10th May 2013
I’m not the biggest fan of horses; they’re tall and have very long legs and being a small Wired bear, I tend to get trodden on. So when I was taken to Badminton Horse Trials last May bank holiday I was a little nervous.
I’ve never been to a horse trial event before but Helen, our Digital Marketing Executive, told me that this one was particularly important and was a big deal to the equestrian eventing world. This four-star equestrian event makes up one of the four parts in the highly coveted three-day Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. Featuring Olympic gold medallists and world champions alike, the competition is fierce and the outcome often comes down to a single showjumping in a timed show jump off.
It was a glorious bank holiday, perfect May weather, not too hot for a hairy bear like me and I was enjoying the exciting atmosphere and huge crowds. Helen and I were there to work the competitor’s shuttle – a fleet of golf buggies who are dedicated to running an efficient service, shuttling the riders, grooms, owners and officials up and down from the stables at Badminton house to the main arena at the top of Badminton Park. It’s a long walk, over 1 mile, and I know I wouldn’t be able to walk it with my little paws and certainly not as many times as the grooms and riders do!
I was placed in my golf buggy and we started our first two-hour shift of the day. It was terribly exciting, I got to watch lots of horses and riders go by, and even saw the Duke of Badminton! We had to rush several grooms up at one point, as they were late for a dressage test, but we made sure they got there on time!
Soon, it was time for lunch and as it was such a lovely warm day we sat outside and sunbathed in front of Badminton House. It was such a sunny day that my fur started to turn brown and I had to apply some sun lotion to stop burning.
After lunch, we started another of our two-hour shifts and we were lucky enough to have silver team Olympic medallist Kristina Cook and top international rider Beanie Sturgis in our buggy. I asked ever so politely if I could have a photo with them and was pleased when they said yes!
After being starstruck by Kristina and Beanie, I was then even more delighted to meet the lovely Mary King. Mary was part of the Olympic silver medal team at London 2012 and has won numerous events and medals in her career. It was a real pleasure to meet her. I loved her green Joules jacket and body protector, green is my favourite colour and I asked Mary if Joules did bear-sized jackets, but unfortunately, she said no.
After meeting the lovely Mary King, we shuttled some more riders, grooms and owners about until it was time to go home and definitely time for a spot of Pimms – lovely!
The next morning, it was another beautiful day at Badminton and I had to apply some more sunscreen to make sure my fur didn’t get burnt. We were allocated our buggy and started our shift. It was very busy at Badminton – the sun was out and the general public was having a lovely time relaxing by Badminton Lake. We were told that this was a record crowd; an unbelievable 150,000 people had come to watch the famous cross country day in the sun!
My day got off to a fabulous start when I was papped by a photographer. Well, I think event rider Caroline Powell was papped, but I made sure I was in the photo. I think he got my good side!
After another shift in the sunshine, I had the pleasure of meeting of event rider Harry Meade. Harry is based locally to Badminton, and is a firm favourite with the horsey crowds and is easily recognised by his red hunting jacket.
With the cross country in full flow, it was hard not to get swept up in the atmosphere. There were grooms rushing about, riders congratulating or commiserating each other, owners and officials discussing tactics and proceedings. I felt proud to be a part of such a prestigious event, even if I still wasn’t the biggest fan of the huge horses…
While I was busy wondering what it would be like to ride a horse cross country, we bumped into German rider Michael Jung. Michael is a top international rider and won individual gold at the Olympics at London 2012, so he knows a thing or two about horses!
One of Michael’s teammates, Sandra Auffarth, was also wandering about the Badminton stables. Sandra won individual bronze at the Olympics in London and was excited about her Badminton run.
The next day was the final show jumping event. The atmosphere was tense and riders seemed nervous and jittery at the prospect of the final climax to the 3 days.
A veteran of the sport, Mark Todd was strolling through the yard looking tanned and distinctly unworried about his show jumping event. We stopped him and asked for a photo and he was happy to comply. Mark is an Olympic gold medal winner and has competed in events all across the world on various horses, making him one of the most well-known members of the eventing community. I was really pleased to get a photo with such a star!
The showjumping was tense, with several near misses and unexpected outcomes. The crowds watched with bated breath in the grandstand in the blazing sun, hoping to see their favourite rider win a medal in this prestigious event. Helen had managed to get some showjumping tickets and so we sat and watched the proceedings. I had to wear my sunglasses though as it was so bright!
The outcome was a surprise, with New Zealander Jonathan Paget taking the title of winner of Badminton Horse Trials 2013, Michael Jung in second place and Andrew Nicholson in third.
After a long weekend in the lovely sunshine and avoiding horse’s hooves, I was a sleepy Wired bear, ready for my bed. I was glad when the buggies were all parked up, goodbyes said and we were in the car on our way home. It was a lovely weekend filled with excitement, but I still don’t think I like horses…
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