Tuesday, Jun. 6, 2023

The Myth, The Legend, The Reality: Badminton

Sometimes this is a weird job, in the sense that you travel all these different places, and you see all the same faces. The riders are the same everywhere; your fellow journalists and photographers are the same. There are horses. That can make a horse show feel, well, sort of the same as another horse show, no matter where you are in the world. 

So let me just say that my Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** experience has not been that way so far. 

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Sometimes this is a weird job, in the sense that you travel all these different places, and you see all the same faces. The riders are the same everywhere; your fellow journalists and photographers are the same. There are horses. That can make a horse show feel, well, sort of the same as another horse show, no matter where you are in the world. 

So let me just say that my Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** experience has not been that way so far. 

Backing up a bit, my possibly-shady plane ticket worked, thank goodness. Leslie and I arrived in London at nearly the same time, hopped into a rental car (more on that later), drove a few hours, checked into our perfectly quaint Airbnb (uh, her Airbnb really, since I’m technically a party crasher), and then found the horse show grounds. 

This is where proper words become difficult, because there aren’t so many adequate words to describe the scene that unfolds once you turn in the drive. 

Every person I’ve spoken to in the last few days about coming here has had some variation of the same response, which is: “OMG BADMINTON. SO JEALOUS.” 

Badminton
The just slightly picturesque first horse inspection. Photo by Lisa Slade.

I realize that sounds super braggy on my part, but I swear I don’t mean it that way because really this has nothing to do with me. Badminton is just…Badminton. BADMINTON. It has this history, and it has this allure and larger-than-life buzz about it, and there’s a whole world of connotations behind even the word “Badminton,” and I wasn’t sure the reality would, could, match it. 

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It does. 

And even though I’m here with my friend from home, and Buck and Boyd are here, and the other top international riders who were at Rolex Kentucky last week too, nothing about this place feels quite the same as anywhere else I’ve ever been. It’s not just that it’s big, though it is, and I don’t mean this as a diss on any U.S. event. Badminton’s just something else. Very descriptive, I know, but maybe I’ll have a better explanation once I’ve spent more than a few hours there.   

Anyway, we should back up again. Because before we arrived at the famed Badminton grounds, we had to drive there. 

 road
Yeah, that’s a road. Photo by Leslie Wylie (not me, the driver).

I’ve never driven on the “wrong” side of the road, so I expected some minor amount of terror and felt comfortable with the idea that my driving reflexes would kick in and try and jerk the car to the right lane when another vehicle came screaming over a hill towards me. 

And that’s true! That does happen. It’s been a constant battle between the reflexive part of my brain saying, “DEATH APPROACHING,” and then the smarter part of my brain saying, “No, that’s actually fine here.” 

What I wasn’t expecting was how my body—seated on the right side of the car—wants to place itself back on the left side of the lane. Pro tip: Try and fight that urge. Otherwise you run off the road, best case scenario, or into a curb, hedge, ditch or parked car. The latter three haven’t actually happened. Yet. We did get the rental car insurance.

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It’s also worth noting that you’re driving on roads, yes, but not “roads” as I might usually classify them. They’re impossibly narrow, bordered by hedges or stone walls, and yet populated by large trucks. They’re windy, and they have helpful median lines only some of the times. 

horse
Sometimes horses appear! If you think he’s looking at me like, “Wow, this girl is an idiot,” you’d be correct. Photo by Leslie Wylie

But if you can quell the abject panic and look away from the lines of the lane for a few seconds at a time (maybe not recommended) the sights on the side of the road are straight out of a book I just made up called, “The Most Pastoral And Beautiful Place Possible.” (It’s a real page-turner.)

Sheep dot the hillsides, fenced in by stone walls. It’s green, and it’s sunny. There are fields far as the eye can see of beautiful yellow flowers, only broken up by centuries-old houses.

So I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re thinking about coming to next year’s Badminton, I’d go ahead and book that trip. Without having seen a second of actual competition yet, I think it’ll be worth it. 

Follow along with COTH’s Lisa Slade’s adventures at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** by reading all her staff blogs!

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