I hesitated to write “Badminton at its best” on this week’s cover, knowing the purists will feel this is not the case — “the cross-country needed to be tougher”, they’ll say, “we don’t want a dressage competition”. I take their point, however as the sport continues to struggle with safety issues, I feel a weekend of top-level eventing that provided exciting competition without course holds for ambulances was no bad thing. The event’s atmosphere was joyous and as a spectator sport it was superb — you could wait at fence 27 and expect the next horse round in a few minutes, rather than half-an-hour as in the previous year when they dropped out like flies.
More than five hours of BBC red button coverage — recorded and watched on my return home — proved an eventing enthusiast’s heaven, with masterclass after masterclass in cross-country riding by the world’s best. This was enhanced by Harry Meade’s excellent commentary, the most candidly informative I’ve heard on TV — give that man a microphone more often.
That’s not to say the dressage wasn’t a tad too influential, which in turn begs the need for judges’ marks to be completely on the money — something that wasn’t always the case.
The pressure William Fox-Pitt was under to showjump clear made for a cliffhanger ending, and a visibly emotional victory for one of Britain’s favourite jockeys — that stiff upper lip softened.
It was a pleasure, too, to see other Brits riding superbly on horses relatively new to this level — boding well for this summer’s Europeans at Blair. This will be one event I will be enjoying as a spectator rather than a member of the media, being as I am off to the foaling box tomorrow. I leave the magazine in the terribly capable hands of Kylie O’Brien and our superb H&H team, and look forward to being back in time for Olympia.
Ref: H&H 14 May, 2015