Beauty and the Badminton: The (Un)Official Trot-Up Style Awards

Some days, I think my role as a journalist in this sport is to chronicle its ups and downs, to chart its progress and its shortfalls, and to do my tiny little bit to help steer this party boat to safer harbours. Other days, I confront the truth of the matter: I’m here to make friends and then lose them again, quite rapidly, by taking the mick out of their carefully honed trot-up outfits. I’m not sure if anyone’s ever actually been blacklisted from horse inspections for repeated bad behaviour, but I’ve always been a pioneer in my field. Mostly because everyone else is very busy doing the important stuff.

The first horse inspection at Badminton Horse Trials tends to be something of a sedate affair as far as outfits are concerned — you get the odd outlier, sure, but for the most part, it’s a sea of ever-so-respectable tweeds, and somehow, everyone watching on is also in tweed, like we’re at some kind of odd woollens convention.

To those brave souls who buck the trend: I salute you. And now I’m going to be mean to you on the internet — but it’s all for a bit of fun and hey, there’s a new pair of Fairfax & Favor footwear on the line for the brave winner.

The Golden Chinch for WFH Chic

Hector Payne and Dynasty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

I think what has happened here is clear: Hector Payne has clocked on for his mid-morning Teams meeting, still wearing what he went to sleep in, with biscuit crumbs on his lap and, I don’t know, probably a housecat nestled in his chest hair or something. And then his manager has chirpily announced that “actually folks, I thought it would be nice if we switched our cameras on for our catch-up today!” and in a moment of enormous panic, poor Hec has had to chuck the cat aside, sweep the debris off his desk, and throw on something that would suggest he’s been prepared and professional all along. It’s business up top, #naplife down below. A professional Pooh Bear, if you will, except he’s (probably wisely) dispensed with the idea of full nudity from the waist down.

The Golden Chinch for Offshore Shenanigans

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Why is the rum always gone, Emily Hamel? There’s something very Captain Jack Sparrow about this coat, but also, somehow, something very ‘Brooding Romantic Lead in a Period Drama’, as though she’s on her way to tell some hapless young lady that she can’t possibly marry her, because her mother is too embarrassing. Actually, this sounds like a fantastic crossover idea for a movie, so I’ll be patiently awaiting my cheque from Hollywood.

The Golden Chinch for Representing Women in STEM

Susie Berry and John the Bull. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

I remember the hazy days of the early nineties, when all the Barbies on the shop shelves were clad in tooth-achingly pink tulle and those silly little stilettos that needled their way into your soul if you stepped on them on a playroom floor. Now, though, we’re a much more enlightened culture (well, sort of), and little girls have all sorts of brainy beauties to look up to. Chief among them is head researcher Susie Berry, who serves us up a look here that’s very ‘when you’ve got a trot-up at five and need to go dissect a few mouse hearts at seven.’ Yes, she looks like a solid ten, but more importantly, I’m pretty sure she might be about to cure cancer. As Paris Hilton would say, ‘that’s hot.’

The Golden Chinch for Service with a Smile

Ben Hobday and Shadow Man. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Le garçon would like to know if the table by the window will suit madame? A soupçon of caviar for the lady? A little tinkle-winkle of the Chablis? Perhaps a cocktail sausage to nibble on? Ben Hobday‘s got what you need, and in his pursuit of five (Michelin) stars, he’s laser-focused.

The Golden Chinch for Going Full Goth For Trot-Up

Emily King and Valmy Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Emily’s at that very special age when a girl has only one thing on her mind.”

“Boys?”

“Homicide.”

Honestly, though, props to Emily for managing to meld equestrian chic with ‘about to marry Travis Barker’ vibes. I spend my life trying to do this and every day I’m appalled to discover that no one has yet bothered to make fun of me on the internet.

The Golden Chinch for Casual Reminders

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tamie Smith is a busy woman, and it’s only fair to expect that sometimes, in the madness of rushing from coast to coast and country to country, she sort of forgets where she’s going and what she’s doing. This very sharp dress is emblazoned with horsey paraphernalia, which is obviously serving as something of a visual aid for the Californian, who I suspect started filling her suitcase with shuttlecocks before one of her grooms stopped her in a panic and reminded her she was going to England to do the other kind of Badminton. Here, she helpfully shows the gathered media her horse, in case they forgot, too.

The Golden Chinch for Midlife Crisis Dressing

Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The actual, official Best Dressed Gentleman winner delivers an outfit here that says “I just spunked my retirement fund on an Alfa Romeo, have scored myself a 21-year-old girlfriend, and actually, I might go steal a yacht and become some sort of Palm Beach pirate, because the world is burning and why not, quite frankly?” There’s a part of me that suspects that he might disappear to, say, London before cross-country day and return with a front tooth entirely encrusted with diamonds, which would be incongruous and unexpected, but also somehow feels right, deep in my soul.

In the late 90s, men reached a certain age and went a little bit weird in a Kevin-Spacey-in-American-Beauty sort of way; this version, as demonstrated by Karl Slezak, feels like it’s on a mission to single-handedly revive the word #YOLO and also maybe ‘groovy’, which I think I can get on board with. My hopes are high for the second horse inspection: Karl, as you are a proud Canadian, please consider channeling Celine Dion, circa her Las Vegas residency. Here all week if you need any styling tips.

Das Ist Eine Gut Golden Chinch, Ja?

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and DSP Cosma. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One thing I love about Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati is that she’s reliable. I just know, without any doubt in my mind, that every time I see her name on the running order I’ll also get to see a jolly good dirndl, and that means I’ll also get to smugly correct everyone around me who says “is she wearing lederhosen?” No, you silly, silly sausages; that’s what men wear, and they don’t wash those, so given the opportunity, it’s the women in their delightful Alps-y dirndls you want to be cavorting with.

Here’s a fun fact about dirndls: the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was officially named an ambassador for them (yes, this is a thing, for some reason) after she said, and I quote: “I do not understand you Austrians. If every woman wore a dirndl, there would not be any more ugliness.” That sparked something of a dirndl renaissance in the country, and truly, as I write this in the middle of the night, I’m nearly teary-eyed with joy at the fact that there’s actually a use for this totally pointless information that’s been taking up room in my brain.

The Golden Chinch for Realising Mid-Jog That This is Her Circus and These Are Her Monkeys, Actually

Sofia Sjoborg and DHI Mighty Dwight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As Swedish rider Sofia Sjoborg appeared on the trot-up strip, the first reaction I had was to feel faintly soothed: “ahh,” I thought to myself, “if I stopped staying up until 1am writing kind of mean trot-up articles about people and just went to a therapist instead, this is what I imagine the sofa in their office would look like.” The downside of that line of thought is that by the time Sofia reached the turning point at the business end of the strip, I’d gone so far down the rabbit hole of pondering what I’d say to that therapist that I was actively coming to terms with the fact that my father never loved me, and then I forgot the really funny circus ringmaster joke I was going to make about this coat. Whoops.

The Golden Chinch Award for Hipster Restauranteuring

Like Ben Hobday before her, Bubby Upton also gives me the sense that I’m about to enjoy a jolly good dinner, except now I’m fairly certain I’m in the sort of restaurant that serves everything deconstructed and arranged piecemeal on anything but a plate. Like a slate, for example, or maybe a small shopping cart. There’s a soundtrack being piped in that’s nattily remixed Bossa nova classics with, say, Mumford and Sons. Being cool is very exhausting, I think.

And so I turn the hard work over to you, my dear readers. It’s an important vote you’re casting, to determine our winner, so think carefully and vote by Friday, May 6 at 5 p.m. BST. Whichever rider wins the popular vote will get a glorious pair of highly covetable Fairfax and Favor shoes, which is just about enough incentive to stop any of them from seeking me out for a little bout of fisticuffs, I think. (I hope.)

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