This is Mark Todd, before his Badminton-winning show jumping round. The grin you see is in response to someone yelling out “Woooo Toddy” as he went by. That pretty much encapsulated the weekend right there, that “Wooo!”. Between the weather (unbelievably sunny), the cross-country course (absolutely cool), and Mark Todd, Piggy French, Mary King and the rest of the eventing world, it was probably the most fun I’ve had yet in the UK. I was lucky enough to hang out (and camp out!) with a good friend for the weekend as well, nothing beats having someone to encourage you to buy those all-essential Badminton souvenirs. This year a new winter coat and hat were on the list; well, a dressage whip was on the list (mine had walked away already–I’d only had it for a few months!), and a new winter hat and coat ended up sneaking on at the very last minute, when they were amazing and therefore totally worth it.
We spent the first day circling the cross-country course. There is the all important lap-to-check-out-all-the-fences and then the lap-to-pick-your-favourites, and then, finally, the following-the-course-backwards-to-avoid-the-crowds when the riders start. It worked especially well last year, when the wet and chilly conditions made bits of the course a mudslide. This year, with all of the sun, that was a total-non-issue, but we still got to get right up to the ropes at most of the fences. It’s amazing how walking 6+ miles for 6+ hours can feel like nothing when you’re totally distracted by great riders on amazing horses absolutely flying over these jumps. Some of the best bits came from watching the younger riders really shine on course. We got to see Rayef and Laura Collett just bound over the course, and I especially enjoyed some of the super-colourful cross-country outfits a couple of the riders were sporting. The atmosphere in show jumping the next day was absolutely unbelievable. There was absolutely no room for error, or hesitation, or bad luck. Mary King’s double clear was met with stadium-shaking applause, but Mark Todd’s winning round was watched in absolutely breathless silence. And then the stands just…exploded into applause. It was the sort of weekend that made you want to rush out and go for a ride, especially if that ride could include some galloping about and possible over fences. Just, utterly fun and inspiring. Luckily, we’re already planning to go again next year!