Well it had to happen. After weeks of the barometer being set fair the weather conditions totally changed for the first day of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and in true British style ‘it’ became the talking point.
Well you couldn’t miss it. Strong winds and heavy driving rain showers did not make conditions easy for anyone involved in the organisation of the event; strategically placed flower stands, that must have taken hours to put together, were bowled over and destroyed in seconds, waste bins fell into a drunken heap, while anyone in a tented trade-stand had to contend with constant feeling that they and their products were about to be blown across The Park.
Amazingly most of the horses were incredibly well-behaved – even four and five-year-olds having their first outing of the year in the Burghley Dubarry Young Event Horse. It was the humans that were struggling, at times just to stand up or make forward progress, and much time was spent chasing hats. And undoubtedly there will be more than a few horses that took part in the Grassroots Championships glad to get home to a good night’s sleep having spent most of their night away, wide-eyed and upright while the roof of their temporary stables rattled and flapped.
At least it stayed dry for part one of the main event, the First Horse Inspection which is of course as much the First Rider Inspection.
Paul Tapner, first down the runway and number one with Kilronan, set a high sartorial standard by anyone’s yardstick; red trousers, check jacket and a dapper bow tie set off to good effect with a natty pair of sunglasses, which possibly weren’t necessary but they did a job. Ben Hobday also sported a pair and similar look with a pale jacket and matching waistcoat.
Black and white jackets were a popular choice for the girls; Nicola Wilsons a striking zig-zag, Pippa Funnell’s a large check and Nana Dalton’s a sixties style spots. Orange also featured in Jonelle Price’s sweater dress and Jeanette Brakewell’s jacket while both Aoife Clark and Ingrid Klimke, perhaps in view of the weather opted for trench coats.
Louisa Milne Home’s tweed trouser suit, with ankle-skimming trousers was also an eye-catcher , while Bettina Hoy’s new brunette bob and fringed western style jacket certainly made for a double take.
We were of course really there to see the horses all looking their best having been primped, plaited and polished all afternoon. For this writer eye-catchers in the paddock as it were; The Deputy (Jonelle Price NZL), Shannondale Titan (Bill Levett AUS), Nereo (Andrew Nicholson NZL) Tom Tom Go (Niklas Bschorer GER), Glengarnock (Paul Sims GBR), Beltane Queen (Nicola Wilson GBR) and Hasty Imp (Francis Whittington GBR).
Sadly for British first timer Matthew Heath his inaugural competitive visit to Badminton came to an abrupt end when The Lion was eliminated. One can only imagine the huge down and disappointment that follows the previous excitement of arrival 24 hours earlier.
On a more positive note the weather is now meant to calm down for the rest of the event. Good news, not only for the riders who have to ride a dressage test, but for all those who have spent 24 hours hanging onto tents or chasing rubbish bins and flower pots.