Barbury International Horse Trials: preparations well under way & "the grass is looking amazing"
The temporary stabling for up to a thousand horses are built and the main marquee is up.Up on the Marlborough Downs, preparations for the Barbury International Horse Trials (July 4-7) are on schedule at the Barbury Castle Estate.
The trials are under new management this year after Event Rider Masters organisation pulled out in February. This years trials are being organised by Musketeer Event Management (MEM) - Babrury is the eighth horse trials that they organise.
On Thursday (June 20) marlborough.news met Alec Lochore, who heads up MEM, on site as he was laying out the cross country course - lifting obstacles into their precise positions and taking a year's weathering off the more permanent fixtures.
He was there with Adrian Ditcham (assistant course designer and a technical adviser to British Eventing), James Willis of Willis Brothers who have been building Barbury courses for many years, and staff from the Barbury Castle Estate.
Barbury's famous cross country course was for many years designed by Captain Mark Phillips, and Alec was expecting a tricky 'phone call telling him that his course was being re-designed - by Alec Lochore.
But Captain Phillips was gracious - perhaps he knew that some of the iconic obstacles he created and which have become part of the Barbury story, were to be kept - like the Stonehenge jump and the water jump that used to be known as the St James's Place water jump - below.
St James's Place are no longer the trials' headline sponsors. But Alec says that they have sponsors for many of the course's obstacles - but no headline sponsor has come forward.
However, many of sponsors that have supported Barbury over the years have committed to this year's event. And Alec says many of the volunteers will be back this year: "That shows great loyalty to the event."
There will be changes to this year's trials. With no St James's Place marquee, there will be a new vantage point for spectators overlooking the cross country course.
Alec Lochore wants to make the most of the main arena with its wide viewing area, so it will be used exclusively for show jumping - with all the dressage on two other arenas. The cross country will see some changes to - in the key areas all classes will follow roughly the same route.
Entries among the international riders are very good. Among the locally based eventers Jonelle and Tim Price, Sir Mark Todd, and Andrew Nicholson will there. Among others entered are Izzy Taylor, this year's Badminton winner Piggy French, Australian star Chris Burton, William Fox-Pitt, Laura Collett and Zara Tindall.
Barbury will be the final trials for European-based riders seeking team places for the Pan American Games in Lima (26 July-11 August). More American and Brazilian riders will be there. And with the Tokyo Olympics a year away, all the senior riders will be aiming to prove their worth.
Alec Lochore thinks the cut is 'disappointing', but he understands why the Olympic President did it.That is especially important as for Tokyo the size of each nation's team is cut to three - from four at Rio and five at London.
He was Eventing Manager for London 2012 and is Eventing Competition Manager for the Tokyo Olympics. Since April 2018 he has made seven visits to Japan and from now on he will be going for a week's visit every month: "The cross country course is on a man made island in Tokyo Bay - it's stunning."
The Barbury cross country course is in good Olympic experienced hands - Adam Ditcham built the London course and the Willis Brothers built the Rio course.
Alec Lochore: "After the rain the grass is looking amazing - Simon Wells and his Barbury Castle Estate team know a thing or two about grass management. The ground is good, the grass is good - we should get to watch some good sport."
Blue skies would be helpful… The box office is open and you can buy tickets here.