We should have reported Bramham this week, but it’s another casualty of Covid-19 as this strange non-season rolls on.
My first Bramham working for H&H was in 2006, when Andrew Nicholson won the CCI3* (now CCI4*-L) on the Jumbo son Henry Tankerville.
It was a controversial year: slippery, firm, inconsistent ground contributed to an influential cross-country course which featured multiple turning questions. Only one of the first nine out in the under-25 section finished and there were more than 20 falls across the CCI3* and under-25 sections.
I was a rookie reporter, sweating in the sweltering sun as I tried to balance angry rider comments with being fair to the organisers. It feels a long time ago now and a one-off at a popular and well-run event, which I don’t recall having problems with its ground again.
In the mid-2000s, there was a groundswell of riders vocally demanding better going, with that Bramham followed by the 2007 Badminton when around a third of the field withdrew before cross-country. This led to permanent changes to the way the Badminton team manage the parkland used for the cross-country track.
Redesigned’s win at Bramham in 2010 was special, marking a comeback for Pippa Funnell, who had not ridden on a championship squad for five years. She was selected as an individual for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky that autumn.
That year was also Ian Stark’s first as Bramham’s cross-country course-designer, and his bold design style has proved an ideal complement to the testing Yorkshire hills.
It would have been fascinating to see Ian’s first five-star course this autumn, at the Maryland Five-Star at Fair Hill, in the USA, but that was cancelled last week.
This leaves Pau as the only five-star still potentially happening this season and that team say they are sparing no effort to run, “while respecting the health requirements that may be necessary”. I admire their optimism and hope they can pull it off.
Since adding a CCI4*-S (previously CIC3*) to its roster in 2009, Bramham has risen as an unofficial team trial for the annual championship.
I’ll never forget the Monday press day after Bramham 2012 when the British eventing team for the London Olympics was leaked on Twitter just as we were putting the magazine to press. In a glorious, adrenaline-fuelled flurry, we pulled back and tweaked the cover, news pages and Bramham report.
Sunburn and cigs
I have many more personal Bramham memories – indulge me, if you will. One hot year, my suncreaming missed an inch-wide gap between the back of my jeans and my T-shirt – I sported a red “Bramham stripe” for the rest of the summer.
I was lucky to attend a few Bramhams with either Catherine Austen and Ellie Hughes, both great friends and colleagues, as one of us would report for H&H’s sister magazine Eventing.
Catherine and I once mistimed a tradestand trip to buy a hat for her to wear to a wedding, looking up to see a leading competitor performing his dressage test. “Why is he riding that sewing machine?” asked Catherine, referring to the horse’s somewhat choppy movement. We won’t name him – he went on to win.
Another time, Catherine and I spent the week navigating a complicated love triangle. I would call it a love square, but I’m not sure the second man ever knew he was part of it…
A year later, my now husband and I started going out in May and so booked accommodation at the last minute. You can imagine the quality of the only B&B in Yorkshire with availability two weeks before Bramham – the landlord chain-smoked while cooking our breakfast, casually dropping ash into the bacon.
As we all keep washing our hands and think about going eventing without being within 2m of anyone, that happy weekend feels like a lifetime ago.
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 June 2020