The Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is known as a ‘three-day-event’, even though the actual competition 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.
Britain leads the way in the sport of eventing with many of the world’s very best riders being British nationals. The UK is also home to a multitude of international riders who take advantage of the superb training facilities and great events that the country has to offer.
As the best four star event in the world, Blenheim has seen many horses win or achieve top results in both of its classes who have gone on to five star, European Championship, World Championship and Olympic success such as Parklane Hawk, NZB Land Vision, Headley Britannia, Viceroy, Toytown, Quimbo, Fenyas Elegance and DHI Topper W – to name just a few!
The start of the competition is on a Wednesday afternoon with the first official horse inspection in front of the Ground Jury and the Veterinary Delegate. This is followed by dressage, cross-country, and show jumping over the following four days.
There are two main classes held at Blenheim over the four days of the event – the showcase CCI4* Long Format and a CCI4* Short Format for 8 & 9-year-old horses. The CCI4* Short Format is for 8 and 9 year old horses and has been specifically developed for younger horses to complete the dressage test followed by showjumping then cross-country. The format for the CCI4*-Long 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 showjumping.
The Ground Jury have ultimate responsibility for judging all three phases of the competition. The Veterinary Delegate is responsible for ensuring that FEI regulations are adhered to and that horses are fit and able to complete all phases of the competition.
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 CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S for 8 & 9 year old horse classes. The CCI4*-L is in the main Marlborough Arena, set against the magnificent backdrop of Blenheim Palace. The CCI4*-S takes place in the Churchill Arena.
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 David Evans and built by David’s team – a team which is internationally acclaimed for their course building and design skills. The CCI4*-L cross-country phase runs on Saturday. The CCI4*-S for 8 & 9 year old horses run on Sunday.
All show jumping takes place in the main Marlborough Arena in front of Blenheim Palace. The CCI4*-S for 8 & 9 year old horses show jump on Saturday morning as the second part of their test. This is because it is less challenging for horses to show jump before going cross-country. For the CCI4*-L class, show jumping is on Sunday afternoon and runs in reverse order of merit.