Lush, sun-soaked and awash with sunglasses and tail-wagging Labradors, Badminton looks majestic.
But the other by product of this glorious spring – the hard ground – has been the dominant topic among the riders, eclipsing the usual debates about the trickiest fences and most time-saving routes.
Fox-Pitt has already withdrawn his one remaining ride and gone home; the hot rumour is that Zara Phillips (pictured) may do the same with Toytown. She has no back up horse and defending her European title later this year is her priority for 2007. There is huge pressure on event director Hugh Thomas to do something remarkable with the going.
Certainly there is frenzied activity on that front – tonnes and tonnes of top soil are going down; a horse has ‘test-galloped’ over a treated stretch; take offs and landings are being watered; agri-vators are hard at work.
But Badminton is more accustomed to surviving a soaking; this is new territory.
It is wonderful to see three mares in the top 10 after the first day’s dressage, two of them chestnuts. Headley Britannia is one of them, who put in her now-customary fabulous test with overnight leader Lucinda Fredericks. What power she produces in her extensions for a little horse. Then there is Ruth Edge’s Marsh Mayfly, and the other chestnut, Sammi McLeod’s Enchanted.
Tomorrow’s dressage line up features a glittering cast: the great, much-loved Over To You, Germany’s super-talented Frank Ostholt, American visitor Kim Severson with her hugely successful Winsome Adante, former European Champion Nicolas Touzaint, Zara Phillips (fingers crossed) – and that’s just before lunch.
Stay in touch with all the latest from Badminton on Horseandhound.co.uk with twice daily reports from H&H eventing editor Pippa Roome; blogs from H&H Editor Lucy Higginson and Pippa Roome; a daily round up of the best shopping bargains; and a picture gallery of Badminton Horse Trials highlights after the event.
Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s full 18-page magazine report, including fantastic photographs capturing the best of the action, a run down on the problem cross-country fences, former Badminton winner Ginny Elliot’s view of the winning performance and the final scoreboard, on sale 10 May ’07.