Be­hind the scenes at Blen­heim Palace In­ter­na­tional Horse Tri­als

We go be­hind the scenes of Ox­ford­shire’s big­gest sport­ing event

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS -

Blen­heim Palace In­ter­na­tional Horse Tri­als has been run­ning since 1990 and is one of the lead­ing and largest three-star horse tri­als in the world. It’s also the largest sport­ing event in Ox­ford­shire, at­tract­ing around 60,000 vis­i­tors each year to watch the world’s lead­ing event rid­ers and some of their best horses.

This year the event takes place be­tween Septem­ber 13 and 17 and wel­comes a new ti­tle spon­sor in Ssangy­ong Mo­tors, the Ko­rean 4x4 man­u­fac­turer who are set to take the mar­ket by storm with their af­ford­able and stylish new Rex­ton model, which is to be un­veiled at the horse tri­als.

Ssangy­ong’s in­vest­ment in the event has al­lowed the or­gan­is­ers to up­grade the fa­cil­i­ties that vis­i­tors and par­tic­i­pants en­joy, and there is much ex­cite­ment from ev­ery­one in­volved – but who makes it all hap­pen?

On event there are over 600 of­fi­cials, most of whom are un­paid vol­un­teers who give up their time to un­der­take a mul­ti­tude of roles to make sure the whole event, from the ini­tial horse in­spec­tion on Wed­nes­day to the fi­nal of the show jump­ing on Sun­day af­ter­noon, goes as smoothly as pos­si­ble.

Be­hind this ‘army’ of stew­ards, sec­re­taries, judges, com­men­ta­tors, buggy driv­ers, grooms and scor­ers, there is a key team who make sure that, with every­thing from the ini­tial con­trac­tors’ quotes through to the fi­nal tick­ets be­ing sent, ev­ery ‘i’ is dot­ted and ev­ery ‘t’ is crossed.

The core of­fice team, fit­tingly, live in the ser­vants’ quar­ters of Blen­heim Palace for most of the year. They are re­spon­si­ble for the plan­ning, ad­min­is­tra­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the event and are sup­ported by a steer­ing group made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of event own­ers Bri­tish Event­ing, and some pas­sion­ate non ex­ec­u­tives who bring a raft of skills and con­tacts. The core team are joined on site in the last few weeks be­fore the event by the course and site team, who pre­pare and build the site and course be­fore the FEI of­fi­cials, heads of de­part­ment and their staff of vol­un­teers ar­rive, and the event goes live.

Event di­rec­tor Mandy Hervieu orig­i­nally worked as com­mer­cial man­ager for a pre­vi­ous ti­tle spon­sor (Pet­plan Equine) and en­joyed work­ing with the, then, Blen­heim team so much she joined the com­mit­tee and later the of­fice team. “My back­ground is in spon­sor­ship, com­mer­cial and mar­ket­ing,” she ex­plains. So as well as hav­ing over­all ac­count­abil­ity for the bud­gets and strat­egy for the event, she is also par­tic­u­larly keen on how the event is pro­moted and at­tracts spon­sor­ship and spec­ta­tors as well as the ‘look and feel’.

Event sec­re­tary Shel­ley Ba­con joined in 2011, af­ter hav­ing worked at Blair Horse Tri­als as a sum­mer stu­dent. An ex­cel­lent ad­min­is­tra­tor, she is in charge of the plans and pa­per­work for the event’s many con­trac­tors who build the fa­cil­i­ties, as well as mak­ing sure the needs of the vol­un­teer army and on-event com­peti­tors are met.

Emily Brad­ford, event ad­min­is­tra­tor, is a rel­a­tively new re­cruit, hav­ing just joined the team this year from the Horse Trust. As well

as do­ing much of the in-house de­sign work, she looks af­ter the 225+ trade stands and the on-event at­trac­tions and dis­plays, as well as or­gan­ises the Sun­day ‘fun ride’ for lo­cal rid­ers.

Ab­bie Roobot­tom is this year’s in­tern. Help­ing the team with gen­eral ad­min­is­tra­tion, pa­per­work and ticket en­quiries, she has a mixed and var­ied role in­clud­ing tak­ing over the ad­min­is­tra­tion for the even­ter chal­lenge classes lead­ing up to the event, and says she is learn­ing fast!

Cather­ine Austen is the fi­nal mem­ber of the of­fice team. A free­lance PR con­sul­tant, she man­ages the me­dia of­fice on site and li­aises with the press dur­ing the year on be­half of the event.

The course team, led by Olympic and Euro­pean course builder David Evans, pops in through­out the year to check the site and the ground con­di­tions, but mainly ap­pear in the sum­mer be­tween their many jobs through­out the UK and Europe. They ar­rive ‘en masse’ a few weeks be­fore the event and put all of the ‘mo­bile’ (if you have a handy fork­lift) fences in place, se­cur­ing, paint­ing, sanding and dec­o­rat­ing them and bring­ing in some of the new ones that they have made in their work­shops over the win­ter.

Sup­ple­ment­ing the course team are the site team who make sure that the con­trac­tors ob­serve health and safety re­quire­ments, and the rules and reg­u­la­tions that events have to com­ply with. Dur­ing the event they make sure op­er­a­tionally every­thing runs smoothly and on-event there is a team of heads of de­part­ment who each have re­spon­si­bil­ity for an as­pect of the event man­age dur­ing the event.

Ev­ery­one in­volved with the event is very pas­sion­ate and all wear #Team­blenheim on their shirts with pride.

But for the core of­fice team it’s a year-round job – from Oc­to­ber when the pre­vi­ous year has been ‘wrapped up’ and in­voices are paid, re­ports writ­ten and per­for­mances an­a­lysed, there is al­ways some­thing to do! Each year’s event starts with get­ting quotes for fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices, set­ting up sys­tems to book tick­ets and trade stands or reg­is­ter vol­un­teers, meet­ing and putting to­gether ideas for busi­ness part­ners and all of the ad­min­is­tra­tion which goes with an event of this size. The ex­cit­ing bit, how­ever, ac­cord­ing to the team is in the last few weeks when all the plans come to fruition and the empty park­land be­comes a sea of mar­quees and struc­tures. They love see­ing hun­dreds of horses ar­rive in their trail­ers and lor­ries and the pub­lic de­scend in thou­sands through the gates.

Each year #Team­blenheim strives to make the event just that lit­tle bit bet­ter with the motto ‘1% im­prove­ment on 100 things’. Find out more about all the ex­cit­ing things which are hap­pen­ing at this year’s Ssangy­ong Blen­heim Palace In­ter­na­tional Horse Tri­als and book your tick­ets at

Cather­ine Austen

Ab­bie Roobot­tom

Emily Brad­ford

Mandy Hervieu

Shel­ley Ba­con

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