Three days after returning from the Europeans at Malmo, a visit to the first day of Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials reminded me sharply of the differences between British and contintental events.
Burghley is so much more vast, busy — and warm — than the Swedish event. Bolted on to Burghley, effectively, is a country and craft fair, trade fair, coporate hospitality village, horse show and food festival. But some things were constant — like seeing Ingrid Klimke’s name at the top of the leaderboard after the 1st day’s dressage. Actually, quite a few names who shone in Malmo are here on other rides besides our own Mr Fox-Pitt: like Andreas Dibowski (currently lying 2nd) and Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal.
Badminton and Burghley are the jewels in eventing’s crown, massively important events to the sport, the British public, and to the regions that host them. They also put a different complexion on the plans our top riders make for the year: our 4-stars have always been a massive focal point; and it is every owner’s dream to get a horse to them. But I get the strong sense the Germans plan their whole year around championships (European, world or Olympic), contesting 1-day events more than 3-days as they build up to them, making time for extended squad training camps (which would be difficult for British riders with large strings and multiple owners to consider) and so on.
But today for me has mostly been about business: meeting up with advertisers, checking out our new-look tradestand (go and snap yourself peering out of a mock H&H front cover); and hosting an on-stand drinks party for some of the many advertisers, writers and photographers who contribute so much to H&H.
It’s back in the office for me tomorrow before returning to Burghley at the weekend with my children to join the hordes watching the action on course.
After the British team’s disappointment in Malmo last week, I would love to see British pride restored with a home winner at Burghley. But with the Kiwis and Aussies entering their top rides (there is no championship for them in a European championship year) and Andrew Nicholson riding an incredible 3 horses here, I’m forced to bet we’ll see a foreign one.
But who would I like to see win it most? I’d love it if Pippa Funnell could bounce back from last week’s runout with a victory on Redesigned — a brilliant but fragile horse. He has all the ability, but is very lightly competed in a bid to keep him sound. He didn’t have a great Badminton, but I still find him such an exciting horse. What a story it would be if he could win here.