2012, what a year you have been. How can I possibly do you justice in a mere few hundred words? There have been lows and dark days — the crushing disappointment of losing Badminton, the death of two much-loved horses in the Grand National — but, overall, this has been a vintage year for horse sport
Meeting my (four-legged) idol
I have to start off with the incredible Kauto Star. This time 12 months ago (give or take a few weeks), I was sitting on the sofa bawling my eyes out as this legend won his fifth King George. A perfectly normal reaction to a moment of equine sporting magnificence (although my husband, who dashed in expecting a scene of utter devastation, may disagree).
As I calmed my nerves with a steadying Drambuie (if only it was always acceptable to start on the Drambuie at 3.20pm), I reflected on not only the brilliance of his performance in this, the twilight years of his career, but on the reaction from the Kempton crowds. It was pure adoration. Why can’t we get the wider public to feel this way about racing and the wonderful horses in it?
Back in March, I was fortunate enough to meet Kauto at home when Lucinda Green rode the exemplary Big Buck’s for an H&H cover story.
When I go out on photo shoots or interviews, I like to think I convey a certain sangfroid. Not in this instance. I was out of my car and over to Kauto’s stable like a shot, which is why I chose the above picture of me and Kauto — and my ridiculous grin — to illustrate my blog entry.
The joy of coming face to face with an equine idol never diminishes (and I am pleased to report he was utterly lovely in every way. Even Lucinda wanted her photo taken with him).
(Non) Ladies’ Day
My husband likes to regale friends with tales of my armchair ‘riding style’. The first time he watched racing on the TV with me, he received something of a shock owing to my propensity to shout, squeak and flap each of my limbs around in a wild manner. I am nothing if not a lady.
On Champions Day, he found something random in the garden to distract himself with for the duration of Frankel’s final race. It was a wise move.
There really is nothing more to be said about this freak of a horse. I’ve been mad about racing since I was a little girl and I’ve never seen a Flat racehorse like him. Moreover, there are hundreds of people with a much deeper knowledge and appreciation of racing that me — and the general consensus is that they have never seen anything like him.
How lucky we are to have been witness to his incredible story.
Squawking at the TV
I have always loved the Olympics. The melting pot of countries. Staying up late as a little girl because of the time difference (OK, not this year, but still). The stories of pluck and determination and the chance to get utterly absorbed in sports that you’ve never taken an interest in before (this time, I developed a fascination for fencing).
So, as you can imagine, I was very much looking forward to London 2012. However, even I was not immune to the pessimistic Brit (and Londoner) routine. The weather will be awful. The traffic doesn’t even bear thinking about. We will come last at everything.
Fortunately, I am not in demand as a soothsayer. It was a wild success — although personally, our position in the medal table doesn’t allay my concerns over the huge amount of money spent on the Games — and Equestrian Team GBR more than delivered.
Even here in H&H towers there was a great sense of camaraderie as we piled round the TV cheering on our riders. We rode every showjump with Zara, held our breath for Peter Charles’ final round (“surely he can’t do it? Oh my goodness, he has!”) and erupting into cheers and squawks (that may have just been me) when Charlotte’s freestyle score was read out.
2012 was simply a fantastic year for British equestrianism. Here’s to more of the same, and best wishes to you all, for 2013.
Horse & Hound celebrates an incredible 12 months for the equestrian world in our 2012 Review of the Year magazine (6 December, 2012). Grab your copy from your local stockist or buy a digital issue online now.