April 29, 2008

As Charity of the Year at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, the Blue Cross is looking to heighten its profile and raise awareness and funds to support the animals in its care.

The internationally renowned event, from May 1-4, is attended by thousands of spectators and some of the world's finest event horses and riders.

"The Blue Cross is incredibly honoured to have been chosen as Charity of the Year and we are planning to grasp the opportunity with both hands," Tony Samuel, Blue Cross director of marketing and fundraising said. "We have recruited a huge team of staff and volunteers to help us collect donations at the event and tell the public about our work caring for thousands of sick and homeless animals every year."

As well as talking to staff and volunteers, Badminton visitors will have the opportunity to meet some of the Blue Cross horses that are currently looking for homes. Equines are taken in by the charity for a variety of reasons, from neglect to behavioural difficulties or simply a change in the owner's personal or financial circumstances. After a period of rehabilitation, staff will seek a suitable loan home for each horse or pony based on their individual needs.

Badminton visitors should look out for a riding display featuring staff and horses from The Blue Cross equine centres in Burford (Oxon) and Rolleston (Staffs) at 10am on Saturday morning in the main arena. Two lucky horses will also have the rare opportunity to lead out the Parade of Competitors on Sunday at 1.50pm. The final selection is yet to be made but the experience is guaranteed to be a life-changing moment for the staff and horses involved.

"All the staff at the centre are really excited about going to Badminton," Vicki Alford, manager of The Blue Cross equine centre in Burford said. "We've been busy working on the riding display and making sure all the horses look their best for the big day. Some people assume that animals end up at The Blue Cross because no-one else wants them or they are good for nothing. This is our chance to prove them wrong and show the quality of our horses.

As tradition serves, one of the cross-country fences at Badminton has been named after The Blue Cross as Charity of the Year. The 'Blue Cross Roundtops' is a new fence for 2008 to replace the Sunken Road. It should prove a real challenge for riders who will face a narrow box jump, then down into a ditch, up a slope, and over another narrow jump.

One of the top riders to support The Blue Cross is Mary King, Olympic competitor and former Badminton winner. Mary is a strong contender for this year's trophy, competing on two horses, Imperial Cavalier and Appache Sauce. Fans will have the chance to meet Mary King at an autograph signing on the Blue Cross stand at 2pm on Thursday 1 May.

The Blue Cross stand, next to the organiser's office, will also feature competitions, information about the charity and details of all the horses and ponies that are currently available for loan.