People often say, “It’s all relative” but I’ve decided this weekend at Badminton Horse Trials that that applies to eventing as much as anything else.
Riders come to Badminton with vastly differing hopes and expectations. That was very evident writing my feature on first-timers at Badminton for H&H a few weeks ago. I spoke to five debutants, whose aims ranged from “having fun and doing my best”, to “a personal best in each phase” or “a top 10 placing”.
Sadly, I think my feature was a jinx, as only one of these five looks like completing. That one is Ireland’s Elizabeth Power, who currently lies ninth with Kilpatrick River. Elizabeth’s round on the cross-country was one that would have pleased any rider — clear inside the time, with no major hiccups.
But “It’s all relative” and competitors’ reactions to their performances vary wildly depending on what they hope for and their position. Karin Donckers was devastated to lose the lead by accruing 6.4 time-penalties yesterday, but H&H rider diarist Dee Kennedy was beaming from ear to ear at getting her first jumping cross-country clear here. She couldn’t care less about her 7.2 time-penalties.
There were plenty of delighted first-timers yesterday: Sara Squires, a special needs teacher who was only just over the time on Star Prospect, Aaron Millar, clear inside the time with Stormstay and Ireland’s Sam Watson, another one just over the time.
Whether your time-penalties gain or lose you positions is all relative too. At the top, there were quite a number of clears inside the time, so those who tarried for a few seconds soon moved down.
It seems a little tough that Emily Llewellyn (pictured), at 19 the youngest competitor, rode a beautiful round on Society Spice, but dropped eight places for her 10.8 time-penalties. I think she’s still pretty pleased though — she’s first to jump this afternoon and will probably take home the best British first-timer and under-25 prizes.
But lower down, there were big improvements to be made: vet Tony Warr, 47, had 16.4 time-faults with Coolgrange Merger, but went up 18 places on his dressage position, from 66th to 48th. He’s one of the rare amateur riders at the top of the modern sport, so good on him. He’s just show jumped with only one down, too.
This morning’s show jumping session is nearly over as I write and then everyone’s attention will turn to the top-placed riders this afternoon. The sun is shining — I’ll need suncream on to sit in the stands — and we’ve got an afternoon of thrilling action to look forward to.
It would be nice to think everyone who gets placed will be pleased, but I suspect that won’t be the case. For those with a chance of winning, nothing but the top spot will make for total satisfaction in the lorry going home. That’s why they’re in the position to start with, because they are true competitors.
A completion, 10th place, second or first — it’s all relative.
Log back on to www.horseandhound.co.uk later for the final installment of rider Dee Kennedy’s diary and a report at the end of the competition.
Don’t forget to buy H&H next week (14 May) — our 15-page Badminton report will include comments from Carl Hester, Mark Todd and Tina Cook, plus full cross-country course analysis and plenty of colour photographs.