Badminton, fashion critiques and selfies with my Eventing hero

 

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Hard on the heels of a thrilling Rolex Kentucky comes the most prestigious four star event in Europe. It’s Badminton time! The ‘Jungernaut’ dominated State side last week and he heads to Badminton with a live chance of winning not only the 4*title, but of also collecting the much coveted Rolex Grand Slam bonus purse of $350, 000. To win the Grand Slam, a rider must consecutively win Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky CCI4* events. The only rider to previously do so was Pippa Funnell in 2003. She won Kentucky Three Day on Primmore’s Pride, Badminton Horse Trials on Supreme Rock and then Burghley Horse Trials-again on Primmore’s Pride. Michael Jung won Burghley in 2015 aboard his great servant La Biosthetique Sam, and last week he took the Rolex title with the mare FischerRocana FST. He is at Badminton with Sam, and no one would dare bet against him.

Alongside the main four-star event, Badminton holds a ‘Grassroots’ championship for qualified non-professional riders at BE90 and BE100 level on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the event. I grabbed the chance to travel over and follow the fortunes of ‘Cider With Charlie’ in the BE100 along with his breeder Oonagh Fitzgibbon and also the agent who sourced and sold him in Ireland, Judi Goor. Long time supporter James Conway made up the dream team, and off we went. I was pretty bleary eyed leaving the house at 3:00 am – especially having been wide awake all night for reasons unknown – but spirits were up and we landed at Badminton at around 9:00 am. Surviving on a sea of caffeine and sweeties, we watched the Grassroots riders battle it out and then had a look at some of the fences on the four-star course. The ‘Oxer Chicane’ fence at six was the first one I saw, and it looked pretty jumpable. The same can’t be said for the formidable ‘Huntsman’s Close’ combination at seven. It is truly massive, requiring extreme accuracy and leaving you no time between the gargantuan corners to do anything but kick and pray.

Everything is bigger on the TV, and after many years of watching Badminton on the gogglebox I was pretty surprised at how small the lake is in person. The famous feature is really not much bigger than your average Irish pond. The combination of fences through it are mostly made of very inviting soft brush this year. Course designer Guiseppe Della Chiesa remarked in an earlier interview that he had deliberately made the water a softer option this time due to its close proximity to the end of the course, as he didn’t want to punish tired horses. My only comment on this is that the Mitsubishi Pickups ‘Silver Anniversary L200’s’ fence immediately before the first brush into water was so big that I could barely see over it….

Just a jump it..

Just a jump it..

 

The shopping at Badminton was truly fantastic, although I highly doubt my husband will agree when the bank statement arrives. Everything your heart desires was on offer, from saddles to high end fashion and anything in between. Heaven. Luckily for my husband, the restrictive airport baggage allowance meant that I had to leave the Devoucoux behind, although there’s always the post option…

 

Mark Todd & LEONIDAS II

Mark Todd & LEONIDAS II

There’s no rest for the wicked, and at 4.30 pm we abandoned shopping and headed over to watch the trot up in front of the iconic Badminton House. The style varied widely, but particular eye catchers included Vittoria Panizzon in full Italian Airforce dress, and Ben Hobday in an unusual but very dapper tweed suit. Mark Todd was the king of cool in a sharp suit, and rather sadly Michael Jung yet again disappointed with his lack of Lederhosen

For me, the biggest thrill of all was getting to meet one of my Eventing heroes – Canadian. Kyle Carter. Kyle rides a horse called Cooley Nothing Better B that we bred and then produced as a young horse, and I have had the privilege of following their progress over the last few years. Kyle always has his eye on the long game and produces his horses accordingly – demonstrated to best effect at Rolex last week by his Pan Am Games and Olympic horse, the 18-year-old Thoroughbred, Madison Park. Looking better than ever before and loving every minute of the event, Parker was a joy to watch. Kyle is at Badminton for the week coaching American, Libby Head and her ex racehorse, Sir Rockstar. Chatting to Kyle, it is immediately apparent how much he loves his horses, and also how carefully he structures his competitive life to work around his family. He is a brilliant rider, but more importantly he is a truly great person. I can’t wait to catch up with Kyle, Jennifer and the Five Ring crew next spring in the US.

Sadly we had to head home that evening – horses, work and children don’t permit too much gallivanting and the husband was obviously nervous of me, as he asked if I was DEFINITELY coming home in a panicked voice during a phone conversation that afternoon… Next up is Tattersalls. I can’t wait!

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