Riders from all disciplines will be heading to the Scottish Highlands in two weeks time for the Blair Castle International Horse Trials, 21-24 August. With Showing, British Showjumping and Pony Club classes running alongside the main event, there will be equestrian entertainment to suit all horse enthusiasts with some very competitive classes to look forward to.
In the eventing competitions, Lucy Wiegersma must start as one of the favourites for the CCI3*. Lucy will be riding last year's CIC3* runner up, Mr Chunky, who recently finished 5th in the British Eventing Open Championship at Gatcombe Park. Louise Harwood will be giving Lucy a run for her money, however. She rides Whitson, one of the named reserves for the British Team for the World Equestrian Games (WEG), who was placed third at last weekend's British Eventing Open Championship. A winner at Blair back in 2005 Louise will undoubtedly be giving it her best shot.
Defending title holder Lucinda Fredericks has two horses entered in the CIC3*, last year's winner Flying Finish and Mr Sydney Rocks. Lucinda will be keen to prove the Australian selectors wrong for having left her out of the WEG team. Ireland's Mark Kyle and his London 2012 ride Coolio will be a prime contender as he is very much back on form.
It will be the first big run for Laura Collett and her new ride, Grand Manoeuvre, who was produced to 4* level by Nick Gauntlett and given to Laura after Badminton this year. The crowd favourite, however, is likely to be Nicola Wilson's team stalwart for so many years, Opposition Buzz. Nicola has four horses entered in the CIC3*, but 'Dodi', who won at Blair in both 2009 and 2010, is likely to get the biggest cheers from the crowds her other rides are Watermill Vision, One Two Many and Beltane Queen.
There is a raft of younger talent in the CCI2*, past youth team medal winners Willa Newton, Ben Hobday and Emily Parker among them. In contrast, Matthew Wright brings the seventeen-year-old Hugginstown, who has contested this class for the last five years, winning in 2009 and 2010, runner up in 2011 and 2012 and finishing 5th last year. Matthew is never one to just come along for the ride and the Scottish Highlands obviously suit Hugginstown, Charlotte Cole's son of Puissance.
The well subscribed CCI1* is wide open, and a testament to riders enthusiasm for the challenges that the Blair terrain provides... and perhaps for the excellent and seemingly non-stop parties and fun that will undoubtedly take place during the week.
This year riders will be faced by a reverse-routed cross country designed by Ian Stark OBE. Those looking for a clue as to what next year's FEI European Championship course will look like could well be disappointed though. For now, Blair's new course designer, is playing his cards very close to his chest.