It’s lunchtime at Badminton Horse Trials. The first 30 horses have showjumped — we’re just waiting for the top 20 now. There’s a definite twang of tension in the air.
We’re so nearly at the finish line — the organisers want a smooth conclusion without any disasters, the journalists have got copy deadlines looming, the owners are on edge because they feel its all out of their hands now.
And the riders’ hearts are beating like sledgehammers, even if they are presenting a calm, smiling face to the world. Badminton just matters so much. Go well here and your year is a triumph. Go badly, and even if you win everything between now and October, you might not make up for it. The event has the power to turn everything topsy turvy — team selection, owners wanting you to ride their horse, sponsorship deals.
And those, ultimately, are just ephemera. What really matters is your own sense of achievement — can you honestly say to yourself that you performed the absolute best that you could have done? Riders are unforgiving beasts and anyone who made a mistake yesterday will be beating themselves up about it. “I could of… I should of… I didn’t… My fault.”
This of course is one of the most endearing things about eventing — whoever heard of a footballer blaming himself? But it does make it a cruel, heartless sport at times. If fate was fair, Francis Whittington would have put his meningitis scare behind him with a clear round yesterday and Ruth Edge wouldn’t have fallen off when Two Thyme landed too short after the ditch. No British team places for them, again.
It’s time to go and watch the top 20. Only one thing is for sure — in an hour and a half’s time we will have a new Badminton champion, and for that person, the sun will shine for a very long time.