Badminton – The Week that Never Happened
It is a sad fact of life for 2020 that now half of all the scheduled international equestrian events have been cancelled throughout the world, including of course the iconic Badminton Horse Trials. This week, the Gloucestershire estate should be buzzing with the crowds and hoof beat on the hallowed turf. But sadly it remains closed, only the sixth time that the trials have not taken place in its early May slot since its inception in 1949, when the first Badminton was won by John Shedden riding Golden Willow.
What is particularly sad, is that following the cessation of sponsorship by Mitsubishi Motors and the retirement of Hugh Thomas after the 2019 edition of the Trials, the new team led by Jane Tuckwell, eager to continue to move the Trails forward, were suddenly faced with an unprecedented occurrence giving them no choice but to cancel. In 2001, the event had to be cancelled because of the foot and mouth outbreak, but otherwise in 2012, 1987, 1975 and 1966, the only other cancellations were brought about by wet weather. Who can forget the April and May of 2012, when the rain just kept going, thus causing cancellation.
In 2019, for the third time in recent years, the Trials won the prestigious “L’Annee Hippique” for the world best outdoor event, presented to Jane Tuckwell at the Geneva Horse Show in December, a great accolade for outgoing event director for 30 years, Hugh Thomas, and an ambition for the new team to continue.
Jane Tuckwell, as she takes over the ‘top job’ is no stranger to the organisation of Badminton. She has always been local to Badminton, and as an eighteen year old, she was offered, and accepted a job working at the Trials by Colonel Frank Weldon, the then director. Since then she worked her way up from the bottom and was assistant director for many years under Hugh Thomas. It was therefore no surprise that she was asked to take over. By her own admission, she did ask herself whether she should accept the offer from The Duke of Beaufort, but her doubts soon disappeared when she thought of the words of Colonel Weldon who gave her the advice that “we mustn’t stand still, just because something has worked for 20 years, does not mean it will work for 21!” That is Jane’s mantra. Right from day one, her plans were to make changes where she believed they were needed but in all things to keep the traditions in the world’s oldest, richest and famous horse trials. The changes that were hoped for in 2020 were a brand new designed fence called “The Bridge” an awesome looking fence, and by all accounts is just as testing as “The Vicarage V”; a redesign of how to get traffic into and out of the event with less problems; and further modernisation of the Badminton digital platform.
With perfect weather forecasted and perfect ground conditions, this week’s Badminton would have no doubt been a huge success, both for the 5 star event and the Science Supplements Cup for amateur riders. However, with the Covid-19 enforced cancellation, the modernisation of the digital platform has been able to be put to good use with votes on the top performances over the years, and the showing of videos and being able to offer and allow trade stands and sponsors, the ability to show their goods and services on line. Something that is very much appreciated by us all.
Despite the loss of such an iconic event in 2020, the team now look forward to 2021, when on Wednesday May 5th, the gates open once again to the 160,000 or so members of the public. We all greatly look forward to that!
In the news this week, (after all Monday posts are usually a roundup of the latest news from around the globe), the cancellation was announced of the two major international Hickstead show jumping events in June and July. It was hoped that Hickstead would be able to incorporate their Derby meeting into the September National meeting, but alas this has not proved to be possible – so no Derby meeting and no Royal International Horse Show this year!