In a glorious autumn of British equestrian sport, the action now moves to Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials this week (17th-20th September).
Riders from 12 nations head to Oxfordshire for the country’s most prestigious three-star three-day-event, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials has attracted the best competitors from the sport of eventing round the world, including three of the members of Britain’s silver medal-winning team from last weekend’s European Championships at Blair Castle – William Fox-Pitt, Kitty King and Pippa Funnell.
And although the Blair individual gold medallist Michael Jung is taking a well-deserved break, his fellow member of the German team and the individual silver medallist, World Champion Sandra Auffarth, is competing at Blenheim.
Gemma Tattersall, who finished in the top 10 at Blair is also competing. She, along with Izzy Taylor, were two of only three riders to complete the cross-country without jumping or time-penalties, and will be thrilling to watch round Eric Winter’s challenging cross-country track in the stunning setting of Blenheim Palace’s park.
A strong American contingent includes Lauren Kieffer and Clark Montgomery, both hopeful of a place in their country’s squad for the Rio Olympics next year. Australia’s Andrew Hoy, a triple Olympic gold medallist, has entered Cheeky Calimbo, while his team-mate from the London Olympics, Christopher Burton – recently third and fourth at Burghley – brings Nobilis 18 to Blenheim.
Alongside the sporting action, Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials offers a vast range of other attractions. These include excellent shopping opportunities, a Cookery Theatre featuring top local chefs, the ever-popular High Jump competitions and diverse arena attractions, masterclasses and displays.
There is also a parade of past winners of Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials on the final day of the event, Sunday 20th September, including Zara Phillips’ former World and European Champion, Toytown.
Oxfordshire-based entries in the principal CCI3* class include the 2013 winner, Aoife Clark, who lives near Middle Barton. She is riding Fernhill Adventure, a talented nine-year-old gelding owned by Richard Last, who lives locally in Great Tew.
Aoife is a regular member of the Irish championship squad, and her team-mate Austin O’Connor, based at Attington Stud near Thame, is also competing at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Austin rides Kilpatrick Knight.
British riders from Oxfordshire planning to compete include Mike Jackson from Bledington. Mike is hoping for a third consecutive completion in the CCI3* class aboard Kangasong, owned and bred by his wife Ellie’s family.
Izzy Taylor, who will arrive at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials fresh from representing Britain at the European Championships, lives in Aynho. She brings two horses, Briarlands Birdsong and KBIS Starburst, for the CIC3* for eight-and-nine-year-old horses – the most prestigious young horse class in Britain. Owen Cooper, from Swalcliffe Park near Banbury, has entered Supa Splashdown in the CCI3*.
Younger Oxfordshire riders tackling the CCI3* for the first time include Chipping Norton’s Imogen Gloag, riding Brendonhill Doublet, and Burford’s Nicholas Lucey, with Proud Courage.
Mandy Hervieu, Event Director of Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, said: “We are delighted to have so many entries from Oxfordshire – local riders always attract a lot of support from the crowd. This is a very special running of the event, as we are celebrating 25 years of Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, and we are looking forward to four days of great sport, superb shopping opportunities and fantastic arena attractions.”