THE largest sporting event in the county returns to Blenheim Palace next weekend.
Organisers of the International Horse Trials, which attract more than 60,000 visitors each year, hope to bring in an even bigger crowd. The event runs from September 8 until September 11 and promises another strong line-up of the world's best event horses and riders.
Included this year is the final leg of the Event Rider Masters series, which awards the winner a £50,000 prize fund. The event and ceremony at Blenheim Palace completes the six-leg series, which began at Chatsworth House in May. Oxfordshire competitors in the Event Rider Masters are Aynho’s Izzy Taylor and Barton-based Olympian Aoife Clark.
Taylor is aiming for her first Blenheim Palace win, but is no stranger to success, after competing in two senior championship teams for Great Britain.
She will ride on Briarlands Birdsong during the Event Rider Masters, and OBOS Cooley in the feature CC13* class.
Clark arrives on a legacy at Blenheim, after claiming a major international win in the CCI3* at the Trials Event in 2013. The Middle-Barton-based Irish Olympian will ride with Ferhill Adventure for her shot at the prize.
A number of other activities will provide a fun-filled day for equestrian enthusiasts, including CCI*** and CICE*** classes for eight and nine-year-olds, Pony Club and Riding Club team competitions, Eventers High Jump and Arena Eventer Challenges. Meanwhile a range of demonstrations, displays, lectures and more than 200 trade stands will be on offer.
Other Oxfordshire riders in the trials include Lydia Hannon of Thame, Mike Jackson of Bledington and Bert Bolton, from Banbury.
Bolton is riding for the first time at Blenheim Palace on his ex-racehorse, Purple Sands, and is competing in the CCI3*.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never had the chance to ride at Blenheim Palace before and it is one of those events that you grow up dreaming about competing at. Purple Sands, known at home as ‘Rupert’, is very fast so I’m hoping for a fantastic cross-country ride on him.”
Visitors from the area will have their fair share of local competitors to cheer for during the four-day competition.
Event director Mandy Hervieu said:
“It’s great to have Oxfordshire riders competing at Blenheim Palace as they attract a lot of support from the crowd. We’re looking forward to four great days of competition. Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is a brilliant family day out, with excellent shopping and a wide variety of arena attractions and demonstrations.”
Ticket booking and additional information can be found on the event website: www.blenheimhorse.co.uk