All Pass Multi-Seasonal Badminton First Horse Inspection

Laura Collett and Dacapo swim their way down the strip. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

From one straight into the next: we’ve all scarcely caught our breath from a wildly overexciting Kentucky, and now we’re straight into the thick of it at the 2023 Badminton Horse Trials, presented by MARS Equestrian, where 65 horse and rider combinations presented at this afternoon’s first horse inspection.

William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Thanks to the Badminton micro-climate, classic British weather, and probably global warming or something; I don’t know, we got a whirlwind tour of a multitude of weather systems, which was about the most exciting thing that happened in this otherwise wildly uneventful first horse inspection. First we got spring — all five minutes of it, which is the best we can hope for this year, really — then we got an endless sea of muggy grey sky, and then, then, the heavens opened, and we got all the rain, all of it, all at once, and for the first time ever, Badminton’s competition introduced a wet t-shirt contest element that’ll eventually serve as the tie-break, should it come to that on Monday. (Not really. But imagine.)

There wasn’t a single visitor to the holding box throughout the course of proceedings, which saw the ground jury — made up of President Angela Tucker (GBR), the exceptionally named Xavier Le Sauce (FRA, obviously), and Andrew Bennie (NZL) — kept good and busy, but the holding box veterinary, for their part, had to spend an hour and a half twiddling their thumbs. Sorry, lads, but we do prefer it that way.

One conspicuous absence from proceedings, though, was Australia’s Sarah Clark, who opted to withdraw LV Balou Jeanz prior to the inspection.

“We got dressed up, we went to the party of our dreams, but we didn’t get to dance,” she writes on her social media. “I’m more sorry than I can put into words and want to apologise from the bottom of my heart to the many people who have supported us on this journey. I’m gutted to let you all down. But Jeanzs’ long term well-being must come first and foremost.

“It’s not been a smooth preparation and devastatingly he’s come out of the stable not trotting up 100% right. I know if I asked him to he’d run forever and jump anything, even if it broke him for good. But I feel it’s better to get to the bottom of whatever might be niggling him rather than running him with it and risk doing further, more long term damage. He might disagree, but better to take the time to get him feeling as good in his body as he is in his brain.

“And so, with much disappointment, we shall enjoy Badminton Horse Trials from the sidelines and re-asses this years goal posts. If you had told me 20, 10, 2 years ago we’d even make it this far I’d be overjoyed. Thank you to everyone who has made that possible! Thanks more than anyone to this phenomenal horse, who by saving for another day I hope will be back out chasing down our dreams before too long.”

The Hi-Ho Silver jewellery company was once again on standby to award prizes for the Best-Dressed Male and Best-Dressed Female riders: these went the way of Britain’s Alex Bragg, who presented first-timer Quindiva, and Kirsty Chabert, presenting her own debutant in Opposition Loire, respectively. We’ll be bringing you our own, rather more thorough (read: insane) outfit prizes later on this evening, so stay tuned, you crazy kids.

Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dressage will kick off tomorrow morning from 9.00 a.m. BST (4.00 a.m. EST) — an earlier start than usual, thanks to Saturday’s two hour break in activities to squeeze in the coronation of King Charles. The first rider between the boards will be Scotsman Wills Oakden with the first of his two rides, Oughterard Cooley. You can check out tomorrow’s times in full here, and to catch all the action as it happens, make sure you sign up for a Badminton TV subscription — this’ll be the only place to watch the action this week, other than a brief highlights programme and the last batch of showjumping on Monday, which will be shown on BBC2 in the UK.

Badminton Horse Trials: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Form Guide] [Live Stream – Badminton TV] [Radio Badminton] [Tickets] [EN’s Coverage]

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