Thursday 1 April 2010

March Diary

For years the first Friday in March was always feared by us in the Horse Trials Office, being the last ‘big day’ when the Beaufort Hunt were in Badminton Park – and therefore liable to chew up the cross country course! Happily 5th March this year passed with no damage at all, thanks to the course being marked out and the hunt followers cooperating hugely and treating the course with respect.

March as always has been hugely busy. Entries closed on 12th – as usual now most came over the last few days – and we had even more than usual, so Jane Tuckwell had the unenviable task of checking them all and sorting out the acceptances and the Waiting List. It is very sad that not everyone who wants to can compete here – but the points system for acceptance is at least completely objective and does reward those with the best form over the past couple of seasons. 

As foreshadowed last month, the Technical Delegates came in the middle of the month and so all the portables had to be in position for them to see. The only exceptions to this were the first and last fences which will go in the main arena and the Mitsubishi Pick Ups at the Lake which will appear just before our Press Day in mid April. The TDs were very happy with the course as a whole and we were able to make all the adjustments so that we and they ended the very useful day happy. It really is important to have independent experts come and check the course out, partly because they have not been involved with it on a day to day basis and they see the fences afresh, as of course the horses will do.

Immediately after the TD day we had our TV Producer Chris Lewis together with facilities provider Robin Stonestreet of SIS Live and BBC Editor Michael Cole to see the whole course and fix the camera positions, which had been roughed out last autumn. Chris, coming back to Badminton after 4 years, had some great ideas for new positions at various fences and there will be very few parts of the course where there is no coverage. There will be 13 cameras out on the cross country, so viewers of the ‘Red Button’ live coverage should see most of the action.

Caroline Bromley-Gardiner has sketched the fences at Badminton for the Programme for ever – in fact she is the only person ever to have done them and came up with the idea herself – and she has a deadline of Easter Monday, so has to make a start as soon as there is enough to see. She is always asking Alan Willis what a fence is going to look like and he often does not know! Sometimes we finish a fence off to look like her drawing, rather than the other way round! Caroline is a proper artist and also a horsewoman, so she has the ideal attributes. 

Late in the month Jamie Hawksfield of MBPtv came to film an interview with Yogi Breisner. When edited, this will be illustrated with footage from previous events and will form a fascinating Event Preview, which will be on our website and also on Horse and Country TV and will after the event be available to overseas TV stations, together with the Course Walk preview, to be filmed just after Easter, and the edited highlights of the actual event. It looks currently as though more overseas countries than ever are going to take coverage of Badminton 2010.

On the technical side, developments are continuing in the search for ‘safety’ improvements. Frangible Pins have been in use for several seasons, but some course designers and builders have been keen to see development of these so that they can be used with the rail on the far, or landing, side of a fence rather than on the front of the posts – the idea being that when hit hard at the moment the rail may not break the pin often or quickly enough. British Eventing commissioned Martin Herbert and colleagues at Bristol University to research how hard horses hit fences and the frangibilty of pins and, to cut a very long story short, they have come up with a new method of securing the rails that will enable us to ‘reverse pin’ fences. At Badminton we are keen to use the new system and so Martin was joined here at the end of March by a team from BE and of course the Willis Bros and a (very cold) day was spent installing some of the new devices. It is good to be at the forefront of developments in the management of the risks involved in our sport. 

The only sad note in March was the news that Dr David Lewsey, Chief Medical Officer here for a great many years up to 2005, had passed away. David was instrumental in bringing the medical facilities particularly for the competitors up to date – for instance he started ensuring that all the doctors on the cross country course held an Advanced Trauma Life Certificate, so that they had the knowledge and experience to treat traumatic injury. He was hugely respected as a GP in Tetbury himself and took great and justifiable pride in leading a top flight medical team at Badminton.

Early April will bring the Course Walk filming; our Press Preview Day; the interactive course map on the website. We are now only 4 weeks away from the event and there is no doubt that tension mounts! Ticket sales are excellent and we hope all is set fair.

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