High tailing it after work last Wednesday I managed to get to The King’s Head, Cirencester in time to enjoy their Badminton Preview Evening in aid of a local RDA group. The evening started with drinks and nibbles and then proceeded to a Q&A session with an expert panel. Before the Q&A I had the pleasure of catching up with Badminton bound Dani Evans and interviewed her about her riding aspirations, approach and thoughts on her second chance to compete at Badminton. (I’ll be posting that interview soon!)
The expert panel consisted of Hugh Thomas, Nick Burton, Dani Evans, Tom McEwan, and Rodney Powell all kept in check by compere extraordinaire Jonty Evans. After a tentative start the questions were coming thick and fast from the audience and Hugh Thomas was definitely providing the entertainment when it came to behind the scenes anecdotes and tales of years gone by.
One question that caused some debate was the possibility of adding an artificial surface to the main arena in an attempt to make the dressage phase fair for all riders given the changeable weather conditions, and impact of wear on the grass. This suggestion was roundly dismissed by Hugh who said ‘it won’t happen whilst I’m alive’ and he went on to say that eventing is an outdoors sport and as such you have to be able to deal with all conditions. He mentioned that many riders want to ride their best horse in the dressage on Friday afternoon with the misconception that the dressage judges mark kinder in order to compensate for the cut up arena. Nick Burton chipped in at this point saying that they had previously looking into this myth and crunching the numbers they found that riders who did well in the dressage always did so regardless of the running order, and those not so gifted in the phase struggled despite the running order.
They went on to debunk a few more Badminton myths, my favourite being that ‘all the pretty girls are always asked to trot up twice by the grand jury’ hahahah
From the back of the room someone then asked which horse they would each like to take round Badminton this year from the entries and they answered:
- Rodney chose Ingrid Klimke’s Hale Bob
- Nick Burton selected Michael Jung’s La Biosthetique Sam
- Tom McEwan picked Gemma Tattersall’s Arctic Soul
- Dani Evans very tactfully opted for her own mounts 😉 (owners in the audience!)
- and Hugh Thomas fancied a leg up onto Zara Tindall’s High Kingdom
Off the back of this Hugh went on to say that looking at the entries it was a very high calibre field of competitors this year, the last year that compared in talent levels he believed was 2013. He was very pleased to have Andrew Nicholson back in the competition and when he also received William Fox-Pitt’s entry it was the cherry on top, but sadly due to William’s horse not being ready he has since had to withdraw. As a result of withdrawals every horse off the wait list has been able to be offered a place and most notable of all the ‘you’re in’ phone calls the Badminton office made was to Ben Hobday who apparently could be heard whooping down the phone!! Gotta love that guy!
The course this year runs in the same direction as last year, breaking with tradition and of all the combinations on the course Hugh commented that the new pond is “very serious this year”
So there you go, a little inside goss to whet your appetite ahead of the main event. I can’t wait to go along on Wednesday and then spend the day glued to the TV for the cross country coverage!!!
Thanks to Diana Massey for the invite and a really enjoyable evening.