Wow! What a Twist in the Tail The Badminton Horse Trials Had!

Piggy French. Winner of the Badminton Trophy

The Badminton Horse Trials, the last to be sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors, ended with a real exciting twist in the tail. The penultimate rider, Piggy French riding  Vamir Kamira came in and produced a superb clear round with no time penalties. All the pressure was on Oliver Townend the last to go and in the lead, riding Ballaghmor Class. He started steadily and proceeded round until he dropped the third last jump, still in the lead, but could not afford any more mistakes. Over the line he went with no more dropped poles, BUT had time penalties. He’d lost it by 0.3 of a penalty!

Piggy French won with a penalty score of 26.8; Second was Ollie Townend  with a total penalty score of 27.1 and third was Christopher Burton riding Cooley Lands with a final score of 33.7 penalties. The first two are from Great Britain and the third is from Australia.

Christopher Burton (AUS) came third on Cooley Lands

A very emotional Piggy was joined by her young son during all the media frenzy following her victory, who she had not seen for a week as she was at Badminton. At her news conference afterwards, through complete emotion explained how she had told herself that her horse would not possibly negotiate such a technical showjumping course, and “I’m still numb and find it hard to communicate in words what I’m feeling. I’ve got so used to congratulating everyone else that I can’t quite believe it. And to be fair to Oliver – he’s very hard to get in front of.” It was raw emotional delight from such a lovely person.

I have been to Badminton every year for the past ten years, and rather than simply repeating what everyone else has reported in terms of results from the event, I thought I would write a little of my own experience and thoughts about this year’s Badminton.

Alana Sparrow at dressage. The winnner of the BE100

The first day I was there was for the Mitsubishi Cup, and was dressage day for the amateurs taking part. A rather ordinary day, nothing special and no particularly good dressage tests to talk about. Day two is when the event hots up. Mitsubishi Cup showjumping and cross country day, as well as the trot up for the five star event. In the trot up, there were two horses sent to the holding box, not unusual, but one of those was spun by the vets and was unable to take any further part. This was the first time since I have been to Badminton that a horse has actually failed the vets in the first trot up.

Over the house jump. Laura Greenhalgh winner of the BE90

Apart from a few tumbles on the cross country – not many – for the amateurs; everything proceeded much as expected. There was however, one particularly nasty fall in the show jumping, but after a while on the ground, the rider did get to their feet and hobble off. No great harm done thank goodness. As for me, I seemed to have gremlins in all my equipment, computers not working as they should and other irritations which I did not find too amusing. I took lots of photos of the prize giving of the Cup, only to find that they were all out of focus. Lesson – never change a lens on a camera unless you can be bothered to check the settings on the lens are correct! 

The first day of dressage for the five star, of course saw the record broken for any dressage test ever done at Badminton care of Ollie Townend. However, although it was dry, it was bitterly cold thanks to a northerly wind. It took several whiskeys in the evening to warm up.

The second day was again fairly normal, the gremlins seem to have left my equipment which was good and it was slightly warmer, despite a heavy shower of rain just as the dressage finished.

Where is the horse. Not a successfully selected fence to picture!

Cross country day, always an excitement. All I had to do was to pick some good fences to photograph. Decisions made, I decided to take the cascade fence by the lake with a wonderful picture of the house behind. That didn’t work, great picture of the house, but you couldn’t see much of the horse because where we were allowed to stand, was really far to far away from the jump. No problem, I thought that might happen so off I would go too the corners, get my house picture there. No way to get a shot though without taking a great picture of the horse’s bottom. Oh well, try somewhere else, so off to the logs, fence 9. This didn’t work either because of a loo put right next to the jump, so all images of that fence, with horse and house in background was completed with a dirty great bright green portable loo!!!

Finally, found a good fence to shoot. Piggy French riding Vamir Kamria

Just as I was thinking about my dilemma, just to some up my day so far, a horrid little dog came and relieved itself on my leg. Before I could say anything the owner picked the horrid little beast up and ran like hell!! Following all this and missing any decent shots of the first 15 or so horses, I went to the Wadsworth fence at the end of the lake where a huge jump coming out of the lake pictured really well, so in the end, all was not lost.

The final day was taken up with all the excitement of ‘who will win’? Everyone’s money was on Oliver Townend, and so when Piggy French beat him – somehow the whole event which I felt had been rather missing something, although I cannot put my finger what it was, suddenly came alive and buzzed as it should.

Piggy French with her young son just before the news conference

My final act at Badminton this year was to attend the news conference given by the three top riders. It was the most emotional news conference I have ever attended. Piggy was crying tears of happiness and I think surprise, comforted by her young son: Oliver Townend was obviously very disappointed, and the phrase, ‘smiling through gritted teeth’ was never more appropriate and finally Christopher Burton gave a matter of fact synopsis of how his week had gone, rather expected really!!

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