Articles Written 2
Article Views 1,380

Megan Kiessling

Achievements

Become an Eventing Nation Blogger

About Megan Kiessling

Latest Articles Written

The Muck Bucket List: Badminton, Part II

In honor of Badminton Horse Trials taking place this weekend, experience the event through the eyes of our globe-trotting try-anything-equestrian blogger Megan Kiessling: here’s part two of her Badminton adventure.

Megan Kiessling blogs about the trials and tribulations of retraining her first OTTB at Let’s Get Ready to Runkle, following the journey from hurdle horse to eventer through hilariously irreverent prose. This blog post was originally published on Let’s Get Ready to Runkle on May 6, 2016.

So in my head I’ve had a fuzzy list of things I want to do in life. A bucket list. But it’s all horsey themed, so instead of just a bucket list, it’s a Muck Bucket list. Of all the stuff I want to do with horses before I kick it. See what I did there? It’s a play-on-words pun.

If you missed cross country day, click here to read Badminton Part 1!

I woke up bright, early, and well rested on Sunday. Several other people at the B&B were also heading out to the horse show. Helpfully, the couple at the table next to me said I could follow them back out to the grounds. I ate an enormous breakfast, including trying black pudding for the first time, before we all headed out.

I had been too tired to worry about it the day before, but the trip back to the event was a half hour on a very narrow twisty English country roads. There had been so much traffic on cross country day that it limited how fast everyone went, but the speed limit for these nutjobs is 50 mph. I followed the nice couple from the B&B who became speed demons and rocketed off leaving me in the dust.

At one point we were on a tiny road that was barely two cars wide and someone was barreling down the opposite direction and I flinched — I SWEAR I only flinched! — and the next thing I heard was a loud bang. A flat tire.

The couple I was following sped off into the distance as I went and looked at my left front tire which wasn’t just flat but managed to look like it had exploded.

#mmbht #PANTSPEEINGEXCITEMENT

A post shared by megan (@kieshorse) on

I stood there dumbfounded, mind blank for a second, and my first thought was “aw, I’m gonna miss the jog!! Poop.” Priorities.

Luckily (?) since I was a woman, alone on a narrow road with a 50 mph speed limit, surrounded by 12-foot hedges the situation was deemed “dangerous” and I was rescued within 30 minutes. When I climbed into the tow truck with the driver I could see over the gigantic hedges and there was a castle on the other side!

I missed the jog but the tow truck drove me the one mile I had left to the fair grounds. I very nearly made it. He left my car in the grass near the parking entrance and said the tire repair/change person would call me when he was close so I shrugged and went into the show.

The shopping was phenomenal. I wanted to buy EVERYTHING. I had decided to buy a horse at that point but I figured it wouldn’t be smart to load up on a ton of things since I didn’t know what I needed and I’d also have to somehow bring it back to the US.

Still, I did have some fun; I got a pinney holder from the BHS tent, a Joules Badminton baseball cap, and a sweet purple and leather belt from Tredstep. Lastly my favorite — a tweed hunting jacket. I freakin’ love that thing. With my Dubarrys, on a scale of one to British I look like I’m from Little Badminton. That’s a real town and it has thatch cottages. STILL.

I digress.

I had time before stadium to walk most of the course. It was really fun to see those huge jumps up close and personal even though all the decorations were gone. The most shocking part to me is always the really narrow faces of the skinny jumps. The Mirage Pond short route was downright confounding. The jumps were ASKING to be run out on. And this was a soft version of the course?? WHAT?? After getting through about three quarters of the course I had to go back so I wouldn’t miss any of the stadium rounds.

Photo by Megan Kiessling

Photo by Megan Kiessling

Photo by Megan Kiessling

Photo by Megan Kiessling

Photo by Megan Kiessling

The stadium was fantastic. There was a demonstration of the hounds bred at Badminton by the Duchess of Badminton (we need more duchesses in American eventing). Apparently they are the most famous bitches in England and the best hound stock to breed from. That’s a quote from the announcer, I would never say that.

Photo by Megan Kiessling

They also had the Parade of Champions in the jumping break where all the competitors did a lap around the arena. My favorites were William Fox Pitt (WFP) and Bettina Hoy — their horses were jumping in the top 20 so they borrowed Pony Club mounts from the foxhunting demo.

Photo by Megan Kiessling

Then came the final twenty in jumping. By far my favorite rider at Badminton was Ingrid Klimke. I love her. A lot. I think she might be my favorite rider in general right now.

Photo by Megan Kiessling

WFP was sitting in second when he went out for his round. Andrew Nicholson didn’t even have a rail in hand above him. Chilli Morning looked wiggly as all get out but WFP rode him masterfully to a double clear round. Andrew and Nereo followed him and got the second jump down, which meant WFP and Chilli Morning had won!! The crowd barely contained itself with an outburst of applause which definitely threw poor Nereo off; he ended up with three rails total.

Photo by Megan Kiessling

The top 10 was a who’s who of eventing greats. I feel so lucky that I got to see these people all compete against one another (and just outside the top ten, in 12th, was the indomitable Pippa Funnel who got the loudest cheer during the parade of champions).

My favorite picture I took the whole weekend was the one below though. The look on the groom’s face makes me melt.

Photo by Megan Kiessling

It was such an incredible weekend and I’m beyond thankful I could go. One down, five to go!

Megan is a numbers nerd who dabbles in writing and running. She is also a Professional Unprofessional rider retraining her first off the track Thoroughbred, Runkle.

Photo by Gianna Fernandez.

The Muck Bucket List: Badminton, Check!

Photo by Megan Kiessling. Photo by Megan Kiessling.

Megan Kiessling blogs about the trials and tribulations of retraining her first OTTB at Let’s Get Ready to Runkle, following the journey from hurdle horse to eventer through hilariously irreverent prose. This blog post was originally published on Let’s Get Ready to Runkle on May 4, 2016, and recently republished by our sister site Horse Nation

So in my head I’ve had a fuzzy list of things I want to do in life. A bucket list. But it’s all horsey themed, so instead of just a bucket list, it’s a Muck Bucket list. Of all the stuff I want to do with horses before I kick it. See what I did there? It’s a play-on-words pun.

If you read my 2015 year in review post you saw I had the opportunity to work abroad for the first part of the year. The very first thing I did when I found out I got the job was buy tickets to Badminton. It’s my goal to go to every four star in the world, and being in England already seriously cut down the cost of the trip.

I spent money on really good stadium tickets in the grand stand and booked a hotel room over Saturday night in a local (ish) B&B. I had a Zipcar account for years and there are tons of Zipcars in London (that are automatics, even) so I got one of those. It didn’t bother me that I had to go alone. My plan was to drive out early Saturday morning in time for the start of cross country, get in to the B&B that night, and then early start to see the final jog, show jumping, and be back in London by dinner.

This sounds really good on paper. I know it does.

I got in the car at quarter to seven on Saturday morning. On the wrong side. Driving on the wrong side. I drove for about 20 minutes before I realized I had left my tickets pinned to my fridge. Good start…

The entire drive I just kept saying to myself “This is SO weird”. The street just looks REALLY different on the other side of the road. And it wasn’t physically driving on the other side so much as sitting in the passenger seat and driving. I kept drifting to the left because I felt like everyone was coming quite close on the right. Once I hit the highway it got much easier. Also people in England drive so bloody fast. I was doing 75mph or so, minimum, and people were absolutely blowing past me in the right lane.

Once I got off the highway and I was within range of Badminton Radio I listened to that. The show sold earpieces for 9GBP that tuned into the radio all weekend which was awesome. Every time I saw a sign for the horse trials I got more and more excited. Even sitting in traffic was stupidly exciting. I parked next to a landing strip for private aircraft that was about a forty mile walk away from the grounds but I bounced the whole way there.

Once inside I stopped by the grandstand to watch the cutest thing ever: Shetland pony races.

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

After watching several heats I started the trek out to cross country. I decided to start near the end of the course and walk closer to start. I had several places circled on the map I wanted to see; the main water, the mirage pond, huntsmans close, and the coffin complex. It was a gorgeous day, totally atypical for England. Bright sun, cloudless blue sky, warm but not too hot and lots of wind. Everyone was wearing tweed, Dubarry’s and Hunter rain boots.

Two years ago the course was quite notoriously difficult. A new course designer really upped the ante, and there was a much lower completion rate in 2014. In the face of that, the 2015 course was quite a bit softer. The other slight disappointment was there wasn’t a single US rider in attendance. Ironically they were all at Jersey Fresh, which is about forty minutes from where I live in the US. Initially I was upset about this but at the end of the day I loved it. It almost felt like I had no pressure; and it wasn’t like there weren’t dozens of the best riders in the world competing. I could guiltlessly root for whoever I wanted regardless of the flag on their saddle pad. It was kind of awesome!

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

I’ve watched many events, plenty of them 3*’s, but this was beyond anything I had seen. All the jumps were so big. The letup fences were positively enormous. The accuracy required by the skinny jumps seemed impossible. From the first fence to the last it demanded the very best of each combination and getting to watch people compete at that level blew my mind. I ended up spending quite a bit of time at the Mirage Pond and also the faux coffin complex. Big brush jumps begging a glance off and jumps that were so awkwardly placed that my usual “leg on and sit back and it’ll all be okay” would not fly at all.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo. Photo by Megan Kiessling.

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

My favorites to watch were Pippa Funnel, Ingrid Klimke and of course William Fox Pitt. I saw WFP at the Huntsman’s Close on Chilli Morning and I took a couple pictures but mostly I just watched. That horse is incredibly athletic and looks very challenging to ride. He’s quite wiggly looking! And if he’s like that with one of the best riders in the world on him then he’d probably be 70% sideways if a mortal rode him.

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

I loved being at the coffin complex the most on course (especially because I became buddies with the photographer there) but when I wandered over to the cool down area after the course it unexpectedly became my favorite part. Horses I had seen larger than life out over the jumps suddenly looked smaller. It was actually hard not to hop the fence and start helping when a new horse came in. Unless the rider was extremely famous, necessitating an interview, they helped in the cooling out process. I loved seeing the back door displays of horsemanship and teamwork.

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

Photo by Megan Kiessling.

Finally cross country was over. I wandered through the massive trade village with a cider in one hand and a meat pie in the other. At the end of the day I headed out to the parking field and stood there as I realized I had absolutely no idea where I was parked. Every field looked the same and they stretched as far as I could see. The saving grace was after about twenty minutes of wandering I remembered I was near the private air strip!

The B&B I stayed at was so cute. The room was comfortable and had a view of fields full of horses. The proprietor greeted me by name and took me up to my room where I took the best shower ever, uploaded about a billion pictures and slept the dead sleep of someone who wandered in a giant field all day watching gorgeous horses gallop and jump.

Megan is a numbers nerd who dabbles in writing and running. She is also a Professional Unprofessional rider retraining her first off the track Thoroughbred, Runkle.

Photo by Gianna Fernandez.