I will admit I am not normally a fan of eventing – I like my fences to fall down, when I make a mistake I like to hear faults being called out rather than my airbag back protector going off and an ambulance siren and when I canter through some beautiful woodland I just don’t need it to be preceded by whistles blowing! I would happily take part in a BE 90 (and have, thoroughly enjoying myself) but the idea of jumping into a lake, over a boat, through a bush or over a van – in this case a Mitsubushi pick up provided by the sponsors of course – is just not for me.
So why do I find myself, year on year making an annual pilgrimage to Gloucestershire for Badminton? Because it’s brilliant!
This year, with a trip to Rome in the diary for most of Badminton week, the only day free for the pilgrimage was Wednesday (Badminton before the Vatican) so my non-horsey musician husband and I donned our tweeds and waterproofs and headed down the M4 to the event. Excited although slightly concerned that the lack of cross country action may diminish our enjoyment slightly on previous years.
We tried gins and cheese (husband more than me!) and fudge and pickles (me more than husband!), listened to talks about knives, shower heads and saucepans that would all change our lives forever and had our boots polished by a charming guy with a magical cream, a cockney accent and a sales patter to die for. For me, the most interesting part of the trade stands though is the stories – the gin producer from ‘up north’ braving the southern market for the first time, the Irish/New Zealander who designed comfy VPL-free pants for horse riders which unexpectedly have become a hit with bowel cancer sufferers, the wine importer who was noticeably tipsy and overly generous with samples at 10am and then of course we found the oasis that is the Dubarry stand! Anywhere that serves a glass of Pol Roger while you browse is ok with me! And the girls are not only charming, friendly and helpful but stunning – seriously where do they find them? The husband was certainly convinced by the wonders of horse shows from this stand!
Although perfectly content with our wanderings, we thought it only right to see at least one pony before we left and the grassroots competitors didn’t disappoint. There were some stunning horses and beautiful riding. If the competition is designed to bring on new talent then it is certainly succeeding and the sport is in good hands for the future. And what an experience to ride at Badminton when your just starting out!
Before we left we went to see our friend Julian Seaman who is in charge of the press and media at the show. Anyone who has had the honour of meeting him will almost certainly say “oh yes I know Julian!” in a knowing way, complete with cheeky grin. He has ridden at Badminton, teaches Fashion in London, written books (last year on Badminton, this year the Grand National) but I can’t wait for his autobiography – thats a story I would read. I love how there are such amazing characters in the horse world.
So after a nice glass of red and a gossip we head home – windswept, tired and content. Did we miss the competition? Maybe a little but what we missed in horses jumping cars, we gained in not as busy shops or crowded car parking and no queue to get in or out.
If you have never been to Badinton, put it in your diary for next year. Enjoy the horses, chat to the tradestand holders, try samples of everything and come home with more cheese than can possibly be healthy. Maybe even take your non-horsey partner who can enjoy the gin and maybe the Dubarry girls can charm him into buying that tweed jacket for your next birthday… I’ll let you know if it worked for me on my birthday in June.