Weather reined in equestrian world's annual highlight
This year has sped by – and what a wash-out it has been. The relentless rain started in the spring and led to a wave of cancelled events, causing havoc to the equine calendar.
The world-famous Badminton Horse Trials fell foul of the weather in May – cancelled due to the course being waterlogged and partially flooded (pictured). It was last cancelled in 1987.
No one could quite believe it or wanted to believe it. In the eventing world it is "the" event to go to and I, like thousands of others, was due to make my annual pilgrimage to the Duke of Beaufort's beautiful estate in Gloucestershire to watch our eventing heroes like Devon's Mary King and Lucy Wiegersma.
Badminton event director Hugh Thomas admitted that while canceling had been depressing, at least it was an easy decision because with another 15-20mm of rain predicted conditions were only going to get worse. It would have been impossible to have got vehicles in or out of the car parks, lorries into position, toilets serviced, horse or human ambulances around the courses.
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As well as being devastating for the organisers, it was bad and sad news for those who look forward to Badminton. The riders first and foremost, but the 500 trade stands, the 170,000 spectators – some of whom would have travelled across oceans – as well as the local businesses for whom the week means so much.
On top of this, Badminton 2012 was set to be an extra special one, being an Olympic year. It was the chance for spectators to see potential Olympic horses from home and abroad competing in an exciting competition, as well as selectors making their final decisions for the teams. We all felt for top British rider, William Fox Pitt, from Dorset, who was hoping to add the Badminton title to the Kentucky crown he won just the weekend before and thus achieve the Rolex Grand Slam (winner of Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley in succession), a feat achieved only once before in 2003 by Pippa Funnell.
As former international event rider Clissy Bleekman, who attends every year, summed it up: "It's so disappointing for all – from William Fox-Pitt to the pony-mad child who has been planning their visit since last year."
Whether you go for the day or pitch up for the week, it is a memorable experience. Pony-mad children all aspire to ride there one day, riders who have made it to the top all want to win it, and eventing fans just love the thrills and spills of it.
On a brighter note, I was given a Badminton gift voucher in my Christmas stocking – whoop whoop! Roll on 2013 and see you at Badders!