Behind the scenes at Blenheim

  • If there were 400 people watching the dressage today at Blenheim Horse Trials, 100 of them were invisible. “Is anyone sitting here?” I asked one woman sitting alone on a table with five chairs, “Yes.” She replied very definitely, “There are people on each chair.” You could have fooled me, I thought to myself, particularly when an hour later she still seemed to be sitting on her own.

    I asked another woman whether I could perch on a chair that her dog was tied to. “No,” I was told again, “there is someone sitting there.” As far as I could see he or she was sitting underneath the chair but I wasn’t going to waste time arguing – that was yesterday’s game (see blog, 31 August).

    Finally I was reluctantly given a chair by a woman using one for herself and another for her Dubarry boot clad feet. It was a little dirty but a chair nonetheless.

    I can understand why seats in front of the dressage are so sought after. The standard of horsemanship at Blenheim today was exceptional and finding a good place to watch it from was worth the game of musical chairs. Wild card Jo May flew into second place as the judges breaked for lunch and the afternoon proved tense as each competitor failed to trump Pippa Funnell’s leading score. In the end only William Fox-Pitt and Parkmore Ed could steal the lead but their polished test was 6.9 pen off Funnell’s score. The weather also began to play some games – pouring rain during Lucy Wiegersma’s test and blazing sunshine as Lucy Holliday entered the arena.

    In the break I went for a mosey around the trade stands and returned with a bottle of fabric conditioner, a bag of cereal and a 2 for 1 voucher on a jousting day at Blenheim Palace next weekend – all free so definitely worth losing my seat for. It was also good to see the eventing crowd out and about. Joss Gray’s dog getting tangled up in the lead of another dog, William Fox-Pitt conducting a guided course walk and Julie Tew, Holly Farr and the two Leslies (Law and his fiancée) all enjoying some shopping.

    Tomorrow’s cross-country will not be a question of finding a seat but strolling around Mike Etherington-Smith’s beautifully designed course before finding a good picnic spot by the lake. At Barbury I met the three bears but at Blenheim you get to see sea horses, warriors, owls, ducks, pigs and dolphins. I suggest grabbing a Pimms from the stand near fence five and enjoying a view of fences five and six as well as the two lake crossings.

    And as you’re watching top international event riders take on Blenheim’s challenging course, spare a thought for those who have a guaranteed seat tomorrow. It is one thing sitting in the sun (or rain) and watching the dressage, but quite another sitting at a fence all day judging competitors. I don’t expect there will be too many invisible fence judges and their dogs on the cross-country tomorrow.

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