TRY THIS: Blenheim Horse Trials, Woodstock
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Let it be said right from the off that I’m not particularly horsey – in fact the one time I did ‘ride’ a horse it refused point blank to move – but I went to Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials on Thursday anyway, to see if it would appeal past the zealots to equine luddites like me.
The event is fairly young, now in its 14th year, but it attracts big name international competitors, and the attendance of Princess Anne, and I figured the backdrop of Blenheim Palace and the grounds would be pretty hard to beat.
I came early on the first day, and it was mostly dressage, which is probably the least exciting of the three day events, and it was pretty quiet. I actually spent a lot of time at the practise arena, which was next to a jumping course they were participating in, and you could easily earwig the riders chatting away They’re obviously all quite friendly with each other, telling each other where they need to start on the course, or commiserating with a bad round when they come off. And you’re so close to these enormous, beautiful horses, I could literally have stroked them if I wasn’t utterly petrified (well I told you I’m not horsey).
The most exciting days to come are actually today (Sat) and tomorrow (Sun), because it’s the cross country course that loops all around the grounds, and you can just find a spot on the course to sit and take a picnic or whatever, and watch the horses steaming past. And there’s also the showjumping right in front of the palace itself on both days – that will be really buzzy.
What else? It feels rather like a posh country show. There’s a massive thoroughfare of pop up shops so there is plenty to look at, though be warned, it is soooooo horsey that unless you’re interested in wearing head to toe tweed (and OMG, people really wear this stuff!), or wax jackets, padded gilets or riding boots, you may leave empty handed. But all is not lost. There’s a cookery demonstration tent this year, a small deli food hall and a decent play area for littlies with an old-fashioned carousel, helter skelter, vintage car ride and a hook-a-duck that looked like it had been hoiked from the local fairground.
I think if I came back next year it would definitely be on the weekend – for something different to do with the kids I reckon it would be fun. You can buy tickets on the door so to speak, take your dog on the lead, and under 12s go free, so dig out your tweed, and tally ho!
General admission, £25, VIP upgrade add £18. blenheimhorse.co.uk