By the time you read this, Badminton will be under way. It will be interesting to see the course. From what I can tell, it’s less intense and a bit kinder than last year, particularly through the middle section — but until you get there you don’t really know.
I think horses cope better with the track when it runs left-handed, as this year. Now that we no longer finish in front of the house, the climb up to Huntsman’s Close and the Quarry on the right-hand route is tough on horses.
I’m hoping for good ground. With a bit of rain — but not too much — it should be perfect. My poor horse, Leonidas II, has hardly done a three-day event on good ground — his last three have been the World Equestrian Games (WEG), Badminton and Boekelo, all of which were testing, so it would be nice to see how good going suits him.
Badminton is Badminton. You always need to respect it and can never afford to be complacent. It’s now 35 years since I first competed there — most of my fellow competitors this week probably weren’t born then!
That 1980 event was one of the tough years. I think there were only three clears inside the time across country. With no CCTV then you didn’t really know what was going on, apart from what the commentary told you. You relied on “spotters” around the course — Sally O’Connor, whom I had met at the World Championships in Lexington in 1978, didn’t know what to say to me as there had been so few finishers by the time I went, so just said that everything was fine and I should ride it as I had planned. It was probably the best thing she could have said — I set off, stuck to my plan and it all worked out.
So much has changed — now we can watch every rider at virtually every fence on TV.
The luck of the draw
The drawn order for Badminton is interesting this year. Unusually, most of the two-horse riders have had their best horse drawn first — except for some of the Brits! Is it really just the “luck of the draw”, or are they particularly keen to have a British winner for the first time since 2009?
US are way behind
Apart from the couple of US riders in the top 10 , the Kentucky results showed that the standard of eventing in the US is way behind that in Europe. From what we could see on TV, there is a noticeable difference. The Americans must be thanking their lucky stars (and stripes) that now the Canadians have qualified for the Rio Olympics after the French were disqualified from WEG — and the Brazilians get a free pass as the home nation — they only really have to turn up and complete a team at the Pan Am Games to qualify.
But Kentucky course-designer Derek di Grazia is establishing himself as one of the world’s leading designers. His tracks are big and inviting without being trappy, and they get results. Proper cross-country.
One of the great things about going to Kentucky is how welcome you are made to feel. They go out of their way, asking if there is anything you need or anything they can do. The food is great and owners are well looked after — the whole experience is good. It’s not always the same at British events…
Ref: H&H 7 May, 2015