‘That was the dream’: Badminton grassroots riders disappointed as alternative options offered

  • Riders who had qualified for the Science Supplements Cup at Badminton Horse Trials 2021 have been asked whether they would prefer a relocated championship, or direct area festival qualification for next year.

    This year’s grassroots championships was cancelled this month along with the CCI5* event. Following the loss of the 2020 cup, along with the main event, to the coronavirus, British Eventing (BE) had announced that those who had qualified would be able to contest the finals this May.

    But with the 2021 event also called off, BE contacted members to ask whether they would prefer the BE90 and BE100 championships to run at a different venue in 2021, or direct entry into an area qualifier, which would give them the chance to qualify for Badminton 2022.

    “It was with deep regret that we announced last week that sadly both Badminton Horse Trials and the Science Supplements Cup had been cancelled,” a BE spokesman said this week. “There is no doubt that this is extremely disappointing news to those who worked hard to gain their qualifications.

    “Due to the 2022 BE90 and BE100 championship qualification cycle having already begun, it will sadly not be possible to continue to roll qualification over for a further year due to fitting into the schedule of the venue. We have therefore sent a survey to those competitors impacted by the cancellation to determine what alternative arrangements would be most favourable under the current circumstances.”

    Kate Oppenheimer, who qualified her mare SOS Sealpoint for the 2020 BE90 championship, told H&H she and other riders had thought and hoped their qualification would roll on to 2022.

    “We were discussing it and thinking it was the only option,” she said, adding that although she understands BE had not expected the event to be cancelled again, and did not make the decision, she feels there should have been more consultation of members.

    “I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, Badminton was the dream, and another venue just wouldn’t be suitable.

    “For me, and other riders, there’s no alternative to riding on that hallowed turf. Before my current horse, I had a gap from owning them but I’d finished vet school and decided I had the time and money, and my mum asked: ‘What do you want to do?’ I said ‘I want to go to Badminton. That’s the dream’.”

    Kate said she has also already secured qualification for this year’s area festivals, but of course there is no guarantee of securing that ticket to the final.

    Continues below…

    “It’s so hard to qualify,” she said. “It’s insanely competitive; you have to put your whole soul into it. When I did, champagne was flowing, people were crying; it meant the world.”

    Kate ticked “neither” on the questionnaire she was sent, and questioned whether it might be possible for some of this year’s cohort to content the titles next year, while others ride at championships elsewhere in 2021 if they do not mind where these are held.

    A BE spokesman told H&H that the organisation entirely understands the disappointment felt by qualified riders

    “Unfortunately, it comes down to fitting the cup in with the schedule of the venue so carrying over again to 2022 is sadly not an option, which is why we have offered the current alternatives,” she said.

    “We made the decision to consult with those members who have been impacted, as we know how important the opportunity to ride at Badminton is. With the option to roll over qualification not being possible, we have offered the opportunity of an alternative venue or direct entry to an area qualifier for this year, which would provide an opportunity for qualification for 2022.”

    The survey will close on 17 March and the results will be analysed before BE feeds back to competitors on the next steps.

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