Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials: the big event returns

As well as owning event horses, Tara manages to find time to compete herself

As well as owning event horses, Tara manages to find time to compete herself - Credit: Archant

Blenheim palace international Horse Trials takes place from September 8-11. As well as four days of equestrian sport –including two days of cross-country action on both Saturday and Sunday - the eventfeatures great shopping opportunities and a host of arena attractions for all the family. We talk about to rider and businesswoman Tara Glen about her involvment in the world of eventing

Tara Glen by Blenheim's spectacular water complex, where competitors must cross the River Glyme

Tara Glen by Blenheim's spectacular water complex, where competitors must cross the River Glyme - Credit: Archant

“I came to the first Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials in 1990,” says Tara Glen. “I’m an Oxfordshire girl who grew up hunting and in the Pony Club here,and we were all so excited when a horse trials of this stature came to Oxfordshire.”

Tara is a woman accustomed to juggling many balls and never letting one drop. Motherhood, business – she is a director of Bicester-based engineering firm Barrus -and horses are all combined in a hectic schedule.

She says: “The two sides of me are engineering and horses, although I’m also a chartered accountant as well. I worked in the City for 10 years, but moved back to Oxfordshire in 2001. “When my son Felix, who is 10 now, was about four, I decided that all my flying round the world for business was a bit ridiculous, so I gave up working full-time to manage my investments and be Felix’s mother. That’s when I got back into horses after 20 years.”

Tara’s involvement in the horse trials – which, with Blenheim Palace as its backdrop, has surely the most stunning setting of any sporting event in Britain – is considerable. She has been part of the outstanding army of volunteers during the four days of the event for several years and owns horses with William Fox-Pitt, the most successful rider at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials with five wins to his credit.

“When I wanted to get back into eventing, it was the natural thing to volunteer here,” says Tara. “The sport runs on volunteers, and as a competitor, if you can feel like you put a few days back in, it’s a great thing. My mother [Pep] and I help with the picnic run, which runs non-stop during cross-country day, making tea and coffee, doling out biscuits and pieces of cake… It’s a lovely job to do because everyone is pleased to see you!”

This year, she has a further connection with the event. Tara is one of the founders of a new competition, Event Rider Masters, where the world’s top riders go head-to-head for big prize-money. The last leg of the series takes place on the Saturday and Sunday of Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, which runs from 8-11 September this year.

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“I’ve always been friends with William Fox-Pitt and sponsor him through one of Barrus’s lawnmower brands, Cub Cadet, which also sponsors a fence here at Blenheim,” explains Tara. “When Event Rider Masters was conceived last year, Alice Fox-Pitt [William’s wife and a presenter of Channel 4 Racing] said that I was the obvious person to get involved in the business side of it.

“Blenheim is special and attracts a lot of people who love the sport of eventing because you get really top international riders here, and they put on a fantastic show. There’s no doubt the setting is massively attractive to Event Rider Masters [ERM]. One of the key commercial rationales behind ERM is making it attractive to a global viewing audience that aren’t just horsey. It’s the Britishness about eventing is a great part of its attraction; the sport’s home is in Britain and we want to take that round the world. The crescendo building up to a final at such a stunning

venue is exactly what a global audience wants to see.”

Neither of the two horses Tara and her parents own with William – Henton For Fun and Volcan Du Barquet – will be competing at Blenheim Palace this year, but it is a future ambition. “I love buying younger horses and it takes time for them to develop, so they will get there in their own time,” she says. “As an owner, you learn so much. William runs such a professional operation and the horses are so well prepared for what they are doing. I know I will never compete at the higher levels myself and I really enjoy being involved. William is such a good ambassador for the sport; you can’t help but be proud of being associated with him.”

Tara also owns two young horses with a local Oxfordshire event rider, Lydia Hannon. “At 27, Lydia is exactly 20 years younger than William Fox-Pitt,” says Tara. “I’m very keen to promote and support British riders. Lydia rides beautifully – she really does have talent, which is one of the key things you need to do well. You then need a bit of luck and a bit of support, and I’m hoping I can give her that support.

“I’m hoping I’m going to be involved with eventing for at least another 40-plus years; I want to support the youth coming through as well as our top riders, so we can see where the next British international team members are coming from.”

Tara’s tips for enjoying Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials

“Come early, because the shopping is fantastic and gets better every year. On cross-country day, walk around. Bring a picnic, or buy something from the delicious range of food stalls. And bag your spot on the bank between the two water fences which cross the River Glyme – it’s a fabulous place to watch from. And there so many other attractions beside the sporting action – bring your non-horsey friends as well. There’s something for everybody here!”

“Be down near the finish towards the end of the Event Rider Masters cross-country on Sunday afternoon. The crescendo builds with the last 10 or

so riders on the cross-country; we have a podium which is rotated through with the top three riders as the reverse-order cross-country happens.

There’ll be a big screen and you’ll see the reaction of the competitors. It’s really exciting and the tension does definitely build.”

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