All Pass Blair Castle CCI4*-L First Horse Inspection

Philippa Cross and Scoop de Ferbet. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It might be British eventing’s most far-flung FEI competition, but there’s something about the Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials that keeps it well up the list of mustn’t-miss competitions. This week, the crown jewel of Scotland returns after sitting 2020 out, and it brings with it five exciting international classes and a whole host of grassroots competition besides.

At the forefront of it all is the feature CCI4*-L class. We’re used to seeing relatively small fields for this section, and though this year is no exception, it’s rather a beefier line-up than usual with 21 combinations entered. (In comparison, the CCI4*-S boasts 42, the CCI2*-L has 95 and the CCI1* will see a whopping 120 competitors go head to head — but we’ve also seen fields of half this size in this class, partly because of its far-flung location but more pertinently because of its unique terrain, which requires a very fit, very specific kind of horse, and preferably one with some percentage of mountain goat in its pedigree.) This afternoon, all three long-format classes headed into their first horse inspections, and each of the 21 horses in the CCI4*-L was accepted without issue by the ground jury, made up of president Judy Hancock (GBR), Faith Ponsonby (IRL), and Janet Surr (GBR).

One of the great joys of a competition like Blair, with its smaller field and tough, influential track, is that it gives us all the chance to focus on some of the circuit’s lesser-known horses and riders. For example, fresh off their gold medal success in Tokyo, heavy hitters Oliver Townend and Tom McEwen each come forward for a crack at the title, but their horses — Arklow Puissance and Dream Big, respectively, are both ten years old making their CCI4*-L debut. Alongside them, some of Britain’s up-and-coming riders will try for a top placing for their record — but first, they’ll need to tackle the uniquely mountainous cross-country track that’s previously been the site of arguably the soggiest European Championships on record. So far, so good: the sun is out in force, bewildering the residents of nearby Pitlochry, a town that sells, well, knitwear and not an awful lot else. We reckon a sporran could be crafted into something rather like a bikini if necessary, but we may have to report back to you on that one.

Tomorrow afternoon will see both the long and short four-star classes embark on their first sessions of dressage from 1.00 p.m. and 4.20 p.m. respectively, and there’s lots to be excited about in both classes — including the return of Astier Nicolas‘s exceptional ten-year-old Babylon de Gamma, who will try to defend the CCI4*-S title he won here in 2019 as an eight-year-old. Unfortunately, there’s no live stream this year — but keep it locked on to EN for all the news, views, updates, and plenty more reasons to get your kilt in a flutter as we dive into the very best of wild and woolly Scotland this week.

Until then: Go Eventing!

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