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Rain makes Badminton a trial for some

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 09, 2014

By Tristan Cork

  • Equestrian sport enthusiasts brave the wet and windy weather at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse trials yesterday, above and main image. Right, from top: Hannah Freeston from Swindon with Little Cote Imp and Alyson Parker on JJ Malone, who were competing in the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Grassroots Championship and William Fox-Pitt on Izzy Taylor, in the Dressage yesterday Pictures: Chas Breton

  • Spectators needed to be well dressed to cope with the poor weather conditions at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse trials yesterday. Mark Todd arrives by bike for the competitors briefing at Badminton Village hall, while Andrew Nicholson arrives in a hurry by foot Pictures: Chas Breton

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The wind howled, the rain seemed relentless and the ground gradually turned into a layer of slimy, treacly mud – the first day proper of the Badminton Horse Trials was distinctly one for the dedicated.

The connoisseurs huddled together in the shelter of the arena, wrapped up against the driving drizzle. The committed – the ones who came specifically for the apparently unfathomable nuances of the dressage – were settled early, their legs covered in blankets, backs to the penetrating precipitation, picking their seats to be as sheltered as they could.

The fly-by-night passing fans made do with occasionally used, and therefore, damp seats, before heading off when it got just a bit too cold and wet to find their shelter in the wind-whipped trade stalls.

Last year's first day was a gloriously hot sunny day, but that seemed a lifetime ago yesterday. This year, the man in the ice-cream van at the crossroads of the huge 'town centre' of almost 300 stalls, shops and stands, read his paper three times over.

Last year, the stalls buzzed with activity and chatter. This year, the ones facing the unforgiving west wind set down their front flaps, and had just doorways open to the muddy-footed trickles.

Down in the Festival of Food, warmth was provided by those sizzling sausages and flipping artisan, hand-crafted venison burgers. It was a welcome respite, and the food tents at least, were full.

The entertainment came from one corner, where Neil Jones provided a lyrical and very real sparkle, showing and sampling gold-infused champagne. The doughty Thursday Badminton-goers might have seen the 23-carat flakes that swirled around a bottle of champers like a snowglobe as something of an extravagance, but Neil was confident that Saturday's crowd will love it.

"Today's not the day, is it? The pieman's doing alright, the sausage chap on the corner has a big crowd, but we've got a following at these horsey events and people are always intrigued," he said. "It's something everyone loves the idea of – it's edible, real 23-carat gold flakes. Gold has been used in food and drink for centuries and it is a symbol of love and wealth."

Out in the mud, only a few had come unprepared. "I saw a girl a while ago with a short skirt and heels this high," said June Pavey. "She was struggling, I think."

June is staying for the duration, camping in the campground, and had bumped into friends Denise West, Hannah Payne and Becki Stokes, a Taunton and Bridgwater family whose annual pilgrimage to Badminton usually involves the Thursday and Friday with a nice night in Bath in between.

"Last night in the campsite was horrendous," reported June, darkly. "Somebody's gazebo flipped over and got all tangled up with another tent. It was nice first thing this morning, but the weather closed in again," she said.

All four were in hats, full-length waxed coats and tough boots. Scott of the Antarctic could have taken advice from these four. "We usually leave Saturday alone," said Hannah. "It's generally too busy, and it's full of people who are here for the bars. We watch the cross-country on television."

"But we love it," added Becki. "We're hardcore, we don't mind this weather."

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