My Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials was a good one. Both my horses jumped clear across country, and Leonidas II (pictured earlier this year) topped that with a clear showjumping round and fourth. I’ve always held him in high regard and it was nice that he proved me right.
Some of the dressage judging was too far out of kilter. You will never get away from the human element, but people spend a lot of time, money and effort preparing for top events and it is wrong that they should have to suffer incorrect judging. I echo Carl Hester’s thoughts that perhaps it is time for a judges’ supervisory panel at top horse trials, as in pure dressage.
There was too much variation between the judging on the first day and on the second — and certainly the competitors on Friday afternoon were far more leniently treated.
I’m not talking about my own tests, but it was noticeable. And, despite Andrew Nicholson holding the lead from the first morning, the horses in the first session on Thursday, which included many of the best there, were generally judged very cautiously.
The weather played a big part on cross-country day again — but in the opposite way to last year. The ground was practically perfect.
We knew the intensity of the course had been greatly reduced, especially around the Vicarage ditch area. There were also many more straightforward fences throughout, which was a good thing, although I agree with Mark Phillips that they were three-star, rather than four-star, let-ups.
But the field was weaker than last year — those at the bottom of the wait-list, who all got a run, hardly had any FEI points — and I think we would have had the same result with a tougher course.
And after last year’s four-stars, it was nice to see all the horses finishing well and they should come away from it feeling good.
Was it a true four-star track? Probably not.
The showjumping was certainly up to height. There were no trick distances, but much of it was on related strides, and obstacles between jumps stopped you taking shorter lines. This meant you had to move at a good pace to avoid time-faults, upping the likelihood of a rail down.
The phase played a big influence and was exciting to watch. It’s a very nice feeling going in to jump on a careful horse you know will try hard to leave the fences up.
The horses who did have poles down were all ones we knew could, so there were no real surprises.
One of the highlights of the whole weekend for me was the young Brazilian rider Gabriel Cury, whom I train, and my old ride Grass Valley’s cross-country round, which I thought was one of the best of the day. They are now a super partnership in the jumping phases.
Packing for Badminton made me think about how the sport has changed in 25 years.
Back then, all we worried about was whether we had enough alcohol — and sufficient painkillers for the morning after. This year, it was all about health foods, comfy pillows so I can get enough sleep and yoga mats to keep me stretching!
Why the clash?
As I write this, I’m in Portugal enjoying a few days off with my wife, Carolyn, and planning the rest of the season.
A question — why are Tattersalls and Houghton taking place on the same dates with virtually the same classes? It’s ludicrous — we don’t exactly have an abundance of these events. I’d go to both, as would many others, but this year I’m going to Ireland to Tattersalls.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 21 May 2015