One quiet evening a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from one of my treasured Eventing friends, Victoria; she was naturally in high spirits as they were getting prepped for their celebratory adventure to fence judge at Badminton in a couple of weeks.
When she asked me what I was doing on Saturday 6th May, I thought no more than that she was checking if I’d be in the crowd at Badders and would be popping by to say hi at some point.
Imagine my shock when she explained that they had been asked by Badminton whether they knew of an FJ assistant they could add to their team, capable of operating camera/recording equipment to act as a back up should they require quick, accurate footage to review by the team (my other equine passion is equestrian photography).
Quite frankly it would not have mattered if I had been invited for tea with the Queen that day, the opportunity to assistant them; little old me to be a very small part of the Badminton team. Yes please thank you, cancel all plans, see you there!
I say celebratory adventure to Badminton for Victoria & Peter, as their Badminton journey is a result of them being rightfully crowned Fence Judges of the Year 2016. These two could not deserve the award and recognition more. They tirelessly and selflessly put so much time, effort and energy into this sport. Last year they travelled the length of the country, and only had a couple of weekends off from March to October. Now quantity doesn’t always count, but these guys have the quality too. With their experience comes a fairness and accuracy that organisers are only too keen to have at their events. I am very proud and honoured to call them my friends, and shall be cheering and clapping the loudest when they receive their award on Sunday in the main arena. Well done guys!
Walking into Badminton, wearing an ‘Official’ badge was very surreal, little old me walking on the hallowed turf of Badders and instead of being told get off the course, it is me saying that to others.
Everything at Badminton happens on an unprecedented scale to everything else. Gone is the half hour briefing at the start of the day. Fence judges are inviting down on the Sunday before the event for a briefing by officials and a familiarisation of the course and in particular ‘your fence’. They kindly invited me along to, so off I drove on Sunday morning to meet the army of volunteers needed for this great event.
Badminton may have been short of a few thousand folks that morning, but it seemed more special somehow to drive into the Park that morning. Sound checks being done in the main arena. Contractors bustling about carrying out the final preparations and little old me taking photos like a tourist!
A personal hello and thorough briefing by Event Director Hugh Thomas and his team, was followed by an access all areas tour of the course and then we arrived at ‘our’ fence.
Being a rather sensible, boring kind of person not many things get me excited or nervous – but I have to admit, walking under the ropes onto the hallowed turf of Badders to a fence described as ‘mine’ instigated some serious giddiness & excitement. The kind of excitement you’d imagine as a child getting the keys to a sweet shop or winning the lottery. After all I’d won the Eventing lottery and here was my prize.
Deep breaths ensued and after a few strong words with myself were had, I walked out our fence, looking at the approach angles, where the potential penalties were going to happen and most importantly where to position me, my camera, my video and several back up devices. Got it, and more importantly Hugh was happy with my position too.
I have so many lovely folk to thank for helping on this journey, firstly again to Victoria and Peter for inviting me to be part of their Badminton journey; my long-suffering fence judge partner who has put up with me for this long and has taught me all I know – thank you Andy!; thanks to Catherine Griffiths at Solihull Riding Club who was so welcoming on my first volunteer adventure and who’s genius idea it was to partner me with Andy (think Andy has just about forgiven her!) and lastly to British Eventing for the training course and the opportunities to be part of this wonderful sport.
As you may have gathered, I am a little bit excited about Saturday and am looking forward to sharing my day with you. I’m off to plan the baking now, as cake responsibilities at Badders rest with me, so I better get to the kitchen….