters as quite a few retired or were eliminated after the showjumping in the morning.
After the Cross country we made our way back to the main arena to watch the final showjumping phase of the CIC3*, it was great to be able to watch the showjumping after having watching the riders round the cross country the previous day.
After that it was home time and as my boyfriend drove us up it was my turn to drive us back home.
Overall I had a great time at Blair Atholl Horse Trials as I always do – apart from the campsite facilitates – the event itself was fantastic and as per usual I will definitely be going back next year!
I also bought nothing!! Yet still spent all my money… Oh well what else did I expect really!