EQUESTRIAN favourites return to Barbury Horse Trials today (Thursday) for the start of four days of pre-Olympics competition.

This year’s format sees the inclusion of an additional four-star dressage competition, which has attracted the entire GB team.

A bumper entry of more than 900 horse-and-rider combinations are set to compete at the event which takes place from June 28 to July 1.

With the Olympic equestrian events at Greenwich Park just four weeks later, many riders will be using Barbury as their final competitive practice event before travelling to London.

The British Eventing team of William Fox-Pitt, Kristina Cook, Mary King, Piggy French and Zara Phillips hold multiple entries across the Barbury weekend, including their respective Olympic horses: Lionheart, Miners Frolic, Imperial Cavalier, DHI Trooper W and High Kingdom. Team GB riders will also feature in an additional unaffiliated FEI four-star dressage test tomorrow (Friday). The show jumping test takes place on Saturday.

Across the four days, international entries have been received from New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, while the United States – under their Chef d'Equipe Captain Mark Phillips, designer of the Barbury cross country course – send 12 riders. Today’s schedule (Thursday) is packed with two- and three-star dressage action and also showcases the Burghley Young Event Horse competition, which features the equine stars of tomorrow.

On Friday, the Olympic-bound GB dressage team – Gloucestershire trio Laura Bechtolsheimer, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin – will compete in an unaffiliated competition riding their Olympic dressage test before the crowd. The novice competition will also run alongside the Retraining of Racehorses dressage event.

Saturday and Sunday will feature show jumping and cross country in abundance as horses and riders negotiate the magnificent Barbury cross country course which can be viewed almost in its entirety from the main arena.

On Sunday, all eyes will turn to the prestigious three-star cross country, with riders going in reverse order of placing. Pippa Funnell, on Billy Landretti, landed the spoils at last year’s event in a nail-biting finish.

This year’s winner will walk away with £5,000 in prize money, generously sponsored by St James's Place Wealth Management, based in Cirencester.

Local entries include Marlborough’s Andrew Nicholson, Farmington’s Julie Tew, who will ride Simply Sox, and Swindon’s up-and-coming young eventer Tom McEwen who has seven entries including Private Rudolf and Dry Old Party.

Stanton St Quinton’s Kitty King will compete with her promising mare Zidante and Membury’s Laura Collett will be making the short drive from her home to ride three horses over the weekend.

The event includes not only top-class eventing and dressage action but also incorporates the Wiltshire County Show.

The show presents visitors with a celebration of rural life on the Saturday and Sunday and offers something for everyone, including pedigree livestock, agricultural machinery, specialist cars, sheep shearing and sheep dog trials, as well as ferret and llama racing.

The inaugural CGA Festival of Food will transform the show into a food lover’s paradise. A series of cookery demonstrations from celebrity chefs in the AGA Rangemaster Cookery theatre will be the highlight, alongside a food bonanza of home-made produce and innovative cookery ideas.

Gates open each day at 8am and adult tickets are £15 on the gate for Saturday and Sunday. Thursday and Friday is free entry.