The Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials are now firmly established in the eventing calendar. It has been running since 1990, attracting the world’s best riders and the thousands of spectators who come each year to watch the event.
The Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is known as a ‘3-day event’, even though the actual event is run over four days! This is because the event is made up of three phases: Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping, with the Dressage phase taking place over the first two days.
The start of the event is preceded on the Wednesday afternoon with the first official horse inspection in front of the Ground Jury Judges and the Veterinary Commission. This is followed by two 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 – CCI3* and a CIC3* class. The latter is for 8 and 9 year old horses and has been specifically developed for younger horses to complete the Dressage test followed by Show Jumping then Cross Country. The format for the CCI3* class, for older and more experienced horses, starts with Dressage, followed by a longer and more technically demanding Cross Country phase, which provides a more exacting test and finishes with the Show Jumping.
Dressage is the first phase of the competition, in which a series of pre-set movements are judged subjectively. It takes place all day on Thursday and Friday for both the CCI3* and CIC3* 8 and 9 year old horse classes. The CCI3* is in the main Marlborough Arena and starts at approximately 9am set against the magnificent backdrop of Blenheim Palace. The CIC3* takes place in the Churchill Arena – which is sited at the top of the picnic areas above the lake, and starts at approximately 10.30 on Thursday and 9am on Friday.
The Cross Country phase is for many the most exciting part of the whole competition. Riders take on the challenge of big solid fences and the unique water complex across the River Glyme. The timed courses run around the beautiful Blenheim parkland, designed by Capability Brown and are renowed for being fast but testing.
The Cross Country courses at Blenheim are designed by Eric Winter and built by David Evans, both are internationally acclaimed for their course building and design skills.
The CCI3* Cross Country phase runs from approximately 9am to 1:45pm on Saturday and the 8 and 9 year old horse CIC3* Cross Country is run on Sunday from approximately 11am to 2pm.
Show Jumping for the 8 and 9 year old horse CIC3* is on Saturday as the second part of their test (this is because it is less challenging for horses to do the Show Jumping before the Cross Country). It takes place from approximately 4pm to 6:20pm.
For the CCI3* class, Show Jumping is on Sunday in two sections. The first from approximately 9am to 11am and the second from approximately 3pm to 4pm 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.
In addition to the eventing action there are lots of other activities. These include the Dodson & Horrell sponsored Pony Club and Riding Club Team Competitions on the Thursday and Friday and the Tri-Zone sponsored BE100 Eventer Challenge on Sunday all in the Bladon Arena and the Eventers High Jump Challenge on Sunday in the Blenheim Attractions Arena.
There are also many equine and other displays throughout the event for all the family, including children’s play areas, a food and drink hall, sports and classic car displays, and more than 200 outlets in the shopping village.
Ground Jury Judges have ultimate responsibility for judging all three phases of the competition.
The Veterinary Commission are responsible for ensuring that FEI regulations are adhered to and that horses are fit and able to complete all phases of the competition.