Badminton Horse Trials weekend is usually characterised by demonstrations of equestrian sporting excellence. Less often by Laura Collett getting her head stuck in a bucket, or William Fox-Pitt trotting up a horse dressed as a short-skirted nurse, complete with ample bosom.
But from 6 to 10 May, a stellar line-up of riders gave their all to raise almost £160,000 for health charities, as part of the NAF Virtual 5* Eventing Competition. And money is still coming in, thanks to an auction with lots including lessons with top riders and a year’s subscription to H&H magazine.
Having taken part in a trot-up, which also featured Gemma Tattersall and Warren Lamperd (pictured) in inflatable unicorn costumes and Hector Payne in a Boris Johnson mask, the riders took part in three phases, but not quite as normal.
Entrants’ dressage tests, filmed in advance, were scored, after which riders took part in a series of challenges including apple-bobbing and putting duvets in cases, on cross-country day, finishing with a round of “showjumping”, on bicycles, on Sunday.
Organiser Rachel Wakefield told H&H there had been more than 500,000 views of the competition live streams within a week.
“It’s been incredible,” she said, praising the “spectacular” commentators, Spencer Sturmey, Pammy Hutton, Holly Far and Ginny Elliot, as well as presenter Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes.
“The positivity from all the riders was amazing – that’s a word I’ve used a lot – as well as from the people watching. And to have raised that much money is incredible.”
Rachel came up with the idea of the event as a fun diversion while no sport is running, and to raise money for NHS Charities Together, and medical charities in other countries, to help fight the coronavirus.
“It was unbelievable how much effort everyone put in,” she said. “When the trot-up videos came in, we were crying with laughter, and that kept happening, like when Laura Collett got her head stuck while she was apple-bobbing on the cross-country phase.
“We had some issues on the live stream, which were out of our hands, but Mark Jennings from Chilli Pepper TV was doing the work of four people, Lara in marketing was incredible and our title sponsor NAF was fantastic.
“We’re still raising money – the auction and raffle are running until 16 May – but what also really struck me was the positivity around it. Life has stood still but there was only one way to go from where we were.
“A lot of the riders have said ‘what are we doing next?’ and I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve – but I said ‘let me have a day off first!’”
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