After years of watching the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials CCI**** on VHS tapes, then DVDs and a livestream, I decided that 2018 was the year I would finally go.
I went on my first trip to Europe with my parents 11 years ago, and I somehow convinced them to let me go to an event in the English countryside before we started a tour of the country.
That event, Hartpury, was cancelled the week before due to record spring rainfall in the U.K., so I never got to go, and this year seemed a bit like déjà vu as Badminton got closer and British Eventing experienced record numbers of event cancellations due to rain.
Up until the week before I was set to go, I’d heard rumors that the Big B might not run, so it had me a bit nervous, but by Tuesday it was definitely on, so the excitement set in.
My traveling companion, Kasey Mueller of Rare Air Photography, also had a dream of going to Badminton, so off we went—she left from Chicago, and I flew from Washington, D.C.
We’d planned to do a quick tour of London on Wednesday since Kasey has never seen the city, so we got in to Heathrow Airport super early and hit the road.
Although touring a big city isn’t super fun in driving, sideways rain, I have to say I’m glad we got that out of the way on Wednesday, because the forecast for the rest of the week was sun, sun and more sun—a rare occurrence in England.
I’ve been to London a couple of times, so it was fun showing Kasey around the big sites—the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye. We hopped on the tube back to our airport hotel at the end of a long day and utterly crashed since both of us were on about two hours of sleep!
I was a bit nervous about driving on the other side of the road, so I had Kasey do the first leg to the event, and she rocked it. It’s almost a straight shot down the M4, but we took a slight northern detour when we decided to start following the excellent signage for the event instead of our GPS.
It was a good decision because we got to wind through the countryside and pass through the quintessentially English Cotswold town of Tetbury, which we made a mental note to come back to.
On our way to the car park we drove through the adorable Little Badminton village, a cluster of cottages with thatched roofs and stone walls. We had arrived!
Walking into the event was a bit surreal. We were finally here. The red and white striped tents of the main stadium were instantly recognizable, and the Shopping Village stretched for miles.
We checked in to the media center and caught up with a few friends before heading out to a media luncheon by the lake.
We got our first glimpse of Badminton House, and wow is all I can say. Sitting on the deck of the hospitality tent overlooking the lake and a country mansion with a glass of wine in hand? Amazing.
We headed over to the main stadium to shoot some of our favorite riders in dressage. Lauren Kieffer was up for the United States on Veronica, and Michael Jung had Sam in his last Badminton appearance at 18 years old.
The media pens were set up right near the entrance and exit to the stadium, which was perfect for getting rider reactions and support crew. It was an easy walk to the mixed zone to get smiles and congratulations, but unfortunately we were shooting directly into the sun for the second half of the day. I can’t believe I’m complaining about sun in England! #photographerproblems
Lauren had an amazing test, and Michael and Sam took the lead for a while. Sam was definitely feisty as he left the ring. It’s such a privilege to be here for his last hurrah. What a legend!
Yesterday we shot a bit more dressage and had a ride around the course in a Mitsubishi hybrid SUV.
Seeing the famous complexes like the Huntsman’s Close, the Hildon Water Pond, the HorseQuest Quarry and the Lake was just surreal. Walking up to the Vicarage Vee, it seems impossible, but I know the best horses in the world will sail over it.
We arrived at 8 a.m., so we’re set and ready for an exciting day of cross-country.