Lulu Kyriacou was one of the journalists who braved the wet weather and lack of internet at the 2015 FEI European Championships at Blair Castle, and she's compiled an excellent list of 9 things we learned at Blair. Keep scrolling for a bonus list of how riders passed the time on the long road to the event. Many thanks to Lulu for writing, and thanks for reading!
1. The French are back. After three excellent completions at Burghley (all of which will qualify them as individuals for Rio), four different riders went to Blair, three of which were mounted on French-bred horses and clinched team qualification and two bronze medals.
2. The FEI need to rethink their policies on awarding championship events. Blair was very remote, travel was long and costly for everyone, there were communication difficulties on both phone and web. Changing the date of Blair (usually two or three weeks earlier) made it clash with the local Highland Games, put it back into school term time and increased the chances of bad weather, all of which affected the attendance of both public and media.
3. Nicola Wilson is actually the person Team GB should be thanking for winning them a medal. Had she failed to cling round the neck of One Two Many after that combination in the show jumping and fallen, the British would not have completed as a team. Ergo, athletic ability is equally as important as good riding.
4. The Germans are so far in front of the rest in Europe that each of them could have had three fences down and the team would still have won the team title.
5. Scott Brash gained plaudits the same day for winning three major Grand Prix in one year to take the Rolex Grand Slam, but Michael Jung has now won the European title on three different horses (Sam, Halunke, Takinou) in addition to being the only eventer to hold the World, Olympic and European titles at the same time. Now that is what you call a legend.
6. If the championships are going to be in the autumn, the FEI needs to place them somewhere that the weather will not be so much of an influence. It was obvious walking the course on Friday that a torrential downpour would almost certainly make the Neeps and Tatties fence unsafe. Removing it halfway through the contest is hardly fair to those eliminated there.
7. Kitty King is now the first British rider to win continental championship medals at all levels: Ponies, Juniors, Young Riders and now Seniors. She was also the first to represent her team at all of the levels; when Laura Collett was selected, she competed as an individual, as Kitty did in 2005.
8. Only five teams managed to complete from the 11 that started. It was almost certainly the effect that the torrential rain had on the course that took its toll. Ireland had the toughest day statistically, as only one of four team starters finished.
9. Eventing is so unimportant as a sport in the United Kingdom that the BBC could not even get the names of the medal winning team right. Gemma Tattersall and Izzy Taylor rode as individuals. Nicola Wilson and some person called Pippa Funnell (didn’t she win the Grand Slam once?) actually completed the team.
As a bonus, the road to and from Blair is a long one, so what do the riders do to pass the time on the drive? (Well, the ones that can be printed anyway!)
1. Eat. “I often forget to eat at a big three-day event” said one rider, “but I make up for it on the way there and on the way back! I can hone in on McDonald’s from miles away.”
2. Sleep. “My groom can drive, and for this event most of us shared trucks, so there were lots of drivers. Frankly I have just come from Burghley and am going onto Blenheim; this is a great time to catch up on the sleep I miss through worrying when I am competing.”
3. Learn dressage test? “Hell no! Tempting fate — we have to get through the vet inspection first!”
4. Catch up on office work. Emails and entries seemed to be the most often mentioned.
5. Play #theracetoblair (or wherever) on Twitter and with other competitors. “Well you know some people are going to be slow on the journey — the same ones who get 50 times penalties on the cross country, usually. I will probably get 60 because I said that.”
6. Clean their boots.
7. “Practise my English so I can answer the strange questions of journalists!”