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Monday News & Notes from Fleeceworks

This incredible shot of Anneli Drummond-Hay (who would go on to be the first-ever winner of Burghley!) when she was just 16 at the Junior European Championships has been doing the rounds on social media over the weekend and all we can say is WOW.

Happy whatever-day-of-the-week-it-is! Time means nothing and UberEats means everything, and the thought of leaving a start box again one day in the not-too-distant future is the glue holding it all together right now. If I seem a bit giddy today, it’s because the weekend saw me get my first jump with my trainer in about 11 weeks, and for 45 blissful minutes, life was truly, utterly wonderful. I’ll be dining out on that feeling all week, and I suggest that if you can, you leave the ground this week with your horses. It’s the easiest pick-me-up I can think of.

National Holiday: It’s National Wine Day, baby, and I’ve been training for today’s celebrations for two months straight.

Your Monday reading list:

British five-star eventer Matthew Wright is at the helm of a new initiative to offer mental health support to riders. Riders Minds comes complete with easily-accessible online resources, an inbuilt support system, and a 24/7 hotline for anyone who needs a listening ear. In a sport that often makes us believe that toughness means soldiering on silently through any kind of pain, this is a seriously welcome network. [New service to support all riders’ mental health]

Jan Byyny is the latest rider to take part in Athletux’s A Letter to Me series, and it’s a good one. “You are going to go so many places with this dream of yours, but there will be disappointments and you will never forget the moments that did not go according to plan, or the words spoken to you,” she writes in an inspiring retelling of her story thus far. Monday motivation – sorted. [A Letter to Me – Jan Byyny]

Want to take this extra time away from competing to make sure all your dressage scores are sub-30? This quick read from Dressage Today gives you the tools to tackle a common eventer issue – tension through the back. You’ll be well prepared to ride for swinging, fluent, authentic paces before you know it. [Go Down to Go Up: Promoting Relaxation in the Horse’s Back]

Stephen Bradley looks back on his 1993 Burghley victory and man, if you love a fine eventing vintage, you’ll love this. American Thoroughbred lovers, you’ll love it even more. Promise. [Memories from the Vet Box with Stephen Bradley]

It’s a listen rather than a read, but pop this on while you’re mucking out this morning. Back in 1986, the legendary Ginny Elliott was a guest on the classic Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs, and she’s every bit as charming and open as you’d hope she’d be. It’s fascinating listening and something a bit different from the usual horsey interview. [Desert Island Discs: Ginny Elliott]

Monday video from Fleeceworks: Motivation and, um, muscles.

In need of a bit more pep in your step this week? Try inspiration pecs – sorry, that’s Panic at the Disco songs, as per British eventer Alex Bragg, who probably says some interesting things in this video, but we can’t remember. Anyone else feeling a bit warm?

 

Friday Video from SmartPak: Another Round of Hobby Horse Olympics


Those wacky Germans are at it again, lads, with their hobby horse carousing and general silliness, and this week, as in all weeks, we are HERE FOR IT. This time, it’s the team at dressage yard Aubenhausen in Bayern, Germany who are showing off their slick moves in their creative interpretation of an Olympic competition. Our favourite bit? Either the tiny pony in a supporting role or the super-slick half-pass. Why are they so much easier on foot than under saddle?

Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials Announces Cancellation of 2020 Renewal

Pippa Funnell raises her silverware at Burghley in 2019. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is the latest major event to fall victim to the widespread cancellation of events due to COVID-19. It follows closely on the heels of the announcement that Scotland’s Blair Castle International Horse Trials – also sponsored by Land Rover – would not run in 2020, which means that the UK has now lost all its CCI4*-L and CCI5* fixtures for this year.

Says Sir Richard Jewson, Chairman of the event’s committee, “One of the joys of being involved with Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is to be continually reminded how much this iconic event is loved by the many who create, take part and attend. We are so appreciative of the support and cooperation that we have received at this difficult time, not least from our title sponsor Land Rover. We wish everyone well in these uncertain times. We must now focus our efforts on planning the 2021 event, which all of us are sure will be a special celebration.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class look at their best at Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The cancellation of Burghley is its first since its inception in 1961, and it marks the third and final Grand Slam leg to go to ground this year. This means that Pippa Funnell, who won here in 2019, will remain the live contender as the 2021 season gets underway.

2020’s season now sees just two five-stars left standing. Les Etoiles de Pau, scheduled for October 22-25 in the south of France and the debut Maryland CCI5* at Fair Hill, set for 15–18 October, are both currently planning to run.

The 2021 renewal is set to take place from September 1–5. 2020 was set to be course designer Captain Mark Phillips‘ final year; next year’s course is set to be designed by Derek di Grazia, best known for his Kentucky courses, though we may see this handover date pushed back a year to allow for a final year for Phillips.

We look forward to being back in situ at this biggest and boldest of events, but in the meantime if you’d like to get your Burghley fix, the team has kindly provided free access to a number of videos on its website. Click here to relive every second of the 2019 event, and click here to watch highlights programmes dating back to the ’90s. Our verdict? It’s hours of utter bliss that might help you forget that 2020 is basically just a badly-maintained muck heap of a year.

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: The Fulton Showdown

We’re loving all the creative web series and ideas that are coming out of this long period stuck at home, and the latest one on our radar is #WhoKnowsWho, brought to you by Athletux. First in the firing line is Woodge Fulton and her sister Grace, who take on Athletux’s challenge with aplomb. Who would you like to see take the challenge next?

Fight back against an energy crisis that can impact condition and performance.

Equi-Jewel® is a high-fat, low-starch and -sugar formula developed to safely meet the energy needs of your horse.

Whether you have a hard keeper that needs extra calories to maintain his weight, or a top performance horse that needs cool energy to perform at her peak, Equi-Jewel can meet your horse’s energy needs. Equi-Jewel reduces the risk of digestive upset, supports optimal muscle function, maintains stamina, and helps horses recover faster after hard work, all while providing the calories your horse needs to thrive.

The horse that matters to you matters to us®.

Not sure which horse supplement best meets your horse’s needs? Kentucky Performance Products, LLC is here to help. Call 859-873-2974 or visit KPPusa.com.

British Eventing Unveils Guidelines for Return to Competition

A socially-distanced model of eventing has been drafted by British Eventing, who could launch a resumption of the sport at popular mid-summer fixtures such as Tweseldown, pictured here, due to run in July. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

British Eventing has released a document drafting its plan for a socially distant approach to the resumption of competition, which could begin in earnest after the Prime Minister’s next address on June 1.

The measures detailed in the two-page document aim to “create an environment for safe sport to continue for all our stakeholders”, and outlines a three-phase approach to getting the sport underway again. The country is currently in phase one, fitness and training, which allows for riding to begin again under British Equestrian (BEF) guidance. The next phase, train to compete, will see BE organisers, venues, and coaches work in tandem to provide further training opportunities and hybrid competition formats – which could include arena eventing – in order to get members ready for the second start of the season. Finally, phase three – the competition phase – will begin when the government green-lights the safe start of competitive sport, and will be under strict governance from both BE and the BEF.

So what’s an affiliated event going to look like in this strange new world? Well, there won’t be any post-cross-country burgers and chips, for one thing – no trade stands or food stalls will be present.

Nor will there be an excess of people on site. No spectators will be permitted, while single horse riders are allowed one helper and multiple horse riders will be allowed two. One owner per horse will be allowed on site, additionally.

The entry and admin process will be entirely digital, eliminating the need to visit a cramped and crowded secretaries’ tent. Start fees will move online, while riders will need to print their own bib numbers using a set template. Programmes will go digital and all relevant information will be found online, including scores, times, and, presumably, course maps.

Competitor numbers are likely to drop, though no mention has been made of the projected cap on entries per day. But expect to make good use of your ballot stickers – getting an entry could get difficult.

There may be a strict in-and-out policy. This means you’ll need to be organised – no extra hanging around will be allowed, and you’ll need to arrive with just enough time to get ready to ride and leave as soon as your horse is cooled out and ready.

Lorries will be parked with a 10m distance between them. No bad thing, actually, for anyone who’s ever battled with a crammed lorry park and a side ramp.

Prizegivings will go by the wayside for now. There won’t be any scoreboards on site anyway, though, so you’ll have to wait for your results to be posted online. Prize money will be paid to you by bank transfer.

Warm-ups will be regulated. Numbers are likely to be limited in the collecting ring so that a minimum set distance between horses can be achieved. There may also be a set amount of time you can warm up.

You may need to volunteerMany of BE’s most faithful volunteers fall within the vulnerable category, and so numbers are likely to be down – so BE may institute a policy that riders have to sign up for a volunteer stint, too.

There will be consequences for breaking the rules. Riders seen to be flouting social distancing or not respecting others’ space will be disqualified from the competition and future entries being rejected until further notice.

No mention is made of ride times, though it’s reasonable to expect that events will need to dispense with the popular number-on-the-board method of scheduling jumping phases for now.

An earlier version of the document, released May 18, included a ban on dogs at events, though this provoked significant backlash among the member and volunteer body. The document appears to have been edited since, with no mention of dogs therein.

You can read the document in full here. We’d love to know your plans – will you be clamouring to get to the first event that runs? Will you hold out until later in the season? Or have you written off 2020 entirely?

 

Monday News & Notes from Fleeceworks

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Sunday Suspense – with the rigours of Saturday’s cross country behind them, those surviving gather for the vet’s inspection and decision on soundness, enabling them to proceed to the final phase of showjumping. Horses and riders are beautifully turned out in front of a huge and knowledgeable crowd amid the regal surroundings of Badminton House, with the wonderful hounds of the @beauforthunt providing the background music. @bhorsetrials #badmintonhorsetrials #beauffort #beauforthunt #badminton @virtualeventing #virtualeventing #danielcranepaintings #trotup #vetsinspection #finalday #winner #britisheventing #worldclass #wellmeetagain #stayathome #heresto2021 #missingyou #horse #hound #hunting #icanhearthehounds

A post shared by Daniel Crane (@daniel_crane_artist) on

How’s everyone doing on week 289 of The Happening? Anyone written King Lear yet? All I’ve managed to do is muck out a lot of stables and stare at this painting by Daniel Crane for so long that I’ve convinced myself that I could also do a very complicated and rather beautiful painting of Badminton. Haven’t actually picked up a brush though, so basically the concept is just Schrödinger’s Painting — it could be good or it could be terrible, but because I’ll probably never try to do it, we’ll never know.

National Holiday: National No Dirty Dishes Day. We’re really scraping the barrel — or, um, pan — here.

Your Monday reading list:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Chronicle is publishing some brilliant original content on the subject. In this blog by Samantha Silver, the writer delves into her experiences as a bipolar equestrian and how she’s learned to be gentle with herself when she needs it. It makes for enlightening reading. [Moving Beyond “Why Me?”: Life After A Bipolar Diagnosis]

Apparently the Queen of England is making the most of lockdown — she’s been riding every day. Admittedly this, um, insightful article from Cosmo doesn’t tell us much else, but that’s fine. It’s Monday morning. Sometimes you need something light. [The Queen, 94, Has Been Spending Quarantine Riding Horses Every Damn Day]

Speaking of royals, Vanity Fair celebrated Princess Anne’s 70th by putting her on the cover. It’s not often we get eventing legends on the cover of major mainstream magazines, and okay, they’ve definitely put her on there because she’s a princess, but there’s some mention of her riding career in the accompanying piece and one heck of a cover shot that’ll make you forget the infamous bouffant. [Princess Anne Opens Up About Her Lifetime as a Royal]

If cross-country schooling is on your to-do list this week, check out this great advice from Boyd Martin about nailing sunken roads. My approach is usually ‘kick on, Hail Mary King, and hope for the best’, but apparently it’s possible to add a bit of finesse. [The Downs and Ups of Sunken Roads]

In some countries, horse racing has started again — but what’s life like behind the closed doors of these racetracks? BBC Sport shares all the details, giving us plenty of food for thought as we look ahead to the eventual resumption of our own sport. [Horse racing behind closed doors: How it works in Hong Kong and elsewhere]

Bonus! Monday listening:

The first episode of EN’s brand new podcast, Insanity in the Middle, has hit the airwaves, and we’ve got the legendary Lucinda Green along for the ride. Click here to tune in.

Monday Video from Fleeceworks: Social Distancing as Explained by Two Plastic Horses

What did I just watch? No idea. Am I now watching all the rest of them? Yeah, sure am.

Insanity in the Middle, Episode 1: The Show Notes

Welcome to the very first episode of Insanity in the Middle, the brand new podcast from Eventing Nation! We’re excited to have you with us. We’re even more excited about the wine we’ve stockpiled for recording purposes.

So who are we, anyway? Well, I’m Tilly Berendt, EN’s British correspondent, and I’ll be (ineffectually) ring-leading this week’s episode with my glamorous co-host, EN editor-in-chief Leslie Wylie. We’re celebrating our long-awaited launch with a bumper episode of boozy chit-chat, covering such diverse topics as:

  • Leslie’s life of lockdown crime
  • The exciting extra class planned at Fair Hill’s inaugural CCI5*
  • The role of moustaches in eventing
  • A theory: does everyone in the sport have an embarrassing story involving Andrew Hoy?
  • and much, much more!

We’re also delighted to welcome our very first guest into the Lockdown Lowdown, an interview series with a twist: each episode, we’ll take a person of note from the sport and send them into a hypothetical (and rather lonely) quarantine situation. They’ll be stuck in self-isolation with two films, two books, and a horse to keep them company (and all the arena accoutrements they could possibly need – actually, this quarantine sitch doesn’t sound too shabby…). They’ll also get a free pass for a social distancing dinner with any person they choose. This week’s guest? None other than the Queen of Badminton herself, Lucinda Green.

But if you’re here reading these notes, it’s probably because you’ve already delved into the episode and want to have a browse of some of the things we chatted about. Things like…

Virtual Eventing, which featured William Fox-Pitt’s fake breasts and further insanity. You can rewatch all the action here, or you can read our coverage here.

Or maybe you’re keen on the idea of Tiny People Attempting Cross-Country, which is the only correct reaction. If so, Merry Christmas to you, and enjoy the bonus Andreas Ostholt – I sure am.

Photo via Turniergesellschaft Luhmühlen on Facebook.

The Tiny Person prize giving at Luhmühlen 2019. Also an excuse to look at Andreas Ostholt. #sinningiswinning. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Channel your inner Lucinda Green with this classic scene from The Sound of Music. New pre-cross-country song? Sure:

Or curl up for the evening with Mrs Doubtfire, which truly is one of the greatest films of all time, and also gives us plenty of ideas for future wacky trot-up outfits. You can stream it through Disney+, HBO, or Amazon Prime.

Oh, and you want to see that second fence that made Richard Meade say a bad word? Here you go…

Lucinda Green and Be Fair forwards and in flight over the notorious Fence two at the Kiev European Championships in 1973. Photo courtesy of Lucinda Green.

You can also enfootage of the infamous 1978 World Championships, which cemented Lucinda’s opinions on eventing as a team sport, here:

Bored of screens and want to tuck into Lucinda’s lockdown book recommendations instead? Sure thing. Wild Swans by Jung Chang is a critically-acclaimed bestselling novel that follows the lives of three women: a grandmother given to a warlord as a concubine in her younger years, a mother who begins working for China’s Communist party as a teenager, and Chang herself, who documents the harsh reality of her life under Chairman Mao’s regime. It’s a hard-hitting, fascinating look at the country’s Cultural Revolution and an expansive, compelling history lesson, too.

Or, if you fancy some horsey escapism, pick up a copy of Rough Magic, written by Lucinda’s niece Lara Prior-Palmer, who set out to tackle the Mongol Derby – dubbed the world’s toughest horse race – at just nineteen. She duly won it, and in this book, she recounts the adventures, injuries, and sheer tenacity that filled those 1000km across – and aboard – the wilderness.

If Lucinda could steal the ride on any horse, it would be 1998 Cheltenham Queen Mother Champion Chase winner One Man. Here’s a look at the great hurdler in action.

Leslie’s spent some time crying over old five-star rounds this week – you can find plenty to dive into on USEF Network, FEI TV, and the Badminton and Burghley websites, all of which have opened up their archives for free during lockdown. Unfortunately, we can’t embed Julie Richards and Jacob Two Two‘s 2004 Kentucky round here, but you can find it on USEF Network. Instead, here’s a photo of the pair at the Athens Olympics:

And one of Leslie and Jacob a few years later…

Photo courtesy of Leslie Wylie.

I’m sad to say that there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to stream International Velvet online, but I’ve tracked down a juicy DVD multipack that contains it — looks like it’s US only, but I reckon if you’re a Mac owner in the UK, you might get away with it. Or, you can rent or buy the digital copy on Amazon (US), or iTunes.

If not, here’s Julian Seaman and his dodgy moustache to tide you over:

Jonny Mexican on International Velvet.
Stick on porno moustache.

Posted by Julian Seaman on Friday, May 8, 2020

You can’t play Equestriad 2001 online, but you can get it very cheaply here. To McGyver it for your MacBook, you’ll need a copy of Porting Kit and a bit of time. Download the ‘skin’ for Age of Empires and install it on that.

Until next time, folks!

Military Boekelo Cancels October CCI4*-L

Dutch National Champions Merel Blom and Ceda at Boekelo in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eventing party people, this one’s going to hurt: the Netherlands’ premier event, Military Boekelo, has just announced the cancellation of its 2020 renewal in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, a sentence I’m sure we’re all getting sick of writing now.

Boekelo’s CCI4*-L, scheduled for October 1–4, hosts the finale of the FEI Nations Cup series, as well as the Dutch National Championship, and is an enormously popular end-of-season option for riders from around the world. In 2019, we saw it act as the trial run for the new Tokyo format and the final chance for a team ticket. It’s also remarkably popular as a spectator event even among the non-horsey, with a jam-packed calendar of evening entertainment and provisions in place for corporate entertainment. In other words, it’s many people’s favourite event, and with jolly good reason. Many had pinned their hopes on a resumption of international sport by this late stage of the season, but the financial and logistical implications of a virus-ravaged season have precluded this.

“The board has taken this decision after intensive consultation with representatives from the national and international equestrian sports world,” reads the statement released this morning (May 14). “The possibility to allow the event to run, possibly without public attendance, was considered until the last possible minute. But the four-star level at which Military Boekelo is held calls for an infrastructure in which no concessions can be made. Without the public and the financial support they provide, it’s impossible to create this. Furthermore, the organisation and its partners feel that they have a responsibility to prioritise the health of society.”

Military Boekelo President Robert Zandstra continues, “Since the beginning of the coronavirus, we’ve been looking at which options might be possible for this event to run. Everything has come under review, from running without public to custom measures [to ensure social distancing]… The Military is dedicated to bringing together horses and people in an environment where top sport comes first. But for now, getting society slowly back to normal is extremely important. That’s why we’re not going to muddle an event together, but instead postpone it for one year. Then, everyone will have a plan.”

The 2020 running would have been Boekelo’s 50th anniversary, so expect the event to come back with a bang next year.

“We now have some extra preparation time and hope for our 50th birthday, together with the participants, employees, owners, sponsors and founders in good health – it will be great to celebrate,” says Zandstra.

2021’s iteration will run from October 7–10, and we expect the world-famous parties will be even more ridiculous than normal. Our recommendation? Book your tickets now and give yourself something to look forward to. It certainly won’t let you down.

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: The Name’s Woodhead. Ian Woodhead.

Many of you will be familiar with the man, nay, the enigma that is Ian Woodhead, dressage trainer to the stars and one of the henchman at the forefront of the Irish eventing team. But what you may not know is that Mr. Woodhead also moonlights as a besuited, fully-loaded international man of mystery.

We’ve watched the latest challenge wending its way around the internet with not inconsiderable trepidation – after all, approximately nobody in the world wants to drink a raw egg, right? (Right?!) But when Ian was saddled with the great responsibility of slurping one down, he decided to do it his own way. We are baffled, more than a little bit impressed, and in the possession of an even greater healthy fear of the man than ever before. Double-oh-nineteen, we salute you.

Fight back against an energy crisis that can impact condition and performance.

Equi-Jewel® is a high-fat, low-starch and -sugar formula developed to safely meet the energy needs of your horse.

Whether you have a hard keeper that needs extra calories to maintain his weight, or a top performance horse that needs cool energy to perform at her peak, Equi-Jewel can meet your horse’s energy needs. Equi-Jewel reduces the risk of digestive upset, supports optimal muscle function, maintains stamina, and helps horses recover faster after hard work, all while providing the calories your horse needs to thrive.

The horse that matters to you matters to us®.

Not sure which horse supplement best meets your horse’s needs? Kentucky Performance Products, LLC is here to help. Call 859-873-2974 or visit KPPusa.com.

 

British Equestrian Releases New Guidelines for Riders and Trainers in Lockdown Easing

Under new BEF guidelines, trainers will be able to resume lessons – in controlled outdoor environments and for one rider at a time – in England from today (May 13). Photo by David Taylor.

Following the Sunday, 10 May update from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which offered increased opportunities for exercise, British Equestrian (BEF) has released updated guidance for the equestrian community. This new guidance allows – or in the case of the British Horse Society, encourages – riders to get back in the saddle, as well as to partake in private lessons with trainers and travel with their horses to hired facilities, as long as social distancing measures can be carried out appropriately.

“The recommendation to only ride or drive where strictly necessary was in place to negate any extra burden on the medical and emergency services,” said the BEF in a statement. “However, with the NHS now operating within capacity, the equestrian public can exercise their own horses, or those in their care, as they require, including hacking. This must be within any UK government guidelines, including the restrictions on travel that remain in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Social distancing must be observed at all times, as should public health, hygiene and biosecurity requirements.”

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland remain in a tighter lockdown, but for riders and trainers in England, this will allow for some resumption of normal activity – though the BEF urges riders to remain responsible and cautious.

“We continue to request that riders, drivers and vaulters consider the risk of their activity, and to ride or exercise where it is safe to do so and within their capabilities and fitness levels for them and their horse,” the statement continued. “Those residing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should remain within the boundaries of the premises where the horses are kept, where at all possible.”

Trainers will now be able to travel to clients’ yards throughout England to teach in ‘controlled outdoor environments’, though they can only teach individual riders or household groups. A 2m distance must be maintained between trainer and pupil, and if the trainer is required to ride a client’s horse, any shared tack must be disinfected between riders to minimise the risk of viral contamination.

Venues reopening for public hire must conduct full risk assessments and ensure that hygiene and social distancing methods are enforced. These measures may include limiting bookings and providing contactless payment and waiver provisions. Riders travelling to a venue must do so alone or in the company of a member of their household, and may only ride with household members or one other person – be that a friend or a trainer – with appropriate social distancing.

“Right across the country, most people have upheld their societal responsibility to help with the management of the pandemic and the equestrian community has certainly risen to the challenge,” said BEF Chairman Malcom Wharton. “These have been testing weeks with many riders separated from their horses, coaches and grooms, often without income, and riding schools without their clients – whatever our situation, none of us have been unaffected.

“Many have followed our advice to the letter and some have continued to ride, but as safely as is possible and I thank you all for your support. Conditions are right that we can soften our message, as we all know the proven health benefits, both in terms of physical and mental wellbeing, that exercising with horses brings. We need to remain vigilant, stay alert and not take any undue risks, so that we can continue to ease towards the full resumption of activity, when the time is right.”

So far, coaches and venues are resuming activity on varying scales. While many facilities are opting to reopen their arenas and cross-country courses for normal use, others have opted to wait and observe what happens next, particularly as many riders still feel that jumping and training pose too much of a risk in the current climate.

Individual discipline-specific governing bodies will be releasing their own guidelines on a long-term sport resumption plan. The BEF stresses that these new, slightly eased guidelines are contingent on government advice – that is, if numbers start to rise again and lockdown is tightened, the ability to travel to ride and teach will be necessarily removed.

For now, though, this will come as a welcome change for self-employed trainers who may have found themselves overlooked in the government’s stimulus plan.

2020 FEI European Championships for Ponies Cancelled; European Pony Masters Planned for Autumn

Britain’s silver medal winning Pony Team at the 2017 Europeans. Photo by G Herrling.

The 2020 FEI European Championships for Ponies, set to take place at Strzegom in Poland from July 15–19, is the latest major competition to drop from this season’s calendar in the wake of COVID-19. The decision comes after ongoing efforts by the organising committee to reschedule the competition, but the necessity for it to fall within school holidays forced the cancellation.

The Championships host eventing, showjumping and dressage competition, and are restricted to riders of 16 and under. To try to ease the blow for those riders in their final year of eligibility, the team is planning a replacement competition, tentatively set for September or October.

“We realise that for many athletes, the Europeans were their last chance to compete in this age category,” the committee said in a statement released today (May 13). “Instead of the FEI European Championships for Ponies, we plan to organise a new event called the European Pony Masters in September or October.”

The new event will take place at Strzegom and will include all three disciplines. Though the team’s planning efforts hinge on an easing of the pandemic, they’re optimistic that the event will be able to run and plan to release more information, a final date, and qualification guidelines soon.

“After all the hard work they have put in, it is desperately disappointing for Marcin Konarski and his wonderful team at Strzegom to have to cancel the FEI European Championships for Ponies, and also, of course, for all the young athletes who were planning their season around heading to Poland this summer,” said FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez. “But it is wonderful that Strzegom have come up with a creative solution with the new European Pony Masters offering an alternative outing later in the year.”

‘I Couldn’t Bear the Thought of Something Happening to Her’ – Badminton Winner Paulank Brockagh Retires

Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh at Badminton in 2014. Photo courtesy of Nico Morgan Photography.

Dinah Posford‘s Paulank Brockagh, the 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare with whom Australia’s Sam Griffiths won Badminton Horse Trials in 2014, has returned to breeder Paula Cullen‘s Co. Wicklow yard to begin her retirement.

“Dinah’s had horses with me for 20 years now and she’s a proper owner,” says Sam. “She does everything for the love of the horse and never wants to push them. The most important thing for her is that they come home safe. Brocks was starting to feel her age, she had a lot of miles on the clock and she didn’t owe anyone anything. She still looks a treat, so although I was upset to see her leaving I’m really pleased that a horse of her calibre finishes her career happy and sound.”

Owner Dinah continues, “at the end of day she’s retiring fit and healthy, and she deserves it. I think it would have been tempting fate to do any more – I couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to her.”

The decision comes after the ongoing pandemic shelved the team’s original plans to aim for a final major run, whether at Badminton or at the Tokyo Olympics. She had been campaigned in 2019 with this aim in mind, with a trip to Luhmühlen — where she finished 7th — taking precedence over a more taxing run around the site of her 2014 victory.

“It would have been her seventh time [at Badminton if she had run this year], and it would have been great to produce another good result and then retire her on the last day,” says Sam.

Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh at Luhmühlen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But wrapping her illustrious career up on a top ten finish isn’t too shabby, and nor are the memories that Sam, Dinah and the rest of the Griffiths Eventing Team have collected over the decade that the mare has been in situ at Symphony Farm.

Her first major competition with Sam in the irons was the Seven-Year-Old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers in 2010, in which she finished eighth. She had previously been campaigned by Irish rider Heidi Hamilton, and by Joseph Murphy and Daryll Walker prior to Heidi. Less than a year after taking the reins, Sam contested the London Olympics test event with ‘Brocks’, finishing 20th and setting the stage for a successful step up to four star that autumn. The following year, she finished fifth in her second CCI4*-L at Bramham, proving her toughness early on. But not everyone was quite so impressed with the mare.

“When [Chris Burton] visited one time I told him, ‘you have to sit on this mare – I think she might be my next Badminton horse’,” recalls Sam. “But he didn’t think too much of her that day. He fell in love with her a few years later though!”

2013 would see Brocks step up to five-star with clear rounds at both Badminton and Burghley, though her dressage scores kept her out of the top placings at both. The next spring was to provide a very different challenge, however, with extraordinarily challenging weather conditions and a particularly tough track by Guiseppe della Chiesa combining to create one of the most difficult Badmintons in recent memory.

Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh. Photo courtesy of Nico Morgan Photography.

A first-phase score of 46.3 (30.8 in new scoring) put them on the back foot early on, and Sam and Brocks headed into Saturday’s competition in 25th place. But it certainly wouldn’t be a dressage competition — an endless deluge created bottomless going while gale-force winds sent Portaloos flying, and just 32 of the 78 starters would make it through this phase. As Sunday dawned, Brocks sat in a competitive fifth place — and just one rail down on a day that saw only a single showjumping clear would clinch this first five-star victory for Sam.

Sam Griffiths (AUS) and Paulank Brockagh. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

That win, plus top ten finishes at both Badminton and Burghley in 2015, put the pair firmly in the eyeline of Team Australia’s selectors and in 2016, they headed to the Rio Olympics. They finished fourth individually as part of the bronze-medal-winning team and followed their efforts up with three gentle seasons, each focused on a successful five-star run. Top ten finishes at both Pau and Luhmühlen would be amongst their post-Rio accomplishments.

“I’ve never ridden a horse that would try so hard,” says Sam of Brocks’ competitive consistency. “She was a naturally good jumper, needed some training on the flat but an incredible cross-country horse. I really felt that I could point her at a house and she’d try to jump it! She would give you so much confidence, she wasn’t the quickest but where she came to the fore was at 5-star level. She had such endurance, she could just keep going and keep trying, especially on the last day – she’d still give it everything she had.”

Sam Griffiths gives Paulank Brockagh a bit of fuss at Luhmühlen in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Irish-bred mare (Touchdown x Calendar Girl, by Trigerrero), who Dinah and Paula describe variously as ‘impetuous’ and ‘opinionated’, may well have offspring of her own now.

“When we sold her in 2010 I said to Dinah that if she ever bred from her I’d love to have first refusal on the foal,” says breeder Paula. “So when I got the call to ask if I’d like to retire her here I couldn’t hold back the tears!”

Happy retirement, Brocks — and Dinah, do please consider adding us to that waiting list.

Badminton in the Rearview: A Journalist’s Love Letter

This week, in lieu of hanging out in a field in Gloucestershire ourselves, we’re going to be sharing some of our favourite Badminton content of years gone by, as well as some new pieces to keep the nostalgia train going strong. We bid the Badminton That Wasn’t adieu with this unapologetically soppy ode, first published in 2018.

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet check out their new piece of silverware. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another Badminton in the books, and what a week it was. From the tension and excitement of a Grand Slam attempt through to the incredible conclusion, in which we saw Jonelle Price and Classic Moet finally join the “elite club” of four-star winners, it was a non-stop, action-packed week which required everyone involved to fire on all cylinders from Tuesday until the sun set over Gloucestershire on Sunday night.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends: Lauren Kieffer and Veronica head into the prizegiving after finishing in ninth place — a fantastic finish for the Americans. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For all our best efforts, there’s so much that we as journalists take in throughout a major competition that simply can’t make it into the write-ups — there’s space to think about, and relevance, and the swiftly diminishing braincells we find ourselves wielding as we write up the reports at the end of another 12-hour-plus day.

When dreams become reality: Foxwood High looks back at the main arena moments after completing his test and setting the ball rolling on a week that would bring owner John Rumble’s long-held aims to life. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But it all gets under our skin — the magic of the place, the stories we hear, and the people and horses we meet through the week. EN Lead Writer Jenni Autry pioneered the idea of the reporter’s notebook a couple of months ago, and today I’d like to respectfully borrow the idea to share a little bit of my Badminton with you, and take you into the places you don’t get to see on the livestream.

Will Coleman celebrates a brilliant test with OBOS O’Reilly, before being whisked into the mixed zone for interviews. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The collecting ring is one of those places. From our second home in the mixed zone, where we interview riders after they dismount, we can see the whole spectrum of human emotion unfold, from the conquering of fear on the way to the start box, to the joy and relief after a successful cross country round.

Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy — the highest-placed first-timer in eighth — demonstrates the difference between heading to the start box…

…with game faces firmly in place…

… and the joy and relief of coming home from a fast clear around your first Badminton. Photos by Tilly Berendt.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and if so, it must take a minor metropolis to produce a horse to the four-star level and have it finish one of the toughest tests of its life healthy, happy, sound and satisfied. We see just a small fraction of this when we watch a horse canter down the centreline, or clear the final fence — for every horse and rider combination, there’s an enormous and varied support team scarcely breathing as they watch their charges tackle each phase of the competition.

All hands on deck as Classic Moet finishes her lightning-fast cross country round, coming in just one second over the optimum time despite taking the long route at the Lake. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lesson learned: you’re only as good as the team around you, whether you’re riding around Badminton’s formidable course or clocking up the hours in front of your laptop in the media centre. A glimpse into the collecting ring saw many things: laughter, tears, enormous hugs — the proper ones, of course, the ones which leave both parties with aching ribs and silly grins — and always, without fail, an F1-calibre support crew, ready to aggressively cool horses, remove boots, offer water, and give endless praise and kisses. Grooms are often the unsung heroes of the sport, but they really are the cogs that the machine requires to function.

Freelance groom David Burton takes his charge for the week — Kirsty Short’s Cossan Lad — for a leg-stretch. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

On my end, too, a great team was key. I was lucky enough to be supported once again by top tog Nico Morgan, who snapped all the incredible photographs which accompanied my reports throughout the week and who always provides the sort of good-natured, merciless bullying that is absolutely required in a CCI4* week. I was also stabled (or tabled) with team EquiRatings, helmed by lead Numbers Nerd Diarm Byrne and ably assisted by the glamorous Nicole Brown and Georgia Patrick. We were joined by rookie event reporter Rachel Dyke of Horse&Rider magazine, who, poor soul, was thrown well into the deep end with us and kept on swimming.

Note to self: don’t save the team selfie for Sunday evening.

We laughed ourselves stupid, spent hours perfecting(?) our rider impersonations — I do a mean Michi Jung — and availed ourselves merrily of the media centre’s open bar as evening set in. As Jenni mused about the boys in one of our many overexcited WhatsApp conversations through the week: “It’s one of those things where you know you’d be SO much more productive without those goons, but you can’t imagine doing it without them.”

I’d say I miss them already, but they’d never let me live it down.

Emerging from the beautiful old buildings that house Badminton’s meticulous stableyard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of the (many, many) pinch-me moments I had last week was granted to me by Badminton’s media director, Julian Seaman. Under FEI rules, access to the stables is restricted to grooms, riders, and their immediate team of owners and family, but because of Julian’s generosity in helping me to get the stories I was chasing, I was able to visit not just once, but twice — the second time, spending a blissful half an hour getting to know Michael Jung and his wonder horse, La Biosthetique Sam FBW. I’m so excited to bring you the full story later on this week.

A good time for a snooze — Tom Jackson’s Waltham Fiddler’s Find takes it easy as the finishing touches are put in for the first horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The stables are a special kind of magical — helmed from old, golden stone, set up in two long aisleways and a number of nooks and crannies around a vast, meticulously swept courtyard, there’s a palpable frisson of excitement in the air. You get the feeling that no one is immune to that flutter of butterflies in their tummy as they walk through the clocktower archway — but for all this, and for the fact that the narrow aisles are constantly filled with the hustle and bustle of support and horsemanship, each stable houses a supremely relaxed, dozing athlete.

Good luck cards, addressed to both horses and riders, are delivered to the stable managers office and pinned to a notice board, ready for collection. Here, first-timers Kate Honey and Fernhill Now or Never display some of their spoils. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As it turns out, the magic never quite wears off: “It’s so special,” Michael Jung assures me when I ask him about it. “Almost a second home, but so special.” Bittersweet, too, because this was to be the last time we’d get the joy of seeing King Sam at the competition he won in 2016 — Michael announced several months ago that 2018 would be the horse’s final season at the top level.

“I’ll be having that, then” — Michi Jung’s dog does what we’ve all thought about doing, and gives stealing Sam a jolly good attempt. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I can’t believe this is the last time we’ll see him here,” I say to him, as we watch modern eventing’s most-medalled horse graze in front of the house.

“Maybe,” he replies, a wide grin spreading across his face. “Maybe.”

Ireland’s James O’Haire performs perhaps the most important role in the trot-up prep routine — offering up bribes to encourage his mare, China Doll, to stand still. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Many of the grooms are housed in small chambres des bonne, and Selena O’Hanlon‘s head girl Anne-Marie Duarte tells me that, although they may be basic, the novelty of staying in what is essentially an annexe of Badminton House doesn’t pass her by. “Although the last time I was here, there was no hot water,” she muses. “I hope they’ve fixed that!”

The number one mode of transportation around the sprawling Badminton estate. Just watch out for British team coach Chris Bartle, who has replaced his exceptionally squeaky bike of last season, and is now a liability on wheels. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Riders, grooms, owners and supporters zoom in and out of the stables on pushbikes, followed by a bevy of stable dogs, and there’s a cavernous canteen for them all to dine in, too, lined with hundreds of antlers of indeterminate age.

A family affair: baby Charlie and dad Will Coleman supervise as OBOS O’Reilly is plaited for the first horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It all feels like a grown-up version of summer camp — laughter everywhere, as old friends catch up, selfies with equine charges in front of the house — until the first horse inspection gets underway. Then there’s the feeling of passing through a threshold — quite literally — into something rather bigger than oneself.

Once you’ve stepped through this archway, your Badminton begins. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

From then on out, it’s all systems go. The stables are a constant hive of activity, a walk around Little Badminton village drums up endless encounters with horses and riders stretching their legs, and the Media Centre — the best, in my opinion, of any event — absolutely thrums with adrenaline and high-speed content production. Well, it thrums until the WiFi buckles under the pressure — then it’s filled with a cacophony of noise, mostly from me, and mostly unfit to print.

When the media cracks: four-star eventer Ben Way makes himself useful for Radio Badminton. Some of his interviews, like this one with Ivar Gooden, are … less eloquent than the rest. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Throughout a long week of reporting, you learn to adopt every available resource as a means of recording a story. It all starts out in a very civilised manner — a dictaphone shoved in a back pocket, a reasonably organised notebook, a few different coloured pens (an idea pinched from Horse&Hound editor Pippa Roome — because you can never stop learning, nor adapting your craft) to try to keep the riders and phases separate. A few days in, it all starts to fall apart at the seams, and you find yourself scrawling notes in an almost indecipherable shorthand on just about anything that stands still for long enough to be written on. Inevitably, you find something like this a few days later, having completely forgotten that you took notes on your phone, too:

The stuff that (mostly) logical event reports are made of. The glam life of an eventing journo.

Keeping a camera to hand is always helpful, too — until you’ve tried four times to get the shot, only to realise you never took the lens cap off. Whoops. Sometimes you actually get there in time, and think you’ve snapped something really elegant and special, only to purge your memory cards and find something else entirely.

Black Beauty: Lydia Hannon’s My Royal Touch at the final horse inspection, apparently feeling the effects of one too many drinks at the Outside Chance the night before. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The number-one cure for end-of-day eventing insanity? Zooming in on the riders’ faces in jumping photos, of course.

Ireland’s Jonty Evans gets a pep-talk from BBC presenter Clare Balding on the way to the start box. His sleeve reads ‘#artsamazingfamily’ — an homage to the 6,800 donors who helped him to secure his horse of a lifetime last season. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eventing, of course, isn’t always the easiest sport to report on — it has more ups and downs than a sunken road complex, and the heartbreaks are felt as strongly as the victories. It’s a mad, nomadic lifestyle that we all — grooms, riders, owners, and journalists — embark upon, and we form friendships that cross all of those divides. At the end of the day, we do what we do because we love the sport and, most intrinsically of all, we love the horses.

Team work really does make the dream work: Mark Todd congratulates Selena O’Hanlon on a great round. Selena and Woody have been based at Mark’s Badgerstown yard while in the UK. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There are two rules to journalism: you must never comment on the weather (something I fail rather spectacularly at!) and you must strip your own emotion and opinion from your work and report only the facts. Sometimes, this isn’t easy. Sometimes, it feels nearly impossible. Often, we have to take ourselves out of the situation for a moment, find somewhere quiet, and deal with our own emotions when we see a friend fall on course, a controversy unfold, or, the very worst, an irreparable injury.

Cheers, pal: Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden performed one of the best rounds of the day on Saturday, finishing in 11th place overall in the competition. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But then, the magic of the sport puts us all back together again. It’s seeing Jonelle Price‘s enormous grin as she tells you that dreams do come true, while her young son Otis tries his best to cram the chinstrap of her helmet into his mouth. It’s seeing young, up-and-coming riders stunned into silence by the magnitude of their gratitude to their horses, who have showed them that they’re capable of everything they ever imagined. It’s watching the children watching their favourite riders, their wide eyes and small faces pressed against the fence of the mixed zone, hoping that they might get to meet real life, actual Mark Todd. It’s the incomparable sportsmanship of the collecting ring, as riders, friends, grooms, everyone in the vicinity is swept up in a whirlwind of well-wishes and teary hugs.

The Kiwi takeover: Andy Daines, on Spring Panorama, and Ginny Thompson, on Star Nouveau, get the obligatory house photo in the bank. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s the stories, too, that don’t make the headlines — that of New Zealand’s Ginny Thompson, for example, who sold her entire yard so that she and Star Nouveau could come to the UK for two years to base themselves with Blyth Tait and chase their dreams. It’s her fellow countryman, Andy Daines, who quickly became every interviewer’s favourite rider with his easy charm and token one-liners: “I was riding around in the warm-up ring with Michael Jung, and I was just like, ‘Can I touch you?!’ No, that’s weird!” and “I’ll stay here until my visa runs out — and then I need to find myself a rich husband!” King of the one-liners, too, is Ireland’s James O’Haire — to which I need only offer you this:

Michael Jung, he's coming to get you!!

James O'Haire – the one liner of Badminton today!!! 🇮🇪

Posted by Irish Eventing Times on Friday, May 4, 2018

Full support: eventing fans wait at the perimeter of the mixed zone in the hopes of catching up with their favourite riders. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Above all things, it’s the horses. It’s almost too obvious to say that we’d be nowhere without them, because, well, of course — but their strength, their intelligence, their fortitude, and their loyalty never ceases to inspire a profound sort of awe in me. I hope that I never reach the point in my career when being in proximity to them loses its sparkle. I hope I always maintain a childlike glee in heaping cuddles on Classic Moet, or giving Nereo’s nose a final stroke, or having La Biosthetique Sam merrily blow his nose down my arm.

A shared victory — the Prices’ head girl, Lucy Miles, celebrates her charge’s win. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After talking to my fellow media louts — many of whom have been in the game for far longer than I have, and whose work I admire and learn from constantly — I truly believe I will. Inside all of us — those in the saddle, and those on the ground — are still the horse-crazy children who dreamed these lofty dreams in the first place.

It really is real — Jonelle Price and Trisha Rickards, owner of Classic Moet, tick the four-star box together. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s easy to fall victim to the post-Badminton blues — a combination of exhaustion, perhaps a bit too much sun, a feeling of distinct anticlimax in the absence of those vibrant characters who have made the prior week so special. But the sun is shining, my own horse is waiting, and it’s back on the road on Friday for the first leg of the 2018 Event Rider Masters series at Chatsworth. Thank you for turning to EN for all your eventing news and reports — it’s a special and indescribable privilege to be able to bring you these stories. Here’s to you; the eventing fans who keep this mad world turning.

Until next time — go eventing.

Tx

The real deal. Jonelle Price and Classic Moet finish their winning showjumping — a first international clear in four years — to a tumult of celebration. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Monday News & Notes from Fleeceworks

What. A. Week. This is the first time in a very long time that I’ve not been using today as a recovery day from a crazy week at Badminton, but somehow I’m no less shattered right now — between retrospectives, Virtual Eventing, and some serious legwork on a VERY exciting new venture that EN will be launching for you all this week, I feel slightly delirious and extraordinarily silly. Almost as silly as Karla Parsons, the frontline worker who uses her free time to make absolutely mental eventing TikToks, like the one above. Almost.

National Holiday: National Eat What You Want Day. No different from my normal life in lockdown, then.

Your Monday reading list:

The NAF Virtual Eventing 5* was a roaring success, raising over £150,000 for medical charities around the world. Did you watch along? Were you as heavily invested in the riders’ dogs as I was? (I can speak from experience when I say that Pretzel Crisp and Sybil Coon are both utter babes and deserve their moment in the spotlight!) If you didn’t, treat yourself and catch up on the madness — you can find our reports here, or head straight to Virtual Eventing’s website to watch on demand.

It’s not just humans who are missing eventing — it’s their horses, too. This 23-year-old can’t wait to get back out, and he’ll be aimed at a four-star once life resumes again. Yes, you read that right. Go get ’em, golden oldie. [‘He’s so grumpy at not going out!’ 23-year-old event horse aiming at four-star level once competitions restart]

US Equestrian and USEA are holding a webinar for members this Wednesday, giving you the chance to ask your burning questions about the resumption of competition. It’s open to all USEA and/or USEF eventing members, and will feature panelists including Managing Director of Eventing Jenni Autry, USEA President Max Corcoran, and Lynn Symansky. You’ll need to submit your questions by Tuesday evening, so hop on over to the link for all the details. [US Equestrian & USEA to Host Joint Webinar for Eventing: A Safe Return to Competition]

Want to make the most of your time at home? Then check out Jimmy Wofford’s comprehensive syllabus to become a well-rounded horseman and the best athlete you can be. Not convinced reading can improve riding? Totally anecdotal, but nearly a decade ago I spent a couple of years mostly out of the saddle for various reasons and read riding articles and books voraciously, and I was definitely noticeably better at it when I got back on board properly. [James C. Wofford’s COVID-19 Quarantine Guide: Go Back to School]

You can take the Pony Clubbers away from their ponies, but you can never, ever squash their spirit. Members of a UK Pony Club were tasked with writing report cards for their ponies while they’re stuck at home, and the results are as hilarious as you’d expect. [‘I love them, even when I stink of their pee’: young riders’ school reports on their ponies]

If you love Olympic history with the fervent geekiness that I do, you’ll love the FEI’s series on equestrian sport at the Games. This time, they’re looking at the Barcelona Games in 1992 — the year that Blyth Tait managed to climb 66 places to score a spot on the podium. Mental. [Equestrian at the Olympics: 1992]

Horse&Rider magazine (okay, okay, it’s me) looked back at Badminton’s biggest movers and shakers over the yearsWhen I was eighteen, I was working in a supermarket and getting eliminated in the showjumping, but Richard Walker was winning Badminton, and that’s fine and not demoralising at all. [Leaving a Legacy: Recordbreakers at Badminton]

Monday video from Fleeceworks:

Don’t say I never spoil you. You’re getting two videos on a theme today, because the might Pippa Funnell has announced the winners of her marvellous poetry competition in the most fabulous way possible — she recruited some of her most legendary friends, including William Fox-PittMichael Jung, and Clare Balding to read out the finalists’ entries. Just imagine being one of those kids. Here are the winners in each of the categories, as read by Lucinda Green and Pip herself. I really do recommend clicking over to Pippa’s Facebook page to listen to more of these – the poems, and the readings themselves, are absolutely fab.

Lola Moon, winner of the under-10 category:

 

Sophie Bayne-Powell, winner of the 11-16 category:

Kirsty Chabert Steals Surprise Victory in First-Ever Virtual Eventing 5*

In a twist no one could have foreseen, Great Britain’s Kirsty Chabert – neé Johnston – took the top prize in today’s finale at the NAF Virtual Eventing 5*, wrestling the lead away from France’s Sebastien Cavaillon, our overnight leader after cross-country.

Today’s showjumping course saw competitors take to the arena on their bikes, wending their way over related distances, oxers, and – if exceptionally brave or stupid – see-saws. The aim? Get home clear in under 1:30. The penalties? Earned for exceeding that time (1p for every five seconds over), riding an electric bike (an automatic 2p), putting a foot down (4p) or using a conveyance with an engine (4p). Think that all sounds rather easy? You’d be wrong.

Just 16 of the 46 remaining competitors would come home with faultless rounds, while others would suffer at the hands of clever course design and the near-impossibility of pedalling in tall boots.

Vittoria Panizzon loses out on a top placing, but earns some kudos for her competitive aesthetics.

Kirsty, who sat sixth at the start of the day’s competition, produced a foot-perfect and penalty-free round to put the pressure on the top five – and they certainly felt it. Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon, who entered the arena in fifth place, suffered a blow-out after the second fence but bravely soldiered on, accompanied by her dog. The effort was too much for her wheeled conveyance, though, and she was forced to put a foot down in the middle of the oxer at three, earning herself a costly four penalties early on. That would be followed by another four penalties at the penultimate obstacle, plus two time penalties, sending her cascading down the order into 15th.

Fourth-placed Louisa Lockwood didn’t lose any ground on the leaderboard when adding four time penalties, but her cautious round allowed Kirsty – and France’s Tom Carlile, eventual third – to continue her climb up the rankings. Nobody to come had anything in hand – and when Matt Heath entered on an electric bicycle, his immediate two penalties would put him out of contention for the win.

And then there were two. Gemma Tattersall entered the arena in second place – but although she remained faultless and game-faced, her slow-and-steady approach saw her add a few too many strides, and she added a catastrophic five time faults to fall to fifth place. As Kirsty waited nervously in the wings to see if she’d take her first five-star win, Sebastien Cavaillon – the dashing Frenchman who had soared so impressively to the top spot yesterday – finished his final preparations. There was a moment of tension, a collective stopping of breath – and then, the gentle purr of an engine. Kirsty Chabert had earned the win by default, while Sebastien, with his initial four penalties plus a further eight for two feet down, would languish in seventeenth.

Sebastien Cavaillon makes a disastrous error of judgment to throw away a first 5* victory…

…while Kirsty Chabert celebrates in the chute.

“It’s awesome!” enthuses Kirsty, who climbed from a first-phase 20th, of her win. But was her dominance in the latter two phases the result of a particularly sporty childhood at school?

“No,” she laughs, “I was terrible! I never thought I’d finish on my dressage score.”

That dressage score of 32.8 was earned aboard Classic VI, with whom Kirsty finished 24th at Pau last season after returning to the top from maternity leave. Her son Henry and husband Arthur, also competing this week, were on hand for enthusiastic celebrations after the final round.

The USA had a tricky week, though a clear round from Hallie Coon allowed her to crack the top 20, finishing 18th overall and at the forefront of the Yank contingent. Boyd Martin finished 26th after adding four time penalties, while both Hannah Sue Burnett and Katherine Coleman suffered penalties for use of an engine – excusable, really, in the latter instance, as Katherine is recovering from a knee injury – to finish 38th and 29th, respectively.

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WOW! You may have just heard our new total with Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes, but we had to shout about it! This has been a remarkable journey. THANK YOU TO EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU who has donated. Our silent auction, raffle, virtual shopping village and art gallery will be open and running until Saturday 16th at 9pm so if you have been outbid, it's not too late to bid OR DONATE!! We just want to take the opportunity to thank all our RIDERS for being SUCH great sports and making excellent viewing! Their OWNERS for letting them compete their WONDERFUL horses, all their GROOMS for turning them out so well and turning their hooves to pro-camera crew for the duration of this event! Thanks to our headline sponsors @nafuk for their continued support and all the other sponsors who have kindly made this work. Thank you to everyone who has donated money, prizes and silent auction items, @iamwillbest and the artists for a BLOODY great night last night. A huge thanks Mark Jennings (@chillipeppertv) for an epic production, our commentary team @sturmeyspencer123 , Lizzie greenwood hughes, @holsfarr, Ginny Elliott, @pammyhutton, Terry Boon, Matthew Wright and our dressage judges Annabel Scrimgeour, Les Smith and Jane Tolley. And our team behind the scenes including Lara Surman (@zvari_marketing_ – PR & Marketing), Tom Jones (sponsorship), Kevin Frances (@thelittlewildones – Graphics), @lucyasnell (PR), @pumbaagoess (Marketing Assistant), Amanda Watson (The Equestrian Index), Jodie Seddon – Equestrian Law – @gunnercookellp, Jane Smith (J S Teamwear), Wendy Evans (Scorer), Miranda Collett (Eventing scores) Saving the best until last – @rachel.wakefield & Michael Wynne THANK YOU for your BRAINWAVE! Without them none of this would've been possible! 🤩🥳🦄

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Even more importantly than the five days of brilliant entertainment, though, was the charitable cause at the heart of it all. By the end of the competition, Virtual Eventing had raised over £153,000 for medical charities around the world – an incredible sum made possible by the huge efforts of the team behind the event, led by Rachel Wakefield-Wynne of Uptown Eventing.

“It was really important that we did our bit for the NHS,” explains Kirsty. “They’ve helped us riders on numerous occasions, scraping us off the floor and piecing us back together, so it was the least we could do, and it’s an amazing cause. Rachel has done a fantastic job getting all of us together, so full credit to her and her team.”

Fancy giving it another watch, picking up your Virtual Eventing merch, adding to that amazing total, or picking up some mega bargains in the trade village? You can continue to do so here.

Go (Virtual) Eventing!

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The riders are getting psyched up for the final phase of the @nafuk Virtual 5* Competition (some are 'kacking' themselves @the_mjet 😂) this afternoon kindly sponsored by @houso_app & @voltairedesuk and our weekend sponsors @bloomfieldshorseboxes 🎉 Hope you're all alive today after our EPIC HOUSE PARTY last night. Thanks to @iamwillbest and the awesome artists who played! We had donations flying in until midnight so THANK YOU EVERYONE! 🙏 TUNE IN TODAY 2PM BST! 🎬 virtualeventing.com OR Facebook live 👌 . . . #donate #forcharity #nhs #doctors #nurses #getinvolved #virtualeventing #herewego #partygettingstarted #eventing #finalphase #showjumping #elite #sport #extremesports #athlete #equine #equestrianlife #votd #sundaysessions

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The top ten at the culmination of the NAF Virtual Eventing 5*.

Badminton in the Rearview: Oliver Townend Sets a Dazzling Dressage Record

This week, in lieu of hanging out in a field in Gloucestershire ourselves, we’re going to be sharing some of our favourite Badminton content of years gone by, as well as some new pieces to keep the nostalgia train going strong. In this flashback, we revisit last year’s competition, at which Oliver Townend broke the record for the best-ever dressage test. Here’s an excerpt from our reports that day, plus a video of the history-making test…

Oliver Townend's record breaking dressage test

Watch Oliver Townend (Official) & Cillnabradden Evo's incredible dressage test in full here or via our Watch Again Livestream service: https://www.badminton-horse.co.uk/badminton-live They delivered the best dressage score at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in 19 years (19.7)! The record here until this point was Andrew Hoy & Darien Powers was 20.5. Facts courtesy of @EquiRatings

Posted by Badminton Horse Trials on Thursday, May 2, 2019

When the entry list for Badminton came out so many moons ago, there was a surprise on it: Oliver Townend had put forward four of his horses, and one of them was the rogue contender Cillnabradden Evo. Gary, as he’s known at home, is a horse whose career peaks and troughs, if diagrammed, would probably closely resemble his rider’s heart rate when he runs him across the country. On his day, Sally-Anne Egginton’s thirteen-year-old gelding (S. Creevagh Ferro x Willow Garden) is just about unbeatable. He’s earned himself a remarkable record in CCI4*-S (formerly CIC3*) competitions, partly because he’s so capable of delivering an eye-wateringly good dressage test. Then, he can back it up – usually – across the country, and he’s an out-and-out showjumper at short format. But in long format competitions, or at the five-star level? He’s a bit of an unknown quantity. His first long-format competition since 2016 came last season, when he made his five-star debut at Pau – after taking an easy lead in the first phase, he stormed around three quarters of the course before leaving a leg and, ultimately, leaving Oliver on the ground.

Oliver Townend celebrates with the crowd after setting a new standard at Badminton with Cillnabradden Evo. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

So was it a surprise that Oliver brought him here? Sure – no one, after all, would have questioned Oliver’s judgment if he’d decided to keep the horse as a CCI4*-S specialist. But just as Cillnabradden Evo is an all-or-nothing horse, Oliver Townend is an all-or-nothing rider. He doesn’t come to play – he comes to win. This week, he’s willing to take his chances and rely on both his undeniable experience and the valuable information he picked up at Pau to make it happen.

What happens next is much less of a surprise. In this sport, we often talk about Thursday morning as being a bit of a tough slot – yes, it’s a bit quieter in the ring, which can be a bonus for an inexperienced or tense horse, but many consider the scoring in the first session to be a bit stuffier and a bit less generous than in the prime-time Friday afternoon slot. To lead here, you have to fire on all cylinders. And that’s just what Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo did.

Cillnabradden Evo: forever inching his way towards a sub-10 dressage. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Their score of 19.7 isn’t just a five-star personal best for the horse. It isn’t just a five-star personal best for the rider. It is, in fact, the best dressage score ever recorded at Badminton, nearly a full mark ahead of the 20.5 delivered by Andrew Hoy and Darien Powers in 2000.

“We’ve had him a while, and so I know him inside-out,” said a typically stoic Oliver after the remarkable test. “Everyone has a lot to say about him, but so far, so good! I went to bed thinking 19 last night; it’s a lot of shit and hard work to get there, but now we just hope that he stays on his feet in the next bit.”

Despite having been out of the country for a week to win a certain competition in Kentucky, Oliver has quiet confidence in the way the horse has been managed and prepared for the biggest competition of his life. Ironically, he tells us with a laugh, “there’s been no prep at all – we’ve just been to the gallops a few times. He does it all himself.”

Time and time again, we’ve seen Oliver display his knack for creating champions out of the most unlikely of horses – in Gary he has, perhaps, the most stark duality between freakish ability and sporadic heartbreak. But if Badminton comes down to trying to win each moment, then he’s off to a flying start.

Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo make history at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

But it’s not all records and glamour: “Normally I’m struggling away with a set of mirrors and the floodlights on, but that’s just what we do,” he explained. “I don’t actually have a dressage trainer, embarrassingly – I have the set of mirrors, and I have some DVDs, so you could say I’m pretty close with Carl Hester. That’s not me coming out, by the way!”

Oliver also relies on the help of his friend, manager, and business partner Karyn Schuter: “I trust her implicitly – you can see her speaking to me down a microphone, but you wouldn’t always want to hear what she’s saying! She’s my best mate and she always lets me know how the other riders are looking and whether we’re looking good.”

Although overnight leader Cillnabradden Evo is a bit of a riskier proposition across the country, Oliver is quick to acknowledge and own this fact. And, despite the horse failing to complete his debut five-star at Pau last year, Oliver considers the trip to France a positive one – it was, as he termed it, a ‘fact-finding mission’, and until the late wobble that ended their day, those discoveries certainly looked positive.

“The aim will be to get him home. I’ve been quite hungry for quite a long time to have him here, so it’d be nice if he put his best foot forward,” said Oliver. “[Ballaghmor Class] has been here, he’s been to Burghley twice, and so he’s battle-hardened, and he’s a lot stronger both physically, but especially mentally. We’d had no spring season last year [when he finished fifth], and we did a lot on the gallops at home, but nothing does it for them like a good event. This spring, he’s had a good run at Burnham Market, where he ran away with me up the hill [and won the CCI4*-S], and he’s feeling great. We’d have more hope for him this weekend.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class keep the good times rolling. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The next day, Oliver would make history again – his dressage score of 21.1 with Ballaghmor Class would see him hold the top two positions going into cross-country, an unprecedented and enviable position to be in. 

“The night before last, I said to myself ’19, 19, 19′, and I just kept going over my test and drilling it. I didn’t think about it as much last night – maybe I should have,” he laughed. “I made one cock-up, which was a bit of a situation that he threw at me coming into the flying change, but we’re always happy to dream, and so far the dream’s coming true. If I went back in now, I could knock another three marks off, and he has the ability to come back and knock five off [in the future], but it’s all about keeping him relaxed so I can do a bit more and then a bit more. The thing about Badminton is that you have to do three clear rounds in three phases, but the more you push, the bigger the risk.”

“It’s a very good start, and I’m over the moon with both the horses – I have to keep myself under wraps because I get a quite emotional, and it’s not good for my image,” quipped Oliver. “People expect so much [from Ballaghmor Class], but they forget that he won Burghley [in 2017] as a novice. He’s beautiful to ride, and his work ethic fits into our system very well. There are plenty who don’t give you what these two have. Some people think of us as an eventing factory, but we know these horses inside out, more than anyone in the world – and the horses don’t lie.”

Cillnabradden Eva ultimately finished sixth after adding 12.4 time penalties across the country and dropping a pole on Sunday, while Ballaghmor Class finished in an achingly close second place after Oliver added a stride in the showjumping, costing him a fraction of a second and handing the victory to Piggy March, neé French, and Vanir Kamira. 

Sebastian Cavaillon Soars into Virtual Eventing Lead After an Utterly Bonkers Cross-Country

Sebastien Cavaillon takes the lead in the second phase of Virtual Eventing. Look how smug his dog is.

Poor Laura Collett – after delivering an eye-wateringly excellent test yesterday to hold the overnight lead with London 52, a bad case of the giggles – and a truly impressive dunking in the water complex – relegated her right down the leaderboard into 29th place after the cross-country phase of the NAF Virtual Eventing 5*.

Of course, with all the competitors locked down at their respective home bases around the world, this wasn’t 5* cross-country as we’re used to seeing it – instead, it was something considerably more insane. Each rider had to tackle a multipart obstacle course, accompanied by a dog, a teddy bear, or, in the case of Megan Jones, an impressively well-trained Shetland pony. Their mission? Come home clear and inside the optimum time of 5:02. Their challenges? Well…

  • #1: Unload the lorry. Competitors need to load a wheelbarrow with a bale of shavings, a haynes, and their tack, before weaving it through a line of feedbags to…
  • #2: The Pony Club games challenge. Turns out an egg and spoon race is a bit tougher with a badly-behaved dog attached to you.
  • #3: Walking the course. Sit down for a quick change out of riding boots and into wellies, before weaving through a set a jump wings at speed.
  • #4: The dog agility challenge. Time for those dogs (or Shetlands) to shine! There’s a cross pole to pop over, an upright to go under – rather like Gurgle the Greek of Badminton history – and another cross pole to pop, and then you’re at…
  • #5: The water complex. Crowds tend to gather here to see a dunking at the real deal, and they certainly got to see that today. Each competitor has to balance a bucket of water on top of a shavings bale in a wheelbarrow, navigate over a pole on the ground, and then decant the bucket into another full of apples. Then they need to bob for one of those apples with their arms behind their back, before sprinting over to the cocktail party to deposit it.
  • #6: We’re all used to a quick change to get ready for a cocktail party, but this takes the biscuit – each competitor must strip off their body protector, change into a rather fancier number, and down a pint (of water) before stumbling over a line of poles to…
  • #7: The lorry park challenge. They’ll need to get a duvet into its cover – or for those faint of heart souls, the black flag alternative of two pillows into their pillowcases. Then they need to lie down on top of them for three seconds before a final sprint to the finish line, where their last challenge is to take a selfie with their canine partner. Phew.

Tom Crisp took us for a walk through some of the challenges to come before he tackled his round with recalcitrant whippet Pretzel:

The day started with a smattering of good rounds from Warren LamperdJoe Meyer, and Arthur Chabert, each of whom recorded blazing fast clears to add nothing to their dressage scores. This lulled competitors and spectators alike into a false sense of security: would the time be too easily attained? Would Virtual Eventing turn out to be a dressage competition? Could slow and steady, in fact, win the race?

The sense of security wouldn’t last for long. Dogs were lost, refusals racked up, and an astonishing amount of cheating started stacking the penalties on the scoreboard, and as the trouble mounted, so did the time faults. For Joseph Murphy, 20th overnight after adding 10 penalties, the time was made tougher when his tiny accomplice, daughter Daisy and her pooch Tatts, had a rider fall en route to fence six, the cocktail party. But she was swiftly back up on her feet and downing her drink, and in the old style of things was allowed to continue on – and she and Dad would make it home without adding any time, thanks to some speedy bed-making. Truly a heart-in-mouth moment of sporting action:

By the end of the day, the leaderboard had started to look very different indeed, with mistakes and slow rounds from many of the dressage dominators opening the door for swift, accurate course navigation. France’s Sebastien Cavaillon, 13th after dressage with Sarah d’Argouges, took to the course with Offset and delivered a masterclass in interpretive cross-country negotiation, blazing home in a remarkable 3:26. We hope someone’s icing his legs tonight.

Impressively, his wouldn’t be the fastest round of the day – the Netherlands’ Andy Heffernan blitzed through in 2:47, though a smattering of mistakes earned him 20 penalties, and he’ll almost certainly be subjected to a verbal warning at the very least for his excessive speed on course.

Gemma Tattersall, third after dressage with Quicklook V, added just five penalties to move up into second place going into tomorrow’s third and final phase, though former runner-up Yasmin Ingham dropped down to 9th after adding ten penalties. Third place is now held by Matt Heath, who rode the former Dickie Waygood mount Askari in yesterday’s competition, while a clear round with just 1.4 time penalties sees Louisa Lockwood sit fourth, closely followed by Vittoria Panizzon, competing for Italy and not letting anyone forget it for a moment.

Honourary Yank (but actually a Kiwi) Joe Meyer heads up the fight for the contingent across the pond, moving into seventh place after an impressive performance in the scorching Ocala sunshine, while Katherine Coleman and Boyd Martin were both inside the time but unfortunately not penalty free, languishing behind in 21st and 22nd place, respectively. Poor Hallie Coon dropped to 26th place after picking up a total of 8.5 penalties, possibly as a result of her overambitious decision to tie two dogs with their own ideas to her belt loops. Bad luck, Hallie – we’re sure you’ll refine your tactics for the next one. Hannah Sue Burnett sits 35th after clocking up 20 penalties, while EN old faithful Tom Crisp – our diligent course-walker – is nowhere to be seen in 38th place, though surely earns a nod for his commitment to running cross-country in an inflatable unicorn suit.

Let’s have a look at how some of the competitors fared…

Tomorrow sees the third and final phase get underway from 2pm BST/9am Eastern time, and you can get your first peek at the course to come here. Fancy rewatching all of today’s action – or, indeed, the dressage and trot-up action from the previous days? It’s all available on demand here. And don’t forget – you can support your favourite rider’s certain descent into insanity by throwing some coins in their charity coffers here. Over £130,000 has been drummed up so far, and all money raised will go to each rider’s home nation’s medical charity to support in the fight against COVID-19. After that? Join us at the cocktail party – it’s on until 11pm BST/6pm Eastern time tonight and is heating up nicely. I’m in the kitchen flirting with the host if you need me.

The top ten after an action-packed day of interpretive cross-country.

#FlashbackFriday Video from SmartPak: Behind the Scenes at Badminton

The more eagle-eyed among you may have already spotted something amiss – namely, that it’s not actually Friday. Our excuse? It’s always Friday at EN, baby. Except when it’s Saturday. And that only counts when there’s cross-country happening. Right now? Days are meaningless – but Badminton memories certainly aren’t.

Today’s video comes to you from the New Zealand eventing crew and takes you behind the scenes at 2018’s renewal of Badminton – a big year for the Kiwis. Enjoy a snoop around the stables, a sneak peek at what the grooms get up to, and lots and lots of footage of the indomitable Classic Moet. It’s almost like being there. Almost.

Laura Collett Leads Virtual Eventing Dressage; Approximately No One is Surprised

 

In one of the least surprising moments in sporting history, Laura Collett and London 52 – a horse who Just. Wants. To. Dance., damnit – swooped into the lead in the second and final day of dressage in the NAF Virtual Eventing 5* today. Their 24.9 puts them nearly a mark and a half ahead of yesterday’s leaders Yasmin Ingham and Sandman 7, now relegated to second place, though their impressive score comes despite a significant judging discrepancy – while both Jane Tolley and Les Smith had Laura in the 77th percentile, Annabel Scrimgeour awarded them a 70.93% (which is still a very good mark, mind you). This has been a particularly interesting insight into the subjectivity of judging, because all three of the hugely experienced assembled judges are scoring from the same viewpoint, rather than from separate points of the arena.

At any rate, though, Laura and London 52 – known to his friends as ‘Dan’ – managed to rack up 9s for all three gaits plus the halt, which seems almost unfair to this writer, who has never actually seen a 9 on any of her scoresheets and is concerned that perhaps she never will. Laura, if you want to share, you know where to find me. Please do consider sending over some of that impressive trot, too.

Though much of the top ten remains untouched after a slew of impressive performances yesterday, a 27.3 saw Boyd Martin and his US National Champion Tsetserleg take overnight fifth. Unlike some of his competitors, ‘Thomas’ – or, colloquially, ‘Sexy Legs’ – is no stranger to this level; to secure his National Champ title, he recorded a close second place finish at 2019’s renewal of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, losing out on the win to that pesky Townend bloke. Would this have been their year? We’ll never know – but we do know that Boyd comes into this competition with something to prove (and a mullet), and that could make tomorrow very interesting indeed.

Those viewers partial to a dishy French export were in for a treat today: both Tom Carlile and Sebastian Cavaillon sashayed their way into their respective arenas, casting brooding glances down the centreline and generally bringing a bit of joy to our lonely, locked-down lives. For his part, Tom made an impression on the judges and not just bored and lonely journalists, earning a score of 29.4 with the nine-year-old mare Birmane to sit eighth at the culmination of dressage.

If the wider eventing public hadn’t noticed Tom’s delightful up-and-comer before now, they certainly did today, aided by the enthusiastic admiration of commentator Spencer Sturmey. In her first 4*-L last season at Boekelo, Birmane finished in the top ten and looked considerably more mature than her eight years would have suggested. For the French team, who took the gold medal at Rio but have since sold on or retired half their remarkable mounts there, the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics could be something of a blessing in disguise – much of their most exciting talent is young and not yet established, and while the lack of competitive opportunities this year doesn’t foster an ideal learning environment, an extra year of focused training and strength-building could see them create a formidable team next summer, stocked with the likes of Birmane, Astier Nicolas’s Babylon de Gamma, and Mathieu Lemoine’s Tzinga d’Auzay. Fellow Virtual Eventing competitor Sebastian Cavaillon, 13th overnight on the smokey-eyed Sarah d’Argouges, also looks a strong contender on recent form, as does Christopher Six, who was impressive as an individual competitor at last year’s European Championships with Totem de Brecey, finishing fourth.

But enough speculation about the French, charming as they are – this week’s all about eventing in cyberspace, man. The final new entrant onto the leaderboard was the USA’s Hannah Sue Burnett, who rode Lukeswell – though there was some fierce online debate about whether this was, in fact, actually Lukeswell – to a 30.5 to round out the top ten.

Tomorrow’s competition takes us into the cross-country phase from 11am BST/6am Eastern time – but with our competitors under lockdown orders around the world, this is going to be cross-country like you’ve never seen it before. The only thing we can advise? Expect the unexpected – and maybe crack open a beer or two, too. It’s going to be a wild and weird sort of day. Let’s take a look at the leaderboard – could we see a major shake-up tomorrow? Will Virtual Eventing award its own version of the Glentrool Trophy for the highest climber through the competition? All remains to be seen:

The top ten at the conclusion of dressage.

You can rewatch all of yesterday and today’s action on Virtual Eventing’s Facebook page or website. Fancy a bit of guilt-free shopping? Head on over to the Virtual Trade Village, jam-packed with amazing deals (hello, 20% off a custom Voltaire saddle! Hi, £170 off a bespoke tailcoat!), or pick up your Virtual Eventing merch. Want to share your pennies for a good cause? Chuck a little something in the pot of your favourite rider – each competitor is raising vital funds for their country’s medical charity. Can you help them get to £150,000 by the end of the week? And more importantly, will you be joining us at the riders’ party tomorrow evening?

Badminton in the Rearview: The Birth of Badminton

This week, in lieu of hanging out in a field in Gloucestershire ourselves, we’re going to be sharing some of our favourite Badminton content of years gone by, as well as some new pieces to keep the nostalgia train going strong. Today, we look back at the history of Badminton in a post originally published on February 28, 2019…

Sixth at the very first running of Badminton, Captain Tony Collings and Remus would return a year later to take the title. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials.

The Birth of Eventing

Despite Great Britain’s reputation as the mecca of three-day-eventing, the country was actually a bit of a slow burner when it came to adopting the sport. In fact, it’s the French who can boast of the earliest iteration of it; their military competition, the Championnat du Cheval d’Armes, featured challenges resembling modern eventing as early as 1902. But it wasn’t until the king of Sweden’s Master of the Horse, Count Clarence von Rosen, got ahold of it in 1912 that the first true event was staged at the Stockholm Olympics, because why spend a few years ironing out the details of a sport when you could just chuck it into the most prestigious championships in the world and figure it out as you go along?

Open only to active military men on military horses, the ‘Militaire’ began with a 33-mile endurance ride, followed by a three-mile cross country course. The second day was a rest day, followed by steeplechase on day three, while day four was devoted to the showjumping test. Only on the fifth day did horse and rider enter the dressage arena — there, they would perform a 10-minute long test to a panel of seven judges, ostensibly to demonstrate their ability to perform in important military displays such as the changing of the guard, or in the parades that were often used to celebrate the country’s monarchy.

The test, called ‘Prize Riding,’ bore little resemblance to modern-day dressage: many riders rode one-handed, showing off movements such as ‘fast walk’ (bring this one back, please), Spanish walk, and gallop. Bafflingly, the test included five show jumps of roughly 1.10m (3’7), and one instance of Don’t-Try-This-At-Home: horse and rider had to jump an overturned barrel while someone rolled it towards them. Yeah, we don’t know either.

Sweden’s Axel Nordlander survives all 862 phases to take the individual eventing title at the 1912 Olympics. Many horses and riders would contest more than one discipline. Show-offs. Photo via Public Domain/IOC.

By the time the Antwerp Games rolled around in 1920, the decision had been made to scrap dressage altogether, proving that eventers are made of the same fundamental stuff, no matter which decade you find us in. But by 1924, some sadist decided it probably ought to be slotted back in.

The organisers of the 1912 Games had had a pretty appealing reason to pop dressage in at the end of the competition: “With respect to the order in which the various tests should be executed, it was thought best to place the prize riding last, as the clearest obedience-test could thereby be obtained. A well-trained horse that has been severely taxed should, even after taking part in the previous tests, be able to do itself justice in the final one too.” Paris, clearly laughing in the face of danger, reintroduced everyone’s least favourite phase at the beginning of the competition, and modern-day eventing was born, sort of.

Eventing Comes to England

Despite fielding a team at every Games, Great Britain had only managed to medal once in the equestrian disciplines, when they clinched a team bronze for eventing at the 1936 Berlin Games. But this wasn’t, perhaps, something to write home about — the fourth-placed Czechoslovakian team finished on an incredible score of 18,952 after one of their riders got lost on cross country, and then misplaced his horse, and took three hours to find his errant nag and his way home, after all. There was a lot to be done, but outside of the military barracks, no one in the UK knew, or cared, about eventing. Berlin’s Games — known as the Nazi Games —  would be the last Olympics for two cycles: both the 1940 and the 1944 Games were scheduled and ultimately abandoned because of World War Two. In 1948, though, the Olympics were back — and this time, they were heading to London.

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The three-day eventing competition was held at Tweseldown Racecourse, part of the Aldershot military complex and, to this day, one of the most popular one-day event venues in Britain. The host nation, with its rich equestrian history, expected itself to do very well in these disciplines, despite a shortage of equine talent — and far too little training time — after the ravages of the Second World War.

They categorically did not. Riding horses they’d only begun to school that spring, the British eventing team had just one finisher — Major Borwick made it to the end of the competition, while Brigadier Lyndon Bolton hit the deck twice and Major Stewart’s horse went lame before it could even begin the cross country. The competition was a wash-out for the Brits, but it did have one enormously important legacy: it introduced eventing to a hungry audience who had grown up on the hunting field and saw success in this exciting new triathlon-of-sorts as a birthright.

“It came as a rude awakening to find that we were not very good,” mused The Horseman’s Year some 11 years later, pointing out that “there is nothing which so gets under the skin of an Englishman as to be told he does not know how to ride.”

One Englishman and Olympic committee member in particular thought something ought to be done — and his conviction set the wheels in motion to create the heart of the sport in his home country.

A Star is Born

His Grace the 10th Duke of Beaufort, Henry Hugh Arthur Fitzroy Somerset, or ‘Master’ to his nearest and dearest, was a man of enormously high esteem. His sprawling Gloucestershire estate was home to one of the country’s most famous packs of hounds, and when he wasn’t carrying out his duties as Master of the hunt, the Duke could be found serving as Master of the Horse to the royal family, a position he would hold for a record-breaking 42 years, serving under three sovereigns. He took equestrian sport incredibly seriously; in 1933 he headed up a committee that would establish the London International Horse Show at Olympia, which remains one of the country’s most beloved horsey establishments, and he was vice president of the FEI and the BHS, too.

As such, he was one of the first people to see Great Britain’s immense potential for success in this exciting new discipline, and together with his close friend and British Horse Society council member Colonel Trevor Horn, he began to research the logistics and formalities of building an international-standard three-day eventing venue on his own Badminton estate. With the right infrastructure and a home competition at which to practise, he was sure that the British team could bring home a medal at the next Games. Somehow, he suspected, there was even a way to get past Britain’s deep suspicion of ‘dressage’, this ostentatiously continental pastime of silly circus tricks that seemed so thoroughly at odds with the fast and furious galloping and jumping the rest of the sport was based around.

He wasted no time. The BHS granted its approval and the Duke assembled an organising committee of military men, with Horn stepping into the daunting role of director. Horn’s legacy is, perhaps, one of the most overlooked — after all, he had just that one Olympic event to use as a reference point, and the FEI was yet to draft a set of rules for the sport, so he was working with the most raw of materials: a sprawling acreage, an end date, and a set of ideals. But that was all he’d need to create the blueprint for British eventing, and the rules he made up as he worked built the framework for the sport as we know it.

Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials.

‘The Most Important Horse Event in Great Britain’

Britain in 1949 was an altogether different beast. Just a handful of years out of the devastation of World War Two, it was a nation rebuilding itself — and reexamining itself, too. The class system that had defined British society and culture for so long was unravelling; two long wars had shaken the country’s foundations and life was suddenly becoming much less Downton Abbey for all concerned. But it wasn’t quite there yet. Although it’s commonplace now to be able to walk into just about any stately country home you so choose, thanks to the ministrations of the National Trust and the need for the remaining ‘landed gentry’ to cover upkeep costs, back then access to these upper echelons of society was restricted to a privileged few, even in this new dawn. In fact, it was in 1949 that the first of the country’s many manor houses was opened to the public — that was Longleat House, an Elizabethan prodigy house set in sumptuous Capability Brown-designed gardens. Its acreage would later become home to the UK’s foremost safari park.

Come one, come all: despite dressage’s limited popularity in Britain, and some arguably poor examples of the discipline, spectators still flocked to watch the first phase in its old location on the north side of Badminton House. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials.

When the public realised they’d get the chance to make merry on the very same grounds frequented by the who’s-who of British society, they jumped at the chance. The crowds at the very first ‘Badminton Three Days’ Event: The Most Important Horse Event in Great Britain’ were considerably larger than its organisers expected at roughly 6,000 people, and once inside, they were given free rein. The dreaded dressage and showjumping took place in front of the house in those days, were only the horse inspections take place now, and rather than piling into grandstands, spectators and judges alike stood atop their cars or sat on straw bales to watch. The cross-country course wasn’t roped, and instead, people were expected to keep their wits about them and get out of the way of an oncoming horse — tricky, perhaps, when riders were allowed to take whichever line they so choose from one fence to the next.

Judges oversee the final showjumping phase.

Making a Go of It

Forty-seven horse and rider combinations put in entries for this intriguing new competition on the spring calendar, among them military men, hunters, racing types, Thoroughbreds, cobs, and, though they weren’t yet allowed to compete at the Olympics, women. Of the twenty-two eventual starters, a quarter were female. The highest-placed of the 1949 #girlpower contingent was Vivien Machin-Goodall, who would go on to be the first female three-day event winner.

The shopping was almost as good then as it is now. Almost. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials.

Even adjusted for inflation, entering the first iteration of the Badminton Horse Trials was as cheap as chips. The entry fee was just £2 per horse (roughly £69 in today’s money — a tenner less than an entry into Tweseldown’s BE80(T) or Beginner Novice class would cost you now), while the winner was promised a princely sum of £150 (£5190), a pittance compared to today’s first prize of £100,000.

But then again, the first Badminton was a gamble, with almost all of its first competitors admitting that they didn’t necessarily take it seriously — it was, in the words of David Somerset, who would go on to become the legendary 11th Duke of Beaufort, “just a sort of hunter trial” in that first year. But with its exciting and almost totally unprecedented sporting action, its friendly, laid-back feel — there was space to picnic at the Lake in those days, and you might find yourself eating your sarnies next to the royal family — and its promise of future Olympic glories, it would very quickly become a competition to be taken very seriously indeed.

For all its risks, the very first Badminton proved a hit with competitors and spectators alike, totting up a grand total of £20 (£694.25 today) in profit. Before too long, smaller events began to pop up around the country. Just as Badminton had been devised as a way to train for the ’52 Helsinki Olympics, these events were intended as a way for riders to train for Badminton, creating a funnel system that would eventually become a set of distinct levels. Badminton — the topmost echelon of eventing — led the way, and the rest of the sport was built down from there. Now, Britain holds the most one-day and three-day events prior to Badminton of any country in the world.

 

Hartpury Announces Cancellation of 2020 International Horse Trials and FEI Junior & Young Rider Championships

Sarah Bullimore and Conpierre at the 2019 iteration of the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials. The CCI4*-S class is a popular prep run for Burghley, whose fate has not yet been decided. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gloucestershire’s Hartpury Equine, the events sector of Hartpury University, has announced today (May 7) that its 2020 roster of international competitions will not go ahead due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The cancelled events span the disciplines and include the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials, scheduled to take place from August 13-16 and spanning the levels from 2*–4*, and the FEI European Championships for Juniors and Young Riders, scheduled for July 27–August 2.

Phillip Cheetham, Equine Director at Hartpury, said in a statement: “While we are extremely disappointed not to be running any of these competitions in 2020, we feel this is a necessary decision to make in the current circumstances. The health of staff, volunteers, officials, competitors and visitors to Hartpury remains our top priority as well as reducing any unnecessary pressure on our local NHS services.”

“So much work has gone into the preparation for the FEI Championships, and we’ll continue to work hard with the FEI to find a way to run the competition bigger and better in the future years. We’d like to thank all our long-standing supporters and sponsors, NAF in particular, who have done so much to help prepare for our 2020 events and we look forward to working with them again in future. We look forward to welcoming everyone back for celebrations beside the International Arena when these challenging times are behind us.”

Hartpury has confirmed that it has broached the subject of staging further Championships at the venue, and has also assured ticket holders that they can expect a refund in the coming weeks. All on-site accommodation booked will also be refunded.

The NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials will return in 2021 with provisional dates of August 11–15.

[Event News Update]

Yasmin Ingham Tops Virtual Eventing Leaderboard on Day One

The first day of dressage in the NAF Virtual Eventing 5* was jam-packed with famous faces from around the world, with representatives of seven different nations heading down their respective centrelines as they competed from home, while comedic commentary duo Pammy Hutton and Spencer Sturmey led the day’s proceedings.

Doing a dressage test in a familiar setting, without the atmosphere of a full house, might seem like dream circumstances for eventing folk, but today’s competition was no walk in the park – we saw some moments of serious tension, an elimination (hey Spencer Sturmey, you silly boy – you’re not meant to take a call midway through your test!) and one surprising instance of mid-test horse swapping from Tom Crisp.

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Absolutely delighted Sandman produced a stunning test to take the top spot on a 26.3 on day 1 of dressage 😁 he is a pleasure to ride and I’m so lucky to ride him. ❤️ a big thank you to his owners Sue Davies and Janette Chinn. Lots more amazing combinations to come tomorrow for dressage day 2, make sure you’re watching! Followed by XC & SJ over the weekend! Another huge thank you to my amazing team for helping me with this, Sandman was looking stunning 😍, and to all of my incredible supporters both 🇬🇧 and 🇮🇲 – you rock!! 💥 THE BIGGEST well done to Virtual Eventing for doing such a brilliant job putting this together 👏🏼 Please keep the donations rolling in, our total overall is over £110,000 😮 – THANK YOU! Link in bio!

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At the end of the day, young gun Yasmin Ingham leads the way with the former Pippa Funnell ride Sandman 7 after scoring an impressive 26.3 from the socially-distant ground jury of Annabel ScrimgeourLes Smith, and Jane Tolley. This allowed them to squeak ahead of dressage dynamos Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V, who sit a whisper behind them in second place on 26.4 at the culmination of day one.

“I’m so happy to be the overnight leader at Virtual Eventing,” says Yas, who hails from the Isle of Man but is now based in Cheshire. This marks her first time performing this test with Sandman 7; she made her five-star debut in 2018 at Pau, but rode Nightline on that occasion. Her step up into senior competition is a promising one: she’s won every under-25 British title going, and is the current reigning British under-25 champion, having finished second to Ireland’s Cathal Daniels at Bramham last season.

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WE'VE GOT A NEW LEADER! 👑 As we arrive at our third and final break of the day, the talented young rider from the Isle of Man, @yasmin_ingham_ & Sandman 7 take lead after a stunning performance for a well-deserved mark of 26.3. Just 0.1 of a mark ahead of @gemma_tattersall Don’t forget that all our riders and our charities would love your support with their fundraising efforts for covid-19 charities around the world. 🌍 🙏 Please do help, no matter how big or small. Head over to our JustGiving Page below to donate 👇 🔗https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROSomeoneSpecialPage?pageId=1157025 . . . #donate #forcharity #nhs #doctors #nurses #getinvolved #virtualeventing #herewego #partygettingstarted #eventing #professionalriders #poweredbynaf #naf #naffivestar #fivestarcompetition #juniors #potd #gif #eventing #eventingunited #eventingnation #horses #horsesofinstagram #greatbritish #riders

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Though with Nightline she’s proven herself plenty capable of producing her own horses, Sandman isn’t the first horse she’s taken on that was previously ridden by a major name. She previously campaigned former Mary King rides Fernhill Urco and Imperial Cavalier, who helped her gain experience at the junior level. It would appear that riding both horses also made her impervious to this unique sort of pressure.

“I knew Sandman did a super test, even though it’s our debut at this level together – he’s so flashy, so he obviously caught the judges’ eye,” she says.

Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Chequers Play the Game sit third after an impressive, fluent test late in the day earned them a score of 26.9. 2014 Badminton winners Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh lead the way for the Antipodean contingent in fourth on a score of 28.6, while Holly Woodhead piloted her comeback king DHI Lupison to a 29.2 and overnight fifth.

Though the event is being held to benefit medical charities globally – and has currently raised over £110,000 – the seriously experienced ground jury wasn’t willing to give any charitable marks today. Only the denizens of the top five broke the thirty barrier, while many – including William Fox-Pitt and his 2010 Kentucky winner Cool Mountain, 9th on 34.1 – scored surprisingly low. But what did the riders have to say about their tests?

Judging an event like this must be something of a challenge. At an ordinary five-star – or, indeed, any international – we’d see our three judges sitting at set points around the arena (notably, an arena that exists in one place, rather than around the world as Virtual Eventing’s does!). But the ground jury, which scored the tests as they were live-streamed, could only see from the same angle that the audience could – an angle that could easily be affected by shaky filming, bright directional sunlight, or a swift change of camera. Those of you who are extra nerdy and want to see how they scored individual movements – and, indeed, if the discrepancies between them were diminished by dint of sharing a view – can look at the scores in full here.

Virtual Eventing will kick off again tomorrow at 11.05am BST/6.05am Eastern time. You’ll also be able to enjoy another day of access to the virtual trade village, which is jam-packed with great deals. In the meantime, here’s a look at the top of the leaderboard so far:

For all tomorrow’s ride times, and to rewatch today’s action, head to VirtualEventing.com.

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: Piggy Turns to Poetry

Somehow it’s been one whole wild, whirlwind year since Piggy March (neé French) lifted the Badminton trophy — her first five-star victory, and the crown jewel of her utterly spectacular 2019 season. 

Pragmatic Piggy spent much of our interviews last season speculating on what could be to come for her in 2020 — after all, she’s no stranger to the ups and downs of the sport, and her worst ever year in 2012 came hot on the heels of her best to that point in 2011. She was, she told us, just riding the wave — but no one could have predicted that this season would see the whole sport confined to box rest.

When has moping ever fixed anything, though? Instead, Piggy’s looking back on that win and those high points, and today, she decided to commemorate her enormously special Badminton with a little bit of lyricism. Take it away, Pig.

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