H&H eventing editor’s blog: an embarrassing Barbury Horse Trials anniversary

  • I’ve been Horse & Hound eventing editor 10 years today.

    I always count the Monday after Barbury as the anniversary. It’s not necessarily strictly true, date-wise, but for me it will always be the day I moved across from H&H’s now-defunct sister magazine Eventing — where I was assistant editor for a year — to be eventing editor at H&H.

    Why do I remember it so clearly? Well…

    On that day, I was sitting at my desk. Editing reports, choosing pictures, doing the press day things, feeling excited but a little nervous in my new job.

    Suddenly, the phone rang. It was Mark Phillips (pictured with me above) ringing about his column. Now I was even more nervous. It’s not every day you speak to an Olympic gold medallist and world-renowned cross-country course-designer.

    “Hello Captain Phillips.”

    “Pippa. What were you doing in my ditch?”

    Utter mortification.

    This was the first year of Barbury Horse Trials and I was reporting on the big class on Sunday, my last hurrah for Eventing. But I had entered the novice class on Saturday with my horse VIP — known as Peanut.

    We set off across country and all went fairly well until I reached the fourth or fifth fence, a big open ditch and hedge. Something went wrong — I didn’t ride forwards, I missed my stride, who knows? Peanut ended up jumping straight into the ditch, instead of over the ditch and hedge.

    And here was Mark Phillips asking me about it. He’d seen me landing in the ditch. He thought his new eventing editor was a total idiot/bad rider/hopeless case. How embarrassing. Aargh. I launched into a length explanation of what had happened.

    Then he gave me his assessment.

    “I think you forgot to kick.”

    Fair enough. He was probably right.

    Fortunately my relationship with Mark has improved since then. The day he told me to stop calling him Captain Phillips was a bit of a landmark (it took a year or two) and 10 years on, I rather enjoy our chats.

    No serious harm was done to Peanut or me during our escapade in the ditch. I remembered how to kick and before he retired in 2008, we had plenty more good days eventing — but I’m not sure Mark saw any of those.

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