So, after four days at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, here are my top 10 moments, horses, unused quotes and, for want of a better word, “things”:
• Mixed zone breakout. Journalists are kept in a playpen on the side of the collecting ring, with a TV showing the action, and riders are brought to us for interview by Peter Morris and his team. They do a great job and this works well. However, after Jock Paget’s victory yesterday, we were suddenly allowed to spill out into the collecting ring and interview anyone we could catch. Brilliant.
• Master Crusoe. Aoife Clark’s ride (pictured) looks like the perfect little package and is the horse I most wanted to take home.
• The Rolex Grand Slam. I know it didn’t quite happen, but the frisson it added to the event was immense. William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson kept the story going by being competitive throughout and both fulfilled their media obligations well above and beyond the call of duty, giving us fantastic material.
• The couple of quiet hours in the mixed zone during the middle of cross-country day. Of course the start and end of the day were fantastically exciting — top combination following top combination — but my favourite part was when the mainstream media left and it was less busy. Talking to first-timers at this time was a joy. My favourite story was from Louisa Milne Holme, whose King Eider overcame recent veterinary problems to compete — more in H&H on Thursday.
• The moment in a pub when I tried to explain how to guesstimate an eventing FEI dressage test score accurately as the test progresses. My boyfriend’s response was: “You have no idea how boring she is to live with.” The next part of the conversation is not suitable for a family website… but I haven’t laughed so much in a long time.
• Mark Todd rolling up to Andrew Nicholson and making a joke as we finished interviewing him during the aforementioned collecting ring madness. We are privileged to witness these light-hearted moments between riders. The joke? Ah, you’ll have to buy H&H on Thursday to find out.
• Interviewing Bettina Hoy and Pippa Funnell after dressage. I have linked these two because they both gave me fantastic interviews, full of emotion about the horses they love and how they manage them (both Lanfranco TSF and Redesigned have their quirks). Unfortunately, neither went well on Sunday, so here’s a quote from each of them which I couldn’t use in the report:
“He’s been so excited to be out all week — not naughty, just distracted. But he was so relaxed when I got on for the test, I felt his brain was finally with me. I had a lump in my throat when he stopped at the end of the test — he was saying he wasn’t going to move until I told him he could.” Pippa Funnell
“Hans Melzer [German team trainer] knew him as a three-year-old and said he’d never seen a horse that age that was so difficult. The first half year I had him, his ears were always back hacking out, he was so angry. He does the work for me now; I don’t think he would do it for anyone else.” Bettina Hoy
• On the same theme of quotes I couldn’t use, here’s my favourite from the Rolex lunch with William Fox-Pitt: “The Rolex Grand Slam would undoubtedly be the most significant thing I’ve won. Would it change my look on the sport or the horses? No. But I don’t think you could better it. [He couldn’t or wouldn’t say if it would be better than an Olympic gold] but an Olympic gold wouldn’t change me either, I’m too old. Winning Burghley at 26, winning Badminton in 2004 — those things changed my life. Winning this wouldn’t change my life — but it would be magic.”
• Betting. When we discovered the online odds on Thursday, myself and Catherine Austen — former eventing editor and all-round hero for handling the press day in the office yesterday while I did the writing — had a field day. Sandra Auffarth at 33/1? Yes please. Stefano Brecciaroli at 100/1? Oh boy, yes please. We even swept dressage editor Alice Collins along in the frenzy. In the end, Catherine and I bet on the same seven people — and we picked seven of the top eight. The only problem? The one of those we didn’t pick was the winner.
• Coming into the office this morning and seeing the page proofs. Firing the words off by email yesterday, I could only imagine what the team in the office, who worked a 17-hour day, were doing to turn them into the huge special report we have produced. Going through the pages this morning was a joy — readers are in for a treat on Thursday.
Don’t miss H&H’s 28-page Badminton report, including background on the winning horse and rider, full analysis of each phase, comment from Judy Harvey, Ian Stark and Mark Phillips, Grassroots Championships and much more.