OPINION

Having made the six-hour drive to Burnham Market, we unloaded our five horses and
my head groom Jess Errington handed me my Badminton-bound grey Away Cruising to graze. He looked a picture thanks to Jess’ usual hard work, so when he unexpectedly rolled in the Norfolk mud I was left with a lot of explaining to do!

The direction of Burnham Market’s cross-country course had been changed, which gave it a new feel with a significant uphill pull and more flow.

The layout had three big loops, each returning to the central spectator mound. Next to this, course-designer and organiser Alec Lochore had put three serious combinations, one of which was jumped in the first third of the course, one in the second and one in the final third. Cleverly, it was done in such a way that the course didn’t feel twisty — the horses were always smoothly travelling forward, and you were never sent in a circle, which hampers a horse’s forwards “draw”.

I didn’t think the track was that difficult when I walked it, but it caused enough problems.

Last year, bold horses were somewhat punished at tight turning direct routes that were not obvious to horses. This year, while there were two difficult turning questions, if ridden at the right speed the horses could jump through with pricked ears, always drawing forward.

So many one-day event courses feel cramped on a galloping horse, but this was a rewarding, flowing track to ride.

When the final day was sadly cancelled, a couple of us rang Alec to ask if there was the possibility of a school around the three-star course. As an ex-rider he appreciates how limited the window is for getting runs in ahead of Badminton. I was very grateful to be able to run through the warm-up and competition for all three phases.

Vehicles and ambulances could not have moved around, but the light soil meant it wasn’t holding for horses. Training in less-than-ideal conditions can give confident horses a depth of experience for competition.

What stood out during a sodden few days was the volunteers’ enthusiasm; how lucky we are to have this stoic and hard-working army who keep the show on the road and make the sport welcoming and fun.

Remembering Mike

Mike Tucker’s death has been a shock to all. For an entire generation, his voice was synonymous with equestrian sport, but he was so much more than his celebrated
commentary career.

During and after finishing eventing he had many different roles — what he gave back to the sport is humbling and a great example to the rest of us.

Mike’s interest in eventing was sparked when he groomed for my father’s ride Cornishman at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. As locals, we saw a lot of him and when I had my bad fall in 2013 he and his wife Angela were particularly supportive. Mike was also responsible for getting me involved in commentary and it’s a privilege to have overlapped with such a great of the game.

He will be remembered fondly by so many.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 5 April 2018