This is such a strange and unfamiliar holiday season, but something about that is making me lean into it more than I have in years. I’ve somehow become some sort of manic Martha Stewart mini-me, drying orange slices for hours in the oven to make garlands, festooning my entire cottage in delicate little copper-wire twinkle lights, and concocting an endless assortment of mulling spices and festive gin infusions. (Do we need a hip-flask recipe post, EN? I feel like we do.) I’m spending this entire strange month seeing off this entire strange year with wonderful friends near and far, old and new, meeting up for socially-distanced walks and talks and coffees in red cups, and it’s honestly already the best Christmas I’ve had in years.
What has this got to do with eventing, or with your own Monday plans? Well, not a lot, admittedly, but for the fact that I felt that all this making merry needed to include an appropriate send-off to my homes away from home, most of which I never got to see this year. And so I hopped into the car, headed three hours due north, and met up with two of my very best friends – both exceptional journalists at Horse&Hound and all-around good eggs – for a jolly good stomp around the hallowed turf of beautiful Burghley Park. I’ve been coming to Burghley for years – it was the first five-star I ever attended, and years later, my first-ever press accreditation – but I’d never been to the estate or house at any other time of the year.
Reader, it was surreal and magical and all I can say is this: if you’re missing all the eventing that wasn’t this year and you’re in reasonably close proximity to the home of one of your favourite internationals, do try to pay it a visit. Driving in the usual press entrance by the house gave me actual tummy butterflies, and seeing its gilding and ALL. THOSE. WINDOWS. sparkling in the crisp winter sunlight made everything feel as though it would be alright eventually. Off we trotted from the house to the Lion Bridge, where we watched the estate’s resident herd of sheep clamber around the Collyweston Slate Mine fence. Then we picked our way down to Discovery Valley, confirmed that none of us fancied jumping its cavernous open corner, and headed out into an eerily empty field to find the jog strip – extraordinarily small without its usual fanfare of crowds, grandstands and marquees. Now, in its off-season, it’s just a tiny sliver of hard surface in the middle of an expanse of surprisingly undulating green. It all felt quite remarkably peaceful (until, of course, we wandered over to the Leaf Pit, which somehow looks even bigger when found in the wild).
It’s been a funny old year without so many of our favourite events, but visiting Burghley in its hibernation period reminded me of one unshakable truth: they will be back, and when they are, they’ll be even better than we all remembered. And honestly, I’ll raise a hip flask of mulled pomegranate gin to that.
National Holiday: It’s National Cotton Candy Day. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten cotton candy outside of the months of July and August, but okay.
US Weekend Results:
Global Eventing Round-Up:
- The third and final week of the Portugal Winter Tour came to a close in Barocca d’Alva, with the long-format divisions joining the array of short-format divisions on the roster. The premier class, the CCI4*-L, was won by experienced British-based Aussie pair Sammi Birch and Hunter Valley II, while Belgium’s Karin Donckers took the CCI4*-S with her stalwart partner Fletcha Van’t Verahof. The US was well represented with a fourth place finish in the CCI3*-L for Hallie Coon and new partner Global Ex.
Your Monday Reading List:
The team at EquiRatings have launched a new rating system designed to definitively determine the best event horses of all time. The Elo system – named for Hungarian physics professor Arpad Elo – has been reworked from the world of chess, and the horse who takes the lead for the all-time best record probably won’t come as much of a surprise. [Who is the best event horse in the world? Data experts build a ranking to find out…]
Have you been obsessively watching the new series of The Crown? If so, you’ve likely been loving the focus on Princess Anne’s equestrian career (discipline switch and venue change aside, of course). But do you know the young British rider who stepped in to play the character in those nail-biting riding scenes? Meet 23-year-old Amy Inglis. [How Amy Became a Star of ‘The Crown’]
I’m never more glad to have a plain brown wrapper mare than I am in mud season. If you’re not so lucky, keeping those white legs clean – and that sensitive skin healthy – is probably one of your biggest stressors at this time of year. Fortunately, Heels Down has got some tips to help you. [How to Keep Those White Legs…Actually White in Winter]
In your riding life, you’ll occasionally encounter those horses who are just, well, tough. Whether it’s because they’re naturally just tempestuous characters, or whether they’ve been made tricky through bad experiences, working with them will be among your biggest challenges – but they can be extraordinarily rewarding, too. Here, Tik Maynard explains how he approached three such characters. [My Three Toughest Horses, and How I Addressed Each One]
Have you got to grips with travel-induced ulcers? The team at Fox-Pitt Eventing explain their tried-and-tested preventative measures for keeping your horses happy and healthy when hauling.