The clocks have changed, we’ve finally been able to shrug off the winter blues, and Badminton 2017 is just around the corner. It’s been a real Badminton themed week for me, and it’s only Wednesday.
Willberry Does Badminton:
I was roped into helping last minute at last night’s fund raiser for the Willberry Wonder Pony charity. I’m not complaining, all I had to do was sit and press a few buttons on my laptop displaying photos of various riders. Who can forget Hannah Francis’ heart wrenching battle with cancer.
The evening was a great success. When Paul Tapner asked me to step in for him I imagined an audience of 50 or so, but there were 300-400 people there, filling this wonderful old barn across the road from Barbury Horse Trials, that had the most enormous fireplace at one end with a blazing fire.
The panel included Eric Winter (Badminton’s new course designer) plus a host of experienced 4 star and debutant riders heading for Badminton – Jonty Evans, Lissa Green, Tim & Jonelle Price (Jonelle will be there sans horse, but sporting a ‘baby bump’), Tom McEwen, Mark Todd, and Ben Hobday.
Spencer Sturmey MC’d for the evening posing questions collected from the audience, and the panel revealed tricks of the trade and a few amusing anecdotes about each other you might not find reported (or rather reportable) in the press – Mark Todd reveal how he discovered Jonelle was pregnant, and Ben explained Lissa’s affection for boxer Ricky Hatton, who they met in a Manchester night club.
Under the watchful eye of Hugh Thomas, Eric Winter didn’t give away any secrets of this year’s course, but did give us some indications of what we could expect to see, and his approach to his new role as course designer.
It was a really fun night and thankfully nobody asked me any questions despite my position, sat between Tim and Jonelle on the panel, operating the overhead projector.
Badminton Preview Day:
The preview day held a few weeks before the event, is a real highlight for many. It’s the ‘big reveal’ of the cross country course and and new developments for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, now in it’s 26th year under title sponsorship of the car brand. It has to be said, Mitsubishi Motors put a great deal in to Badminton, including probably the best media facilities you’re ever likely to find in a temporary structure.
This year’s cross country course is a salute to the history of Badminton (“greatly resembles the swashbuckling tracks of the 1970’s” according to the official press release). The night before Eric mentioned he had only 11 combination fences on this year’s track.
He also made reference to the way he had used brush this year, which I have to say I was pleased to hear. In previous years I’ve always been puzzled by how think and dense brush fences were, where as the intention of using brush was to raise height but enable a horse to ‘brush through’. The old brush corners in the huntsmans close would never have enabled that. This year Eric has reduced density to allow this brush through effect as intended.
Rather than waffle on about the course here, take a look at the course page of the Badminton website for a blow-by-blow account from Harry Meade or download the course to your iPhone/iPad via the Cross Country App, which is now an official partner.
I’m particularly interested in seeing how the PHEV Corral at 19 rides.
There are a lot of rails on the course, with the remaining fences made up of predominantly brush or box fences and a few table tops.During the winter Badminton ran a competition to design the final fence to replace the one that had been used for a decade and was now failing apart. After 100 or so entries and and 13,000 votes, the winning design was a saddle carved from wood to jump. Not the easiest to build, and whilst James Willis’ craftsmanship is to be admired, I much preferred Russ Hardy’s effort back at boomerang stables.
Most importantly Badminton is now just around the corner and it’s another one to look forward to, particularly with Michael Jung planning a return to defend his title.
I’ll have news of an exciting new technology development for Badminton over the coming week. stay tuned!
In the meantime here are the important links:
ps. many thanks to Sally Newcomb for a few of these photos.