In an exclusive behind the scenes look at what’s involved in producing Britain’s only weekly equestrian magazine, H&H eventing editor Pippa Roome shares her week working on the 10 June 2010 issue, both in the office and reporting at Bramham Horse Trials.
Tuesday, 1 June
It’s page-crunch time. On Tuesday mornings, our editor Lucy Higginson has to cut back the number of pages we’ve all requested for our features and reports to fit in the available pages. There’s negotiating, plus some wailing and gnashing of teeth — we all hate having to squash our sections down, but it’s unavoidable.
I “sub” the copy for this week’s endurance round-up — correcting any grammar or spelling problems, putting it into our “house style” and so on — and email a photographer to call in a picture. He sends it straight over, so the picture desk do their bit with it and I get the page through to the art department to be laid out. Later on, I get the layout back from art and “sub the page” — cutting the copy to fit the space and writing captions — and send it out for proof reading. That done, I put the corrections on it and give it back to the art department for final sign-off. That’s the system that we work through for every editorial page in the magazine.
I take a call from a man whose working hunter pony has died. Can we put something in the magazine? I’d like to put it in our Horses in the News column, but the death was some weeks ago. As a weekly magazine, we have to be timely. I tell him to email the details and I’ll see. I also deal with some emails from people wanting work experience at H&H, another of my jobs.
In the afternoon, I’m typing in results from last weekend’s events for the Starting Box page, when Badminton email a press release saying the entry qualifications are being tightened. I think this is pretty big news, so, in consultation with our news editor Abi Butcher, I write a quick website story. It’s on our website 28 minutes after I receive the press release — not a record, but not bad.
Thursday, 3 June
I’m playing catch up today after taking a day of annual leave yesterday to do some unaffiliated dressage with my ex-eventer.
I process a driving report and the grass-roots eventing section, Starting Box. They run smoothly and are all done by mid-afternoon. As I work, I’m keeping half an eye on www.bdwp.co.uk/bra, which is being updated with the dressage scores from Bramham. I’m off there tomorrow to report.
I’ve also got to write a news story for the magazine about the new Badminton qualifications. I call Hugh Thomas, Badminton director, and then speak to Paul Graham at British Eventing and some riders.
I receive an odd card from an anonymous writer who wants to know why the eventers pictured in H&H ride so forward, while Mark Todd is “truly back and setting a brilliant example”. Had the writer developed their thoughts and put their name to it, it might have made our letters page.
During a few spare minutes I give word counts to freelancers Jo Prestwich and Gillian Newsum, who are reporting at Brand Hall and Little Downham this weekend. I also go through my email inbox, answering queries and deleting. I copy anything that might make the Horses in the News column onto a word document; one less job to do on Monday, which is press day.
Reporting at Bramham normally involves a crack of dawn start on Friday for the long drive north, but this year is different. My boyfriend John lives in York, so I take the train there after work. On the way, I write an update on the first day of dressage at Bramham — the on-train internet obliges for long enough for me to put it on the H&H website.
Friday, 4 June
I get to Bramham in time to see the final CIC dressage tests. In the press tent, I chat to the press officer, Winnie Murphy, and Hilary Manners from eventingworldwide.com before setting up my laptop to deal with emails.
Most of the day is spent in the collecting ring, watching dressage and interviewing riders. France’s Maxime Livio, who lies second overnight in the under-25 section, speaks good English — and is rather tasty. Perks of the job…
At lunchtime, I grab a couple of sandwiches and then walk the cross-country course, taking pictures for the H&H website gallery. It’s tight to make it round before the dressage re-starts at 2pm — and walking fast uphill in the hot sun, I feel like I know what the horses are in for tomorrow.
At the end of the dressage I call Mark Phillips and we chat through ideas for his column. I will make sure he gets the results and fence analyses faxed over from the press office. Mark hasn’t entered the internet age yet…
Saturday, 5 June
I see the first half hour of CIC showjumping and then it’s into the press tent to watch the cross-country on the CCTV, which is the best way to get a general impression of how the course is riding. I make notes on each rider on my timesheet.
My eyes feel completely square after seven hours staring at the screen. It’s been a good day though — plenty of action and no serious injuries.
At the end of the day, the leading riders come into the press tent. Bramham president Nick Lane Fox kindly translates for young French rider Donatien Schauly, who’s won the CIC and leads the under-25s. I’ve written my website report while we waited for the riders, so once I’ve got a quote I add that and make the report live.
Sunday, 6 June
The real work starts today. While the lower-placed under-25 riders are jumping, I type up all my notes from the past few days. This helps me remember which were the best quotes and I start planning the report.
I nip outside to watch the last 10 jump in the under-25 and then the top three come into the press tent for a final word. I put up a website update, and then get some fresh air round the tradestands.
The seniors showjump in pouring rain, but it’s brilliant to see Pippa clinch her first win at three- or four-star for five years.
I write a website story, adding a quote from Pippa after she’s come in to be interviewed.
Then it’s outside to watch the grand prix — our showjumping editor Jennifer Donald has asked me to write 200 words on this. Once it’s over, I wait for our photographer, David Miller, to burn all the pictures onto a disc for me.
We’re back in York around 7pm and I start writing. It’s always a bit of a brain-fryer constructing a big report — there’s never room for everything you want to say. Is it more important to mention this or that? I’ve interviewed Pippa four times now, and sorting out the best quotes from her is a job in itself.
John kindly shovels pasta into me in the middle of the frenzy and by 10.30pm the basic report is done. It needs cutting by about 500 words, but that’ll be easier to do with a fresh eye tomorrow.
Monday, 7 June
I’m on the 6am train to London and spend the journey cutting my Bramham report and typing up results from Little Downham and Brand Hall.
In the office at 8.45am, I’m jumping from job to job, trying to get some pages to art as quickly as possible to help the workflow. Brand Hall and Little Downham go smoothly and are completed by 2pm.
Meanwhile, Bex Pattenden on our picture desk works through the Bramham disc finding the best-placed people, but we have to wait for the cover to be chosen before we can select the main report picture. Even then it’s not easy — there are plenty of pictures of Pippa Funnell, but some are over a more interesting fence, some are better of Pippa but worse of her horse and some vice versa. Eventually, we decide and it goes to art at 1pm — later than I’d like, but not too bad.
Mark Phillips’s secretary emails his column over — brilliant news, as if he’s not at home he faxes handwritten copy which has to be rekeyed — and I make calling him with my queries and suggested changes a priority, because he’s getting on a plane at lunchtime.
I finish the Horses in the News column and make one more call to complete my news story about Badminton. Later, our deputy news editor Charlotte White passes this news page layout over to me, so I can cut the story to fit the space.
I receive a forwarded email containing an interesting letter from Yogi Breisner praising Bramham, so I call Yogi to ask if can quote him in my report.
Once I get the Bramham layout back from art, it’s full on. Lucy suggested making my box about the course bullet-pointed so it’s easier to read, so I re-work the copy and also include Yogi’s quote. I have to chop quite a bit of the Bramham report, so I incorporate some of the information into captions. I also have to cut back Mark Phillips’s copy; luckily, he’s always relaxed about this.
Then that’s out for proof-reading and I’m working on the contents page, as Victoria Marston, who normally looks after that, is on holiday. Our deputy picture editor Emma McCall and I fall in love with the cute puppy pictures going on it.
By 7pm, I’m off home — though the work isn’t finished yet at H&H. It’s satisfying to write a big report like Bramham and see it to completion — so fingers crossed it looks OK when I see the actual magazine.
H&H’s Bramham report is in the issue out this Thursday, 10 June.