Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Who Stole Spring? Who cares - Rise Up Singing!

Michael Jung
This time of year more than any other is a complete pain in rear for so many reasons! The constant flux in the weather plays havoc with all manner of plans, as spring tries to kick start itself out of winter.

This time last year my children were enjoying time on the beach in 20c heat, and this year it's snowing! March is my traditional 'serious build up' to Badminton. As entries close, the cross country course is finally set in stone (almost) following a TD visit, and the press preview day looms closer.

All sorts of information needs crunching in preparation for updates to the website, mobile apps etc. etc. It's intense, and intensely exciting!

If you've been following the news around the entry list for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, you'll know there's quite a lot to get excited about, apart from the fact we've all missed having the event in 2012, not least of which are:

  • Michael Jung, (reining World, European & Olympic Champion) is making his Badminton debut, and both of the horses he has entered have just made an impressive start to the season coming 1st & 3rd in a 3 star event in France. This has to be the man to beat. 
  • The man above is probably the biggest single threat to William Fox-Pitt's tilt at the Rolex Grand Slam, and the Rolex Grand Slam is not something you can plan for, it's like waiting for the stars to align. 

All of the major eventing nations are wielding a full set of steak knives, although we only have one Swedish entry this year, Alexander Svennerstal, who is still on the wait list, but likely to get in. The Badminton debut of Michael Jung and his championship dominance lifts this field above and beyond any other I can think of, and if you are something of an eventing geek, cast your eye down the entries (link below) and count up the number of medals, and 4 star wins this collective have between them - it's pretty impressive! (not forgetting Pippa Funnel's Rolex Grand Slam victory)

Badminton is now almost exclusively a professional riders event. With the qualifications being tighten over the last couple of years the days when you could ride only one decent horse and maintain a qualification are all but gone. You'd be lucky to find someone on the list now who has a full-time job that doesn't involve sitting in a saddle all day. Five years or ten ago that was much easier. Like any major sport that means the differential gap at the top has narrowed immensely, in eventing that is most visible in the Dressage phase. If Badminton has good consistent ground under foot throughout the competition it's the dressage phase that will decide the order on the podium. If its wet and deteriorating it'll be the time on cross country that has most impact on rider scores.  It still fascinates me to think that there are probably only ever 200 or so horses in the world at any one time capable of getting round Badminton or Burghley, and even fewer that can justify a slot in the entry list. What an amazing achievement for any horseman currently holding an entry!

Entries For Badminton 2013

Meanwhile back in my own little corner of reality, in a normal year I wouldn't ride much at this time of year, just enough to keep my eye in, and to prep for possibly one run before Badminton. This year I've been 'renting' a horse at weekends  to 'keep my legs going', and that has been effective. This has been so I can confidently go on a shopping spree for a replacement horse without living in fear when I sit astride a strange horse.

I had one of these excursions this weekend, riding a lovely willing & obedient horse, with very nice paces for a novice (Prelim) level eventer, and I hope to revisit him to experience his jumping soon.

Aboard Wickstead Didgeridoo
The same day I also found myself astride Wickstead Didgeridoo, galloping! It was flippin freezing but the best fun I've had in ages. WD is an advanced eventer and being a stallion he is a little powerhouse of a horse. I've always liked having a lot of horse in front of me, and galloping with that big thick, cresty neck in front of you, a willing heart, and ultra smooth gears is enough to make you rise up singing. He's had some pretty decent results at Advanced & Intermediate and racked up nearly 300 BE points plus enough FEI points to justify a slot at Badminton. As someone recently told me "Paul Tapner does produce horses very well". (not my words). Check out Paul's Helmet cam from Boekelo.

Sadly, I must now prepare for a two day meeting for my day job (yawn!), hoping for early release before Easter week and more time in the saddle!

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