So it’s the first day of Burghley. Thank God! If feels like a very long time since last year. I could try to pretend that I sat diligently watching every dressage test, but I’m going to come clean and tell you what an editor’s day on the first day of Burghley is really like.
It began with a nose-to-nose confrontation with the Ocado van. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really pleased to receive my 36 loo rolls and other badly needed goods, but it was early and I was late… I eventually fled for the M1 and on arrival was a tad alarmed to find the grass track to the press parking zone already muddy. Will I make it up there by Saturday in a non-4X4? No matter.
I change my shoes, completing a look I term ‘horse trials chic’ — it’s taken me a decade to perfect the art of looking smart(ish) while still able to traverse potentially Somme-like conditions if I need to at events like Burghley. For those interested the staples are a machine washable (but smart) dress, thick tights, Ariat Grassmere boots and a Musto tweed tailored coat.
Time to watch a quick dressage test or two — not so quick, as it turned out — the blustery squalls unsettle Georgie Spence’s Bow House Mandalin, who rears repeatedly for a score she’ll hope to forget — then I dive into the press office.
Burghley is not just a world class horse trial and shopping fest. It’s also a clan gathering for the equestrian media. I catch up with former Horse & Hound editor Michael Clayton, wave hello to our H&H Live team giving test-by-test online analysis (eventing editor Pippa Roome, website editor Carol Phillips, and dressage rider Anna Ross Davies), and our sports horse columnist Carole Mortimer — and zoom into a hospitality lunch with our key advertisers.
It turns out Yogi Breisner has been pressganged into giving us all a brief talk before lunch — a succinct summary of our Olympic eventing silver medal — and when he asks if there are questions, I cannot resist (once a journalist, always a journalist). Mindful of rumours that he will retire as GB’s eventing team manager, I ask if he will still be running the team at Rio’s Olympics. Ever the diplomat, his answer — in a roundabout way — is maybe, maybe not, but he’ll decide in the coming months.
It’s always good to hear how life is in the wider equestrian commerical world, and our lunch time conversation includes the topic of how soaring vets’ fees are affecting insurance premiums and what can be done to break the cycle. I make a mental note to host a ’round table’ discussion on this topic in the next couple of months with leading figures in both worlds, for a future feature for the magazine..
Meanwhile, I’ve clocked up about 12 text messages. Yes, one was from Nick Skelton about an interview date, another from a freelance writer with a writing query, but most are mums RSVPing to my daughter’s 7th birthday party next week (it’s an Olympic party, I’ve gone Olympics crackers).
I’ll confess, after lunch, a strong breeze wafts me into the Country Living marquee. There’s a cute stand — Em and Lu — that sells goreous children’s PJs and nighties, and I have a rifle through their sale rail every year.
Then I watch some dressage properly, with excellent headset commentary bringing it all brilliantly to life, and I witness Californian Kristi Nunnink — contending her first Burghley at the age of 50 — lose her way in the latter part of the test and enter into protracted discussions with the judge about the right route, having, as she put it ‘Learnt the test wrong’. (Lesson for the day: if you get to four star get someone to test you on your test before you start).
A final cup of tea with more advertisers, and it’s time to hit the road — for bath time and Cat in the Hat — and eventually, this blog.
Follow every phase of Burghley as it happens using H&H Live, our interactive written commentary supported by Baileys Horse Feeds. Review today and join in tomorrow at www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley2012live.
Make sure you buy H&H next week (6 September) for our 10-page special Burghley report, with full analysis of every phase, comments from dressage expert Sally O’Connor and former winner Ginny Elliot and more.