The 2019 Badminton victor and winner of six senior championship medals, including world team gold and two individual European silvers, Piggy March, on why certain events could command higher entry fees
IT’S been a refreshing treat to return to Chatsworth and Rockingham over this past month, after three years away due to Covid.
We’re so lucky to be able to compete in such places – the effort that had gone in to make these true internationals was incredible. Their courses were so well dressed and presented.
Owners love these great days out which they can enjoy with their families, with the tradestands and extra entertainment.
Both venues had a real buzz in the dressage and showjumping arenas and people out on the cross-country, which offered horses an educational experience. I had two seven-year-olds at Chatsworth Horse Trials who are both aimed at Le Lion d’Angers, where there are always crowds everywhere – so having that practice is valuable.
With all that in mind, it was worrying to hear that Rockingham’s organisers are unsure if it will run again.
Of course, all sorts of fixtures have their place, and horses wouldn’t be ready for these red-letter days without practising at other events. But we need to keep these special events, which are what make the sport for our owners and our horses.
I wouldn’t have a problem with paying higher entry fees for national classes at these premier events – riding in a novice at Chatsworth is not the same as a novice at other venues. Many owners and riders would be willing to pay more for these “step above” events if it helped to keep them in the calendar.
Badminton ups and downs
IT was, of course, fabulous to have Badminton Horse Trials back, in so many ways. The crowds proved how much it’s been missed and how much people do enjoy eventing.
A huge well done to winner Laura Collett, whose London 52 is undoubtedly the horse of a lifetime. She did an unbelievable job and deserves to be the Badminton champion.
The phone reception was terrible at Badminton, and that’s a real negative for competitors. I wasn’t able to speak to my son Max, owners or family back at home without coming to the press tent, and it was impossible to communicate with my team in an emergency. This needs to be sorted for the future.
I thought the cross-country course was good when I walked it – one of Eric Winter’s best – and I didn’t expect it to cause so much trouble. It was Badminton, but it walked as if it would be jumpable.
We all know the risks of eventing, but Nicola Wilson’s fall took the magic away from the week for me. It was sad and horrid not to have our great team-mate there on site finishing the competition with us. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that she continues to progress well.
I have been asked by Nicola to take on the ride on Coolparks Sarco for owners Jo and Jamie Lambert – an emotional role for us all but hopefully something she will be able to enjoy and follow at this difficult time.
On a personal note, it was unnerving to set out across country at Badminton so early, without seeing many riders come home smoothly without being held on course – it wasn’t an experience I’d had before at five-star. Seeing the good riders who we respect on the floor or having a problem was unsettling.
But you blank out everything else and get on with your work. My little mare Vanir Kamira (Tilly) was amazing. She had a longer warm-up than normal with the hold and felt a little switched off, but she dug deep, gritted her teeth and got it done. And she went as well as she can in the other phases.
To win Badminton at 14, have effectively three years away from the biggest events, then come back at 17 and go as well as Tilly did is quite something. She was a little soldier, in there fighting and giving all the youngsters a run for their money. She looked as well as ever, owes us nothing and I was so grateful and proud of her. It’s those moments that we live for.
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- This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 2 June (NB: Delivery of subscriber copies may be delayed this week due to the effects of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday on the postal service. We apologise in advance for any delays experienced by our subscribers.)
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