The Landrover Blair Castle Horse Trials Twitter feed claims that it is the greatest equestrian event in Scotland and I dare say it's right.

Yes, there will be good reason for some moans or groans and the midges constantly remain a nuisance if not threat, however as the sun shone brilliantly over the event's four days this year, competitors, exhibitors and visitors alike soaked up all the best things on offer.

Included in these have to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque venues in the world, top class eventing at which two of our successful Tokyo medalists made the start line this year, wide-ranging equestrian competition in the auxiliary rings and a variety of food and sales outlets.

‘Blair’ is very good at catering for the public as well as grass roots competitors and they come by the car, lorry and trailer load. What was there not to like about 'Blair' in 2021?

Congratulations must go to the organisers who have been steadfast in their desire to make the event happen in this turbulent 'Covid' year, when nothing was ever certain literally to the last few days prior to the event in terms of mitigations placed upon them by the Scottish Government.

The fact that the event took place at all is an amazing feat and not one achieved without a huge amount of hard work and meticulous planning. The logistics of holding such an event must be considerable at the best of times but doing so in a Covid-safe and friendly manner was nothing short of a miracle.

Needless to say, it is well supported by the British eventing community, who travel great distance to compete while at the same time, the addition of the Scottish Grass Roots Eventing Festival, brings a welcome inclusion at a basic competition level for those entering the sport.

Less well-known is the score of show jumping competitions held over three days affiliated to British Showjumping. Again, the success of the schedule is built on catering for all levels from 90-130cm, with special feature classes including the Grade C championship and the Scottish Branch Adult North-west open championship.

Thanks to the efforts of the Strathearn Pony Club, mounted games also made an appearance to delight the crowds on one of few appearances at a major Scottish venue.

Just as the Royal Highland Show has its staunch band of enthusiastic competitors and exhibitors, many of whom treat the show more as a holiday destination and social event, so too does Blair.

A key difference between the two would be the quality of competition which, at the Highland, is generally very high, while at ‘Blair’ is middling at best, with a few top animals leading the showing classes.

It is a pity that many of Scotland's leading exhibitors choose to seek their fortunes elsewhere over the period of the trials and pony people have team commitments for BSPS Scotland which takes them South. Nevertheless, for many others, it has become their Scottish Horse of the Year Show and a 'must attend' feature towards the end of the season, which possibly explains the friendly and enthusiastic nature of competition over the four days.

The number of exhibitors hailing from north of Scotland's Central Belt is very noticeable.

Within the extensive showing schedule, this is the first year that working hunters have featured as a HOYS qualifier and despite good entries from the South, it was well-known Scottish exhibitor, Alex Brewster, from Kirkliston, whose focus these days is on show jumping rather than showing, who claimed the ticket.

No stranger to the winner's enclosure in the working hunter pony classes at the NEC Arena, this year he returned for the horse workers with the home-bred, six-year-old, Clifton Adelaide, piloted by Jenny Harries, from West Calder. The combination's extensive jumping experience will hold them in good stead at HOYS, where clear rounds invariably lead to rosettes.

There were two other HOYS tickets on offer, Heather Dick claiming one of them with her dun ridden Highland pony, Dunstruan Ettrick Mhor, and the other going to Dillars Rascal, ridden by Hannah Lindsay, in the British ridden heavy horse qualifier.

Some of the best of the showing competition in terms of calibre is to be found in the Gary and Tummel arenas, where the Highland pony section and the NPS Scotland championships are staged. Covid arrangements played in their favour this year as visitor access was restricted to one side of the arenas allowing the entrances to the arenas to be less congested and less risk averse.

It is such a pity that the trials organisers consistently fail to provide adequate call-up facilities for competitors, who are often parked a good 15 minute's walk away from their rings. Similarly, the ringside loud speaker system is less than adequate leaving this area of the ground very much the Cinderella of the event.

However, one thing that strikes me is the fact that Blair is a happy place not only because of the relaxed atmosphere created by the visitors, but especially because of the cheery band of volunteers who are visible at almost every turn.

So, while I'm impressed by the organisers, who, let's face it, are professionals and well-paid for their efforts, my real admiration goes to the many hundreds of volunteers who actually make the event happen.

According to the ‘Volunteer Corner’ of the official Blair website, they are 'The Best' and 'the backbone of the event'. I am sure the Blair team would be the first to say that, without the volunteers, there would be no event.

So what do they do? You'll meet them as stewards at the various crossing points be they on the cross country or the many arenas; they make up the arena parties where they become the jumps crew; they are office runners for the information and results tents; they are collecting ring stewards and in 2021, Covid compliance monitors.

They can volunteer for anything from a single day to the five full days of the trials. And what do they get in return? Obviously, they receive entry tickets and a packed lunch for the days worked, but there is also the added attraction of free camping on site, something which many of them cherish. For working more than three shifts, there is the special treat of a free polo shirt!

Voluntary effort remains a feature of most equestrian activities. Looking ahead to the much-awaited 'normality' of 2022, it needs to expand rather than contract since currently the voluntary equestrian sector is largely populated by an older generation.

Perhaps competitors at all levels and all ages need to look towards a personal voluntary commitment if they wish their own enjoyment to continue. Just like the Blair volunteers, I'm sure they will enjoy making that contribution