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Blair Castle horse trials

The 2016 eventing season in the northern hemisphere is just starting.

The focus of this year for top-level competitors — as well as many fans — will be the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (the eventing takes place 6-9 August). Selection for team spaces will be hotly contested among the leading nations.

Britain finished the 2015 season on a high with team silver at the European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle, Scotland (10-13 September).

Having a championship “at home” offered a particular opportunity for British riders, as the host nation can field 12 pairs, rather than the usual six.

Team debutant Kitty King and Persimmon led the home side effort, finishing fourth individually and spearheading the team to silver behind the mighty German squad. The other team members were Pippa Funnell (Sandman 7), Nicola Wilson (One Two Many) and William Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero).

Britain’s eight individuals also went well, with six completions and two finishing in the top 10 — Izzy Taylor was sixth on KBIS Briarlands Matilda and Gemma Tattersall took ninth with Arctic Soul.

Germany’s Michael Jung completed an amazing fortnight at Blair when he added the individual European title (FischerTakinou) to his Burghley win with La Biosthetique-Sam FBW the week before. This feat was made all the more remarkable as it transpired afterwards that he had chipped a bone in his ankle at Burghley in a fall from his first horse, the 2014 WEG individual silver medallist FischerRocana FST.

Michael will be the man to beat when he defends his Olympic title this year, having taken team and individual gold in London four years ago with Sam.

The spring focus will, as usual, be on Badminton, where many riders of all nationalities will be out to prove they have what it takes to go to the Olympics, as well as hoping to claim the prestigious title. Some, however, will keep their powder dry and bypass Badminton in favour of a CIC campaign for Rio — Kitty King, for example, has said she will be targeting this route with her two Rio hopefuls, Persimmon and Ceylor LAN.

Kentucky in the USA and Luhmühlen in Germany are the other spring CCI4*s and will also be selection events for some countries.

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