Is it a playground – no it’s the Badminton lorry park?
Well anyone could be forgiven for making the mistake. Yes there are a lot of large horseboxes in a small space but there are also a lot of small bikes and push-a-long plastic toys littering the paddock that doubles up as one of the lorry parks for the event.
Maybe ‘twas ever thus but seemingly there are a lot of riders who nowadays clearly enjoy Badminton ‘en famille’: Nana Dalton, William Fox-Pitt, Tom Crisp, Paul Tapner, Sam Griffiths, Andrew Nicholson, Beanie Sturgis and Francis Whittington are several riders competing at this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials who have young children in tow. Local rider Nick Gauntlett was even spotted grabbing the moment of a buggy ride back to the stables as an opportunity to feed his 15-month old son Henry.
Event riders are known to be a particularly stoic lot but none-the-less how do riders and their spouses cope with the demands of young children while one of them trying to focus on a career-defining, major international competition?
“First of all we always try to park next to the Crisps who also have young children – in fact all those with children tend to be parked together,” says Sam Whittington, whose husband Francis has two rides this year as well as two children, Max aged six and two-year-old Amber. “They can then all play together in the lorry park – the stable yard is out of bounds – and bikes are an important items to bring along.”
According to Max, however, one of the main reasons for coming to Badminton is to visit the toy stall – a trip done in the morning while Francis is left alone to get on with the horses.
“Badminton is good for children as there is plenty to do and see,” says Sam who is also helping Max write a daily diary of the week to take back to school to show he has done something other than visit the toy store. Max has taken several days off as Badminton, unlike Burghley, does not fall during a school holiday.
“At the moment we can’t leave them behind as even though they are both young they are aware that this is a big and important occasion for the whole family and we couldn’t leave them out,” says Sam. “And the school are also excited to hear about how Francis did.”
Sam acknowledges however that managing and feeding an international sportsman and two young children single-handedly wouldn’t be easy. “I certainly couldn’t manage the lot without the support of the children’s grandparents,” says Sam who does admit that the confines of a horsebox – even a big one with a pop out side – for a week together can be wearing.
“Thankfully its dry at the moment and they can get out and play but we have been to events – Osberton 2011 for example when Max was really small – that because of the rain and mud I haven’t been able to get out of the lorry. And we certainly appreciate the space when we get home.”