For those Kiwis who watch from afar, who follow the livestream, who curse when the livestream drops out and who resort to social media instead to follow our riders, here is a bit of insight.
If spectators look a tad chilly this weekend that is because it’s absolutely freezing here. Not literally.. .there was a hint of frost on the ground at 5am today but the winds are coming from the North and here that means the Arctic Circle, so it actually feels like it’s about seven degrees.
The lorry park is really not as glamorous as it sounds. All those shots you have seen of uber flashy horseboxes with endless blacked out windows and amazing living are for real, but they are parked in two adjoining fields with the obligatory portaloos and icky mobile showers and Toddy often nips into the Vicarage to borrow the Vicar’s mower as he doesn’t like anything but a lawn around his truck.
The Park is huge. Which means you walk miles. And miles and miles. And that’s not the course, that’s just the endless trips from the stables to the main arena via the (thousands) of trade stands. There are golf buggies but by the law of averages when you have time to walk one is there waiting and when you have four minutes to get a top hat to the main arena they have all disappeared.
Actually, getting a buggy is like an extreme sport. They do not slow down for bumps so if you are carrying an injury don’t get on. It’s 10 degrees colder on a buggy than walking and your phone is programmed by Apple to fling itself out of your pocket en route along with that £20 you had in your pocket.
Food. Available in endless points in the shopping village. Take out your overdraft, £6 for a toasted cheese sandwich anyone? Oh, and on Saturday all food outlets add 25% to the price!
Crowds. Lots of tweed on people and lots of dogs of every variety on leads. Plenty of country types who meet once a year at Badminton with their children Amber and Lancelot in tow and who also winter in the Bahamas. They also summer in the Mediterranean and ski in Val d’Isere in so it is actually the only time they catch up.
Trade Stands. You can buy a 500K horsebox, a house worth millions, or a dandy brush for £2.50 at Badminton. Plenty of wannabes in jods in the walkways and lots of craft tents selling…. well…. selling stuff that is 10 times cheaper on Amazon. Every third person wears white jeans tucked into brown boots with a poncho top. Every second person wears… tweed. And the others just rolled out of bed and put on what was on the floor.
Seriously…. it’s amazing! Badminton House, Worcester Avenue and all the history surrounding the estate date back to the 13th Century. The Beaufort Hunt, synonymous with Badminton, exercise their hounds early morning throughout the event and parade on the Sunday. Just walking through the arch from the stables to the Park is a piece of history in itself. The legendary horses and riders who have ridden through that archway make you take a breath. The house forms the backdrop and the escape as no one without a horse connection is allowed through the arch, so the stables are a haven of peace for the horses and grooms. An enormous graveled courtyard is surrounded by stables with various offshoots of others.. under the clock tower, under the hunt staff accommodation, etc…. and each and every one is painted, doors varnished and bedding laid prior to the arrival of the horses every year by the Beaufort Hunt staff.
Badminton is Badminton. There is no other event in the world quite like it and there are riders who have set incredible records here. Sir Mark Todd has won it four times between 1980 and 2019 spanning an amazing career, Jock Paget did it in 2013 with Clifton Promise and of course, we have reigning champion Jonelle Price and Classic Moet from 2018. Andrew Nicholson has more completions than any other rider and he hailed his win with Nereo in 2017.
Who knows what 2019 has in store for us?
By Jacky Green – UK Correspondent & Eventing HP Administrator