There are occasions when I find myself wondering: if the Martians landed now, what would they make of horse trails and how would they work out what was happening?
The First Horse Inspection at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, for example, would be a fine conundrum. On one side, you have a covered stand full of seated people in sludgy-coloured, waterproof jackets. In the middle, you have a runway, flanked at the top by several smartly suited people, some of whom are wearing bowler hats and clutching clip boards. And on the other side is a collection of more randomly dressed people, who spend a lot of time moving about and chatting. Then, every minute or so, a horse is presented down the runway at a smart trot, the man in a bowler doffs his hat and the people in the waterproof jackets clap. The horse rushes off — and then they announce a prize for the best dressed person that was leading a horse. So nothing to do with the horse at all then……
Fortunately, those of us at Burghley know exactly what is going on. But it’s sometimes fun to look at the trot up from the outside in.
What’s clear, though is that, if you want to get ahead, you should get a pair of blue suede shoes and matching pocket handkerchief — it worked for Andrew Hoy, who was judged the best turned out male at the trot up.
Georgie Spence was the best-dressed female in a fetching pale blue frock coat (Moloh at a guess) and knee-length suede boots. Hats off also to American first-timer Laine Ashker, who presented in a cool green cocktail-style dress, to the French for their fetching red trousers and blazers, to Charlotte Agnew, who always looks delightful irrespective of what she is wearing (on this occasion, an attractive white top and black skinnies), to Emma Svennerstal, delightful in a short fairy skirt, and to Coral Keen, who had to wear coral, of course. To my mind, while there really isn’t a dress code and the ‘best dressed’ is just a bit of fun, jeans don’t really cut it, even if they are teamed with a waistcoat and bow tie.
The good news is that all the horses passed the inspection, although not without a few heart-stopping moments for a handful of riders; Matthew Heath, Simon Grieve and Willa Newton were all made to suffer as they had to represent but all got through. Phew.
After a few last minute withdrawals including One Two Many (Nicola Wilson) presumably going to Blair and, sadly, The Deputy (Jonelle Price), there will therefore be 74 combinations on the start list although Oli Townend is riding three of them, having been given permission to start all three entries. He will be in for a few busy days.
The best-looking horse has got to be Fischerrocana. Michael Jung‘s mare looked terrific and was definitely the pick of the paddock for this correspondent. Her coat shone, with lovely dapples and she is a great mover without being over the top. Her handler also shone for a while but bright red, when he suddenly realised his fly was down. He valiantly struggled to rectify the issue whilst at the same time trotting a horse up in front of the Ground Jury at Burghley, and all those people. He managed both. I told you he was good.
Now the competition starts for real, though, with Oliver Townend paving the way on Drummgurrihy Blue and first in the dressage arena.
Image: Georgie Spence and WII Limbo at the trot up by Nixon Photos, courtesy of Burghley Horse Trials