An odd cross-country day at Badminton Horse Trials

  • “That’s it folks,” said the steward by the Lake, turning to the crowd. He explained that Polly Stockton, the last rider on the course, had retired at fence seven.

    The news slowly spread among a slightly disappointed crowd, signalling a mass-release of panting dogs, who dived into the water after each other. It was the only proper dunking we saw all day.

    From the spectating side of things, the weather today had been perfection — sunny yet not too hot. The erratic rider flow around the course was rather less perfect, and even Badminton visitors who were clearly very irregular equestrian spectators were alert to the burning debate of Badminton 2007 — the lack of runners due to the state of the ground.

    “I should think there will be fallout from this, won’t there?” said one woman behind me in the crowds at fence 17. “He’s really scraping the barrel now,” commented another, as the PA commentator ran through sponsors’ credentials for the umpteenth time during one particularly long delay.

    In the event, 22 horses completed the dressage but scratched before the cross country, 56 started in all and only 43 completed.

    Tragically, two horses died today — neither death could in any way be attributed to the ground or course conditions — adding to the very mixed emotions of this day.

    We’d seen sensational, gutsy rounds from the girls filling first and second places overnight; high jinks and ice-creams from a sunny, sun-baked crowd; disagreement among the riders about the acceptability of the ground conditions, and public disappointment that favourite stars had withdrawn.

    But the overall summary would have to be that the bulk of the withdrawals were British, and the leaderboard is dominated by foreigners (though Lucinda Fredericks, British born without any hint of an Aussie twang, still feels like one of “us”).

    It’s been a odd sort of cross-country day. And the fallout and post event analysis will run and run.

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