Man, What A Week!

Badminton | It looks tranquil, but just to the left…..

I’m starting to sound like I live in the States already. “The world’s gone and got itself in a big damn hurry” It’s a line from one of my favourite films [movies], The Shawshank Redemption, and sums up the last few days for me. This week has flown by and I haven’t done a bunch of things I planned, but what an exciting week. Wednesday brought fabulous weather and car problems on my way down to Badminton for the annual unveiling of the cross country course.

With just 2 weeks to go everything, at Badminton is lush, green and a hive of activity! The area in front of the house is purposefully keep peaceful and tranquil, even during the build up to the event, strict orders from the Duke.

 Lots of people always say the Badminton course doesn’t change much year to year, and it’s easier than Burghley, but without fail this course walks easier than it rides, and more of the top ten riders win Burghley than they do Badminton. This could be for a variety of reasons, like it’s position in the calendar, weather etc, etc.

The course is familiar, but none the less tricky (Badminton XC Course). If you watched the recent Paul Tapner interview you’ll see that plenty of riders set up practice fences in preparation for Badminton, and I suppose this can be useful when a totally new concept is introduced like the open corners that were introduced a few years ago that caught a few out, but generally at this level of the game I always think you’re either ready for the course or you’re not! The biggest thing you need to prepare for at Badminton is the crowds. Burghley is really the only place to come close to this type of capacity, other than a football match or a central London protest march [if you happen to have a police horse].

Fence 11: The Outlander Bank | It’s Big

My personal frightener on the course is the Bank (fence 11). It is huge, 1.2 metres to climb onto and bounce over a log. Now, if you go back and look through all the stats for the fence you’ll find it isn’t one that causes many problems, and personally I think this is because it’s a very easy to read question for the horse and one that is seen quite a lot at 2* upwards. However almost no-one gets a close shave here, you either jump it cleanly or you stop dead in your tracks on top – there are no lucky escapes. It’s all about getting your horse compressed and balanced on the approach, it’s a fence that is impossible to jump ‘flat’. Every other fence on the course I think can forgive the odd mistake.

The Lake

The Lake this year requires a horse with good left rein canter. Surprise, surprise it’s all about good balance and rhythm so as not to tire the horse through here. The almost continuous circle on the fast route will require a good clean jump into the water so you maintain rhythm for the step and bounce out as it’s bloody difficult chasing a horse through this water.

Look through the picture galleries on the Badminton website and you’ll see that every fence is worth a visit, even the dull looking ones like the shooting butt, which plenty of horses ‘over jump’ to the delight of the crowds. If the leaves do make it out onto the trees in two weeks time I’d also pay special attention to the sunken road which this year I think would ride very differently depending on the amount of shade over the complex. This is a fence you wouldn’t want to over jump on the way in as it could be quite a drop. Also Huntsmans’ Close can be influential going in this direction, and I do hope Pippa Funnell copes with the gates this year (she fell twice in a previous year). She’s one of the most exciting riders to watch cross country, head to the lake when she’s on course and you’ll see what I mean.

For me, the fielded entries this year make this a more exciting competition than any Olympics. Only the best of the best have got in, and that includes a decent number of first timers who will be looking to set themselves up for London 2012 selection. Looking at the horse power the more established team riders have though, I’d be surprised if any of them make even the subs bench.

Badminton is, and always will be, a very special competition for me, not least because it requires a rider to come out, almost cold and jump one of the biggest tracks you’ll ever see in your life.

Last, and by no means least, what about that app? I love it! I’ve even seen some tweets from people who are converting to iphone just because it’s so cool. If you haven’t seen it yet, go download it! If you haven’t got an iPhone or iPod touch here’s your justification – the clock is ticking! Can you really suffer in silence whilst your friends taunt you with live updates, photos and videos from the event – or will you just lug a laptop around?

I find myself wanting to do loads of blogging during Badminton, I feel in the mood, however this year I seem to have numerous commitments, including a commission for a magazine (yes! and they even offered to pay), and also helping out 2 of the big names in traditional media plus all the other stuff I normally do during Badminton week, so instead I’m setting myself a sightly different blogging challenge. Once I’ve worked it out I share the concept next week.

All this talk of Badminton, it’s iPhone App, it’s new fangled animated graphics, has blown my week to pot! I still have a monumental trip to the states to plan for the week after Badminton including a stop by Rolex Kentucky, although it looks like I’ll be missing the trot up and probably one day of dressage due to business meetings. Still maybe I’ll find an excuse to stretch it out and stay for the Kentucky Derby the following weekend.

This is shaping up to be a great year, but I might just find myself living it at 600mph!

Now I must go find some accommodation! [plus 16 other things on my to do list before Monday]

Amateur event rider, aspiring photographer. Technologist by day.

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