Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Surviving Five Days at Badminton Horse Trials

Of course Badminton Horse Trials is supposed to be tough for the competitors; after all it's the pinnacle of their sport. But from the moment we stepped out of the comfort of the Land Rover Discovery on Grass Roots Wednesday, and that wind hit us, Harvey and I knew we were in for a hard time. Read on to hear about Harvey's new coat, my international assignment and the six videos we created over the five days.

Your intrepid reporters? 
The purpose of our first visit was twofold. Firstly I wanted to video a course walk of one of the Grass Roots courses while the competition was in progress; and secondly I wanted to collect some video footage of the 4 Star course BEFORE the competition took place. This was to enable me to have a closer look at the fences than would be possible once the main competition was under way.

We paid our twelve pounds and parked up. Harvey was very excited to be back at Badminton and was keen to get started. As I'd said earlier as soon as I opened the car door I thought blimey that's windy. The BE100 cross country was in its final stages so I decided to inspect the Quarry and Huntsman's Close before concentrating on the BE90.

Tina and Pippa at the Quarry
Videoing at the Quarry I was rewarded by capturing Tina Cook and Pippa Funnell completing their course walk. I did have a problem holding the camera steady in the wind however and this was not made any easier by Harvey deciding to pull on his lead every now and then! The course between the Quarry and Huntsman Close is one of the long galloping sections of the course so by the time I'd been there and back it was time to start following the BE90 competition.

Heading towards Badminton House on the Grassroots course
I've seen a couple of BE90 courses now and this one certainly seemed bigger so I suspect was up to full height. But it is the Championship and needs to be. It took me a couple of hours to get all the way round. Fence eight, the ASX Triple seemed to causing most upsets so once I was passed it I found myself waiting around for the next horse to come along. During one such lull Harvey and I proved it is possible to get one man and his dog into one of those toilet cubicle things! He's much too precious to leave outside!!

The highlight of the course for the competitors must be the ride towards the house and lake; the house makes a stunning backdrop for the riders.

The crowd around the lake fences were pretty static so that was the only time I couldn't really get the shots I wanted. By the time we got to the corners Harvey was getting a bit fed up with sitting still and managed to knock the monopod a couple of times but mostly he was good.

After a quick cup of coffee we were back in the car and off home to edit the movie ready for immediate publication. Luckily British Eventing posted it onto their Facebook page so we've been rewarded with a good number of views and some lovely comments!

My recollection of Thursday is that it rained all day and basically was a total washout. We spent the day shopping and waiting for it to brighten up which it never did. However we managed to buy Harvey his British Eventing coat which came in very useful and being as it seems that shopping has to play some part in a trip to Badminton it was good to get it out of the way in one five hour slog!

One moment of pure joy came before we purchased Harvey's new coat. Making our way across the trade stands, just as it started raining, we were intercepted by a Mitsubishi salesman handing out branded ponchos to combat the oncoming deluge. Having been told I didn't want one he asked me if Harvey wanted one; "No" I replied, "he's a Land Rover dog!" Magic!!

Another magical moment was meeting Harry Mead in the Musto Trade Stand. "Harvey meet Harry" - he must have thought I was mad! We discussed broken elbows.............................

It's what all the best dressed dogs are wearing!

Jump for Joy?


Sunshine and space by the lake
Friday the sun shone even if the wind continued to blow hard. As I said I'd had this idea for a video which showed the cross country jumps in their pristine condition in the run up to the competition accompanied by a driving piece of royalty free music I'd found which contained the chant "get ready for this!" So it was about fear, anticipation, exhilaration, preparation and expectation and the fact that parts of the course were being taken out because of the ground conditions just added to the mood. I think to be most effective I needed to get the video out at least 24 hours before the cross country started on Saturday but the bad conditions on Thursday did not make this possible.

The video was ready early Saturday morning however and I've been very please to pick up about 400 hits so far. That's not bad and I think reflects how much better I'm getting and making use of Social Media.

Friday also saw me keeping my promise to a Facebook friend who runs the VYGO website in Belgium to report back with pictures and video on the progress of Belgian rider Lara de Liedekirke. Friday was her dressage test day so while the girls caught up on a bit more shopping I recorded her test. I managed to get the test edited and uploaded on Saturday morning before leaving for Cross Country Day.


Although we left it quite late before setting off the drive in wasn't too bad. However the minute we were parked the heavens opened and I was soaked making the coffee. The forecast bad weather meant I'd left my best camera and Harvey at home, nevertheless the ferocity of that squall set the weather tone for the rest of the day. We watched the first couple of horses out from the stand and then as the rain abated walked to course in the order of the fences.

I started video round about the Beaufort Staircase and got some nice shots of Nicholson and Todd. A little bit of patience rewarded me with some positions at the front on both sides of the lake fence (better than I'd managed for the BE90!) but listening to the announcements made me realise that there was an awful lot of people either being eliminated or retiring. Was the new course taking its toll?

Paul Tapner at the second part of the Vicarage Vee
We progressed out into the country and watched the action at the Hollow and through the Owl Hole. It was then on to the New Pond where I was pleased to capture part of Harry Mead's round.

I got some nice footage along the Vicarage Vee - Mirage Pond line including a great close up of Paul Tapner (apart from when some stupid woman put he great big head in the way). It was about this point that the flow of horses started to dry up to the point where I don't think we saw more than one horse in an hour around the Swindon Outlet Village - Wadsworth Beer Cart area.

Lara prepares
We retired to the car for a short break (the walk back to the car having been completed in the most horrendous wind yet; I'm sure it would have swept small children off their feet!) and then completed the day capturing some shots of Mary King and Lara de Liedekirke at the first part of the course. We also watched Lara's preparation in the practice area. I've got to be honest I feared the worst for Lara as a Badminton newbie, hence I thought it best to see how she got on with fences 2 and 3 rather than risking waiting for her at some of the bigger fences later on. But I'm pleased to say she proved me wrong and went on to complete and I was able to see her on her way home at the Countryside Fences (the fences that proved the undoing of WFP!).

Having seen Lara safely home and with the weather closing in we decided to head off home to catch up with the recorded action on the red button.

Retired Eliminated Withdrawn; the scoreboard tells the story
It was another late night editing my cross country video ready for publication the next day.


Sunday was relatively straightforward; a little bit of shopping, a bit of frustration that we weren't able to have a cup of coffee in front of the score board in memory of Colin, and then into the stands for the show jumping and the rest of the final day razamataz. I'm sure there were a lot of riders thinking what might have been, but in the end everyone and every horse was safe, we had our winner and we all went home to warm up and be proud to say "I was there!"

I hope you enjoy the videos.