Scotland’s biggest three-day event is set to raise its profile by embarking on a series of improvements thanks to a £25,000 government grant.

The Bowmore Blair Castle International Horse Trials and Country Fair (26-29 August) is one of 16 regional events selected to receive funding from EventScotland.

EventScotland was established in March 2003, backed by £10m of government money, with the aim of making Scotland one of the world’s leading major event destinations by 2015.

The team at Blair has used the £25,000 to boost the event’s marketing campaign and to provide extra grandstand seating beside the cross-country course and arenas.

Sarah Phillips, director of Blair, says: “It’s a great initiative. It has allowed us to advertise in many more publications than usual and even to fund an outdoor promotional campaign in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

“We’ve wanted to improve the grandstand seating for years but haven’t had the financial means to do so, so this cash has really helped.”

The cross-country courses have also received a facelift. The CCI* course has undergone a complete revamp: it follows the same route as in past years but new fences have been built and both water jumps modified. The CCI*** course has also been developed.

In the three arenas, there will be BSJA competitions as well as a Highland Pony show, Pony Club mounted games and, for the first time, the National Pony Society Scotland finals.

Blair attracted a record 33,000 spectators in 2003. It is Scotland’s only three-star three-day event and last year’s winner was Scottish rider Ruth Friend on Matthew II. This year spectators will get to see some Olympic medal winners in action after Athens. It will be broadcast on BBC Scotland and Sky Sports.

Alongside the £5,000 awarded for first place in the CCI***, a new prize, donated by Atholl Estates – owner and manager of Blair Castle – is on offer this year to the winning horse’s owner, who will receive a week’s holiday in a Scottish lodge.

The box office is open until 13 August. Visit < a href="http://www.blairhorsetrials.co.uk"> www.blairhorsetrials.co.uk or (tel: 01796 481543).

  • This article first appeared in Horse & Hound (29 July)

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