The Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials are now firmly established in the eventing calendar. They have been run since 1990, attracting the world's best riders and the thousands of spectators who come each year to watch the event.
The Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is known as a '3-day event', even though the actual event is run over nearly 5 days! This is because the event is made up of three phases: Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping.
The event starts on the Wednesday afternoon with the first official trot up by the competitors in front of the Ground Jury Judges and the Veterinary Commission. This is followed by 2 days of dressage (Thursday and Friday), and then Cross Country and Show Jumping over the weekend.
There are two classes held at Blenheim over the four days of the event. A CIC*** class which at Blenheim is for 8 and 9 year olds only and a more difficult CCI*** for older more experienced horses.
The 8 and 9 year old CIC*** requires the combinations of riders and their young horses to complete the Dressage test followed by Show Jumping then Cross Country; whilst the CCI*** format is Dressage, followed by a more demanding Cross Country and then the Show Jumping - this is a more exacting test and hence is a higher level competition than the CIC***.
Dressage. The dressage tests take place on Thursday and Friday for the CCI*** class in the main Marlborough Arena, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of Blenheim Palace and the dressage for the 8 and 9 year-old CIC*** horses takes place in the Churchill Arena - this is sited at the top of the picnic areas above the lake.
Cross Country. The Cross Country phase is for many the most exciting part of the whole competition. Riders take on the challenge of big, solid fences on timed courses which run around the beautiful parkland, designed by Capability Brown.
The CCI*** course, which runs on Saturday, is longer and has more technical and difficult fences upon it whilst the 8 and 9 CIC*** course is shorter and slightly easier - as the younger horses will be less experienced.
The Cross Country courses at Blenheim are designed by Eric Winter and built by David Evans and his team, (builders of the Beijing Olympic course 2008), who also manage the event site and make sure that the ground conditions are optimal.
The CCI*** Cross Country phases run from approximately 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and the 8 and 9 year-old CIC*** Cross Country is run on Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon.
Show Jumping. Show Jumping for the 8 and 9 CIC*** year olds is on Saturday as the second part of their test (this is because it is easier for horses to do the show jumping before doing the cross country).
For the CCI*** class, Show Jumping is on Sunday, from approximately 12 noon, in the Marlborough Arena in front of the Palace. This is run in reverse order with the lower placed competitors jumping before lunch and the higher placed combinations afterwards.
Other Activities. In addition to the eventing action there are lots of other activities. These include the Dodson & Horrell sponsored Pony Club and Riding Clubs Team Competitions, the Tri Zone sponsored Eventer Challenge, and many equine and other displays in the Blenheim Arena.
There are also other attractions for all the family, including children's play areas, a food and drink hall, sports and classic car displays, and all the shops.
England being England, the weather is never a certain thing. Despite being in the middle of summer, Blenheim weather can range from Heat Wave to Torrential Rain, sometimes within the weekend itself, so prepare for all eventualities! Lightweight clothes are a must though, whatever the weather. In heat waves, it will stop you from overheating, and if it decides to pour with rain, they can dry easily. There is nothing worse than having to walk a cross country course wearing wet jeans. However, if you are planning on having breakfast in the members Enclosure you will need to dress smartly.
Wellies and a coat are also a good idea to have in the back of your car so that if it does decide to pour with rain, you can quickly change; even once it has stopped raining, the grass will be soaked and you may end up with the two-tone trouser effect. Chuck a sunhat and suncream in the back of the car as well, so if the sun does appear, you can be prepared for it, and avoid looking like a tomato.
Footwear wise, stilettos are really not recommended. Even in incredibly dry weather, your heels will end up disappearing into the ground. Flat, comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in are a good idea for when it is dry. Blisters are your worst enemy, and they tend to prey on anyone who thinks they can “get away with it”.
And last but not least, jewellery. Blenheim being Blenheim, it wouldn't be the same without some stunning Sterling Silver Jewellery to match your outfit, whatever the weather. We'd recommend our fabulous Equestrian Collection. Whether you are planning on visiting the members tent or not, this gorgeous collection is absolutely perfect. So how about putting on your snaffle necklace and earrings, and rocking the Trials in style. If you don't have one, fear not, just pop by our Equestrian Collection and treat yourself.
Other than clothes, in the back of your car, you might want to also have a waterproof backed picnic blanket or even a couple of lightweight canvas chairs if you don’t feel like walking too far, although of course just far enough to come and visit us! Both of these will stop you from needing to sit on the wet grass when your legs give out.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of liquids. It is a long day, and whether it is cold or hot, you will need to stay hydrated to avoid the paramedics having extra work. Unfortunately, alcohol doesn’t count…
Sunday is the best day for shopping. Stall holders don’t really want to take all their stuff back, so you can grab some great bargains.
If you are coming on Saturday, arrive in plenty of time as there can be very long queues, or even better, stay nearby on Friday night, avoiding the incredibly early morning.
There are several really nice places to stay in the area you can visit www.laterooms.com to see the brilliant selection of accommodation available. Just type Blenheim International Horse Trials into the Search Box, and away you go! Or if you want the more luxurious approach, take a peek at some of the top quality hotels available at www.offpeakluxury.com. Or visit the website to see some recommendations.
Just outside Oxford this event is well signposted and easy to get to. The Postcode for your sat nav is OX20 1PP.