This weekend we did some Badminton preparation of a different sort… whilst I’ve been busy preparing Corey for the grassroots competition itself (more of that to follow next week) we’ve also been preparing for staying the whole week to watch the 4* fun.
Mum is planning the menu/food required, I’m writing lists of all the things I need to take, and through some fast work by Mum, we were two of the lucky 30 who got tickets for the celebrity coursewalk on the Thursday lunchtime. I expect (and hope) there will be some great banter as well as some real insight into just what it takes to ride a 4* course on that!
We’ve also spent a day watching the world’s best compete at Weston Park, deciding who we’re going to follow most closely at Badminton. We volunteer at a number of different events throughout the year and fence judging at Weston is one we’ve been doing for many years. The spring event is always a fantastic opportunity to see top professionals on their preBadminton run and this weekend was no different.[Rant alert!] I am a volunteering evangelist and think everyone involved with the sport should give at least half a day a year to give something back and also help them understand what goes in to their sport. There is a very small (very very small) minority of people who would perhaps think twice about how they talk to volunteers if they saw what effort went into running an event! I work full time, ride in my spare time, compete as often as I can and yet still find time to volunteer. Admittedly I don’t have a life but surely if I can give 10+ days a year, others could manage at least half a day? I know many people do volunteer but the more we get involved the better! (I’ll get off my high horse now….)
Anyway, rant over, I’ll focus on the positives of fence judging. You get to sit in beautiful surroundings often, but not always, in beautiful weather getting food and drink brought to you throughout the day, watching your favourite sport. There is added excitement in being responsible for making sure everything around your fence runs smoothly and listening out for incidents in case you need to stop a horse/react quickly. There is a great spirit of community amongst volunteers and some of the fence judge briefings are as entertaining as a night at the comedy store. Plus, whilst you only get to see the competition from one spot, this gives a great chance to focus on exactly how different competitors ride the fence the lines they take, the approach they use etc. (Because obviously I need to know how to ride a combination that involved a massive brush skinny to a step down to a massive brush corner, right!?)
We had a fantastic day. Particularly memorable moments for me yesterday included;
– Opposition Buzz flying over the brush corner that was nearly as big as me, like he was doing a BE90 and Nicola Wilson smiling from ear to ear as a result
– Andrew Nicholson looking like he was out for a stroll in the park he was so relaxed and that was actually OVER the fence!
– Daisy Berkeley’s game face some real determination shown there
– Maddi Briggs (who I don’t know but who I’d seen on twitter was doing her first intermediate) jumping our fence with real confidence and gusto
– The skill of Rider X who got so left behind over the into space that I thought she might fall off the back(!), picking up her knitting and calmly popping the big upright rail at the bottom of the hill like she’d be fine all along
– Getting riding tips from those walking the course as they discussed with friends/grooms what approach they would take
– Both Caroline Powell and William FoxPitt giving me a smile after jumping through the combination clear and before they galloped off down the hill. I’m not sure they should have been looking at me rather than their next fence but it was certainly nice to be appreciated!
Not all those we saw are heading to Badminton but they were all great to watch and it has given me a real buzz about being at Badminton for real. I’ve got three weeks left, just one more horse trials and slightly too much paranoia about Corey injuring himself. I’ll send an update on how my own competition preparation has gone after Hambleden on Friday and in the meantime, don’t forget you can keep up with me and Supercobs by following @EventerBrook!