As always, the Badminton Horse Trials kept everyone guessing about who would be triumphant and take home the winner’s trophy and prize money.
The dressage was spread out over two days. Each combination performs in front of the same judges, and as the dressage test lasts several minutes, it’s impossible to squeeze all horses and riders into one day.
At the end of the Dressage phase there were less than 10 points between the first 16 combinations, Michael Jung of Germany heading the leader board.
The weather was ideal, dry and sunny without being too hot, and remained so for the whole of the Trials.
Cross country day always attracts thousands of spectators, and this year was no different, with people arriving from all corners of the globe.
There were in total, 83 combinations at the start of cross country day, ready to negotiate the 30 beautifully designed and well built obstacles.
The first rider, Oliver Townend with Armada, left the “start”at noon and successfully completed the course within the time allowed. On the whole, the course rode well, with very few major problems. 58 of the starters jumped clear, and 23 of them inside the time.
Both Andrew Nicholson and William Fox-Pitt were not only hoping to win this fantastic event, but by doing so they stood a chance of earning themselves an extra $350,000 given by Rolex, for a rider who win’s the Kentucky three day event, Badminton Horse Trials and Burghly Horse Trials in any consecutive order. Since the Rolex Grand Slam started only one rider, Britain’s Pippa Funnell, has won this fantastic prize.
At the end of the cross country day, Michael Jung still maintained his lead, with the New Zealander Jonathan Paget very close behind, followed by William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson breathing down their necks.
The starting order for the final day of show jumping starts with the combination at the bottom of the results after cross country day, working upwards, which meant that Michael Jung with his horse La Biosthetique-Sam FBW would be the last to go.
The show jumping phase brings a lot of tension and excitement for all concerned, because a simple touch of a pole can drop a combination several places when the scores are so close like they were at Badminton.
William Fox-Pitt had an unfortunate 4 faults, and ended a very creditable 5th and although Andrew Nicholson went clear his fate was in the hands of the riders placed higher than him after the cross country.
The nail biting moments came, when Jonathan Paget went clear with a guarantee of at least 2nd place, depending on Michael Jung’s round.
When Michael appeared in the arena you could hear a pin drop, people holding their breath wondering if the current Olympic,World and European champion could add the Badminton Horse Trials to his long list of achievements.
Like he and his horse so often do, they jumped the coloured obstacles in a very stylish way, and when he was approaching the last jump, it looked like the Badminton Trophy and cheque were in his pocket.
Unbelievably, they touched the last jump. At first it looked like luck was on their side as the pole seemed to stay in place – but to everyone’s dismay, it fell to the ground before he crossed the finishing line.
A disappointing finish for Michael, but an amazing win for Jonathan Paget who was competing at Badminton for the very first time.
Whatever the results are, I think that all the riders can be very happy when they finish the event safe and sound, and be very proud of their horses who partner them during these Horse Trials.