Mark Todd: My hopes for Badminton this year [H&H VIP]

  • We’re now 5 weeks away from Badminton. The entries were released at the end of last week — they are slightly down in numbers from last year.

    I’m surprised there’s only 1 German rider entered. If they beat us all again at the World Equestrian Games in August, perhaps we ought to reconsider our preparation for a championship!

    But there’s still plenty of strength in depth to the field, and it’s going to be interesting to see what Badminton is like under a new course-designer. I think we all thought that the track had got a bit “samey”, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Giuseppe della Chiesa does with it.

    I can’t imagine he’ll do anything too drastic in his first year, but hopefully he’ll inject some new life into the course.

    There are 8 Badminton entries from Badgerstown, my yard — 2 for me (I have 3 entered but will probably run NZB Campino and Leonidas II), 2 for Tom McEwen, 2 for Ludwig Svennerstal, 1 for Brazilian rider Marcio Jorge and 1 for Megan Heath.

    That’s pretty much 10% of the whole field — it would be amazing if we all get there!

    My top horses had good runs at Lincoln. Being on a showground, it is dead flat, but the showjumping arena and warm-up are great and they make good use of the cross-country, which has become quite testing.

    I’d been at Aldon the day before with the novices, and it was nice to see that the course there had been updated and we had something new to ride around. Aldon’s a good, old-fashioned country event that has been around for a long time and it’s lovely to see the same people there year after year.

    Minimising the wait

    I do have one gripe — which applies to several events — concerning showjumping stewarding. There needs to be some sort of consistency. Obviously, we are all given times at which to jump, but events which try to run wholly on those times end up with a muddle and a queue.

    Riders with multiple horses are always blamed, but often it is actually the amateurs who don’t come when they are called, wanting 1 more jump, not being quite ready etc. Professionals tend to jump 1 fence and then go in quickly, as they don’t have time to spare.

    What does work is having a blackboard where riders put their numbers down. At least then you can see how many are left to go before you, rather than constantly having to irritate a steward who is carrying a clipboard close to their chest.

    A clearly visible board makes sense. Then there are no excuses for not turning up on time and there should be a steady flow of horses into the ring.

    Galloping through the VIPs

    I’ve just returned from a week in New Zealand, where I rode in the first eventing competition to take place at the Horse of the Year Show there. It was quite a contentious addition to a big show, with top-level dressage, showjumping and showing — a bit like Aachen — but it was a huge success.

    I’ve never experienced anything like the cross-country — after the 4th fence we weaved in between the tradestands into the main arena, jumped a fence and went out the other side. We then circled round the main dressage arena, out through more tradestands and went straight down to the water, then back into the main arena again — through the Land Rover VIP marquee — and on to the finish.

    It was a bit like riding in the Olympics — I got a huge cheer as I galloped through the marquee, which gave my horse a bit of a fright! But the horses generally coped very well.

    John Nicholson, Andrew’s brother, designed the 2- and 3-star tracks, which weren’t too difficult in their first year but caused enough problems. I finished 3rd in the 2-star on a horse belonging to Kate Woods, and Clark Johnston won the 3-star on a new ride.

    It was a great way to bring eventing to a big crowd who wouldn’t usually come across it and I think it will be a thriving venture for the future.