“I doubt they’ll get to the end of the day,” said the wise owner next to me as we stood with our backs to the rain, watching the start of the advanced intermediate (AI) showjumping at Tweseldown this morning (Thursday, 5 March).
I never really like to predict whether events will cancel, but I had just put forward the view that I doubted I’d get my BE90 run on Sunday, that I thought it was unlikely the event would run tomorrow, let alone through to its fourth and final day.
As it turned out, the owner was right.
There was standing water in the intermediate showjumping ring and after watching the AI horses jump — because standing in the rain is worth it to see the likes of Kitty King on Vendredi Biats, Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy and Tom Crisp with Liberty And Glory and Coolys Luxury — I pottered over to the lower-level showjumping arena, where BE100 horses were also leaping out of mud.
Up at the dressage warm-up, my doubts about the next few days of competition only increased. There wasn’t a lot of grass left amid the sea of brown, after just one morning of damage. Ugh.
I crossed the road and walked out on to the cross-country course. The going near the start didn’t look too terrible, but knowing three fences had already come out of the intermediate track made me even more sure this competition was not going to run its course.
My parents were fence judging at fence five, so I sheltered in their car and watched the final BE100s, intending to walk the course once the AI started jumping. But it never happened. We had moved into position for my parents to judge their intermediate fence and the radio check had happened, but then the voice came over the tannoy announcing the event was abandoned.
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Cancellations are tough on competitors, whether it’s professionals trying to prep horses for Badminton and keep owners happy or amateurs like me (I lost my last three events of 2019 too, between cancellations from lack of entries and weather, so my horse hasn’t actually run since last June).
They are tougher still on organisers. When you’re at the event, it’s all too obvious how much work — and money — has already gone into prepping four courses, the arenas and more. All must now be taken down, largely unused but with what use there has been having already made a lot of mess. That muddy mess now has to be repaired so the venue can continue to offer schooling and competitions. My heart goes out to organisers Rachael Faulkner and Lucy Graham-Brown and their team.
But safety must always be the priority in these situations and we all understand that.
My last reporting gig before today was in Florida, where my husband remarked that it’s hard to believe that equestrianism is the same sport when you compare a high-end showjumping show in a tropical climate to a British one-day event in the rain. Today, looking bleakly across Tweseldown in the driving rain, the palm trees certainly seemed a distant memory.
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