Blair Castle International Horse Trials’ announcement (March 20) that the organisers have called time on the prestigious CC1* and CC4* eventing classes along with the increasingly popular Scottish Grassroots Eventing Festival has caused great disappointment across the eventing world and beyond.

After 35 years of staging a major event, Atholl Estates have found it necessary to make 2024 its last due a change in management policy in favour of regenerative farming. With the massive costs involved in staging such an event, it is little wonder and a pattern of venue loss currently observed across Britain.

It is a major loss to Scottish eventers and to some extent show jumpers since they too had an extensive programme of affiliated and non-affiliated showjumping competitions during three days of the Trials; Pony Club games also featured. Not to be forgotten is the loss to the showing community, which was introduced to provide alternative entertainment for visitors to the Trials and its accompanying Country Fair.

Over recent years the popularity of the showing classes has rocketed with huge entries piling in from all parts of Scotland. Needless to say the venue itself has been a great attraction and the location incomparable. Apart from the midges and the entry and stabling costs, what was there not to like about competing at Blair Castle?

There is no doubt that there will be a great celebration at the final event this August however with it comes the reality that it marks the end of an era and a great void in the showing calendar. In the interest of the showing industry at all costs there must be a way found to fill it – my sources tell me that behind the scenes, work is already in progress to make this happen. Could a Scottish Festival of Showing take over from Blair?

A major hurdle to be crossed is that of venue, a sore subject for all show organisers at all levels, largely due to size, availability and huge costs involved in staging such an event without the support of a paying public. The back drop of an imposing house and estate setting in Central Scotland would be ideal but where? That’s the key question. Then there is the accommodation required for rings, parking and stabling along with easy access to major roads – another problem.

Finding a suitable date at a busy time of the summer could be yet another key issue. Problems, problems, problems but, as they say, where there is a will there is a way.

The Scottish breeds, Clydesdale, Highland and Shetland, are well placed to support such an initiative and I am sure that the relevant breed societies will have a significant contribution to make. The two main pony societies in Scotland, NPS and BSPS, will have the interests of their members at heart and a track record of making things happen so I’m confident that an organising group can come together to take the issue forward. Where there is a distinct lack of responsible organisations available to make a contribution lies within the horse showing sections of which there are several such as hunters, riding horses, cobs not to mention working hunters.

BHS Scotland generously supports the last mentioned with qualifiers throughout the year but have no governance over the other showing sections which leaves it poorly placed to become involved. In this respect, it will be up to some of our experienced horse exhibitors, retired or otherwise, to join the band of volunteers, who will make this happen.

This is something for the future but in the meantime there has been an encouraging start to the show season with better entries than last year round the local agricultural shows and good weather prevailed. NPS Scotland, one of the few organisers to insist upon pre-show entries, welcomed a big entry to its Spring Show at Oatridge with a 90% entry forward over the two days. Interestingly it produced that rare commodity, an accurate catalogue, which provided throughout the day a useful guide for spectators and exhibitors alike.

Needless to say the timetable was a far-cry from that of its very first show held in conjunction with Stirling Agricultural Show on the parks at the old Kildean Market in 1974.