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Tuesday, June 17, 2014  •  13:51 GMT

THE DIRECTOR’S BLOG – STARTING OUR ‘COUNTDOWN TO BURGHLEY 2014’

Over a year has passed since I wrote my first blog for last year’s Event and here we are again. I had a less than subtle reminder last week from Sol that she had been’ patiently’ waiting for me to put pen to paper for over a month so she can post the first of 2014’s. It is certainly not for lack of trying to find a few free moments to gather my thoughts in order to sift through many things that have recently taken place in order to bring you up to date in a manner that I hope will be of interest.

Preparations seems to have been caught up in a whirlwind since Badminton – perhaps I brought home from Gloucestershire a little bit of their unkind weather, which in itself served as a reminder that there are some aspects of organising events over which we just have no control – definitely an uncomfortable space to be in.

I always move up a gear after Badminton and this year has been no exception; in recent weeks there have been numerous matters to attend to, many totally unrelated to the equestrian competition. Looking through my diary has brought back a little of what we have touched upon: meetings with Land Rover - our title sponsor, trade exhibitors, television and media, site layout, catering, health and safety – the list goes on. It should be so simple – we’ve been in the business for more years than I care to admit ……but nothing stays the same!

Sophie, who is covering for maternity leave, is a new member of our ‘tribe’. She is no stranger to event organisation, having worked two years for LOCOG as equestrian services manager for Greenwich. Since joining us last November she has been dividing her time with other fixtures, including Olympia and more recently at Royal Windsor where she was overseeing the Endurance competition. I have to admit being relieved this is over and we are now seeing a little more of her – albeit she is off again shortly to help at Barbury Horse Trials. If there is any truth in the saying ‘ if you need a job doing ask a busy person’ we will be OK. On rare sightings of her in the office her tidy desk belies a mammoth amount of work she is covering in what is grandly called our ‘Ops. Department’; overseeing items such as tentage, signage, traffic management, temporary electrical requirements and much more besides.

Turning to the equestrian element, following planning meetings last Autumn, outline changes for the cross country course were decided with Mark Phillips. Groundwork preparation commenced prior to x-mas in order to allow time for restitution and new areas to become established. Philip Herbert is now working in earnest with his course building team to start fabricating the actual fences. Mark is due to visit this week to take things on to the next stage, no doubt there will be a flurry of activity in advance of his arrival.

Last week we had our annual ‘get together’ of key cross country officials, which starts the ball rolling for the administration of XC day: allocation of judges, medical and veterinary requirements, fence repair teams, radio communications, layout in cross country control unit, etc. How reassuring it was to look round the table and feel the depth of knowledge and experience we are fortunate to benefit from. This is where the real wheels of the event turn and everyone’s enthusiasm and genuine desire to help must never be underestimated.

Friday, September 27, 2013  •  15:42 BST

2013 - DIRECTOR'S CLOSING BLOG

It’s a peculiar mix of elation and sadness as I write the final blog for the 2013 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. There is a feeling of euphoria all around – not least I expect in the Clifton Promise camp – and our congratulations again to Jock Paget – and let us not forget Clifton Promise’s owners Frances Steed and Russell Hall. I doubt Jock has yet come down to earth; winning Badminton and Burghley within 6 months of each other and on the same horse is no mean feat. We wish him well in his preparations to be Champion in Kentucky next April and in so doing he would become only the second rider ever to win the Rolex Grandslam.

The sadness comes about as we oversee the final breakdown of the Event. It has taken all year to prepare this about and in a matter of 3 weeks we say farewell firstly to our equine guests, their riders who partner them and grooms who look after them. Then the stable staff return to their ‘day job’, quickly followed by the caravans and horseboxes leaving the site. That’s just for starters, and up on the showground a similar exercise took place - marquees loaded up to be returned to stock, grandstands dismantled, Public Address equipment and ‘miles of cabling’ pulled out – all in record time this year. Radios checked in and ‘guilty’ officials identified if they had not been returned. In the aftermath of these two items of radio equipment lost from last year turned up – can we sneak them back – probably not.

Unsold programmes and admission tickets are stacked up in the office corridors, ready for someone to muster the energy to audit them – must be concluded soon as we need the detail prior to ordering for next year.

Thank you letters are still being written – firstly to sponsors but also our army of volunteers without whom we could not stage the event. De-briefs are being arranged – my diary is looking alarmingly full between now and Christmas and we must not forget the accounts - our year-end is fast approaching and invoices are flooding in.

Portable cross country fences have been stored away and the ground ‘put right’ in readiness for Captain Mark Phillips’ visit next month, when plans for the 2014 track will be mulled over. The Main Arena areas and whole cross country will shortly receive a dressing of seaweed fertiliser.

Hardly time to reflect on the past month, but it is important that we do – what went well? And just as importantly what didn’t go well? The consensus is that the event ran really well with an exciting finale to a great competition and Mark’s new track was met with universal praise. How fortunate we were with the weather, which can make or break an event, and we missed the torrential rain forecast for the Friday. Our visitors were happy with many basking not only in the sun for much of the week but also in shoppers’ paradise, which is so important for our retail exhibitors.

I have just been in the Park with David Pennell, the Estates Director, to discuss some ideas for next year. We both commented on how wonderful the Park looked particularly now that the deer, which were shut up for the period of the Event, have been released back to their rightful home in front of the magnificent Burghley House. We would not have known that nearly 160,000 visited us barely three weeks ago. Despite the glorious sun there was a definite autumnal chill – definitely time to put 2013 to bed and make ready for next year when we will look forward to welcoming you all again between 4 and 7 September.

To enjoy some of Burghley’s highlights please click here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013  •  13:56 BST

DIRECTOR'S BLOG - BANK HOLIDAY THOUGHTS

Bank Holiday thoughts……………
The run up to Bank Holiday was fast and furious and with the threat of a postal strike the tradestand team hardly drew breath as they packed up instructions and passes to send out to exhibitors. How fortunate that Sarah, who many years ago was a regular summer Temp. answered an SOS to come and help. It’s amazing what a difference an ‘old hand’ makes (Sarah, if you are reading this I know you will forgive the term!).

All this amidst moving the admin office up to the showground. Katherine, true to form, had this planned meticulously; portacabins craned in and positioned to the last centimetre by our site team Chris and Michael; furniture delivered; computer network cabling installed by Paul, our IT wizard, and fit to go – just awaiting the power supply. Event Power provide our temporary electrical requirements for the whole showground and the generators start to come in this week – thank goodness the weather is fine – it’s heavy kit and helpful if the ground conditions are good. I saw Nigel, one of their crew, at Gatcombe a few weeks ago and he assured me we would be up and running within hours of their arrival – it’s so reassuring to work with people like this – everyone knows from year to year what they are doing – I sometimes feel our admin. planning is superfluous and it would happen whether or not we planned in advance.

By mid -week Henson Franklin were siting flag poles and sponsor boards. I keep an eye on this as positioning of boards is important for the television, but it’s hard to keep up with them, so suggested a planning meeting in Ring 2 where the cross country starts. A number of simultaneous conversations took place with David Goldstrom our TV Producer and Philip Herbert, concerning siting of flag poles and PA towers, stringing for the car parks, location of camera hoists, positioning of crossing point signs for the public on the cross country course and more thrown in besides. All being micro-managed to ensure there will be good TV shots. I felt like an arbitrator at times emphasising that we must not forget our public at the Event who need to hear the PA, see the signs, park their cars….. Everyone is so focussed on delivering their particular speciality in the very best way and we have to be expert at coming up with compromises – all resolved but I was glad to return to the relative peace of the office!

There is so much to juggle at this time of year and in the middle of this organised turmoil, last week Sol my PA was busy multi-tasking. I would only be aware of a few items on her agenda but these included finalising catering schedules, confirming to the Military Band which nations are entered in readiness for playing the National Anthem on the final day, fine-tuning arrangements for the parade of Kauto Star and Neptune Collonges and perhaps most importantly co-ordinating media days with our Press Officer, Bridget from JB Promotions. Bridget was in the Office bright and early last Wednesday having travelled up from Somerset to oversee the co-ordination of radio interviews and filming for the Land Rover YouTube site – some of you will have seen the media day updates on our facebook and twitter page.

The admin. team worked hard over the weekend, so I suspect were pleased to have experienced typical Bank Holiday weather – mainly rain! At least they were not all missing out on what might otherwise have been a glorious August Bank Holiday. It was a perfect refresher for the cross country and showground and reduced the requirement to irrigate the course. David Carpenter, a member of Philip’s team would normally have been making regular checks on the irrigation equipment so was able to turn his hand to a myriad of other last minute tasks. Yesterday, Bank Holiday Monday was better and perfect Burghley weather. I hardly dare tempt fate but I am hopeful this will continue – certainly the long range forecast is good.

Thursday, August 15, 2013  •  14:55 BST

DIRECTOR'S BLOG - COUNTING THE DAYS..............

Burghley Park looked beautiful this morning as I drove in at 7.00am. The sun was already shining and there was a young buzzard perched on the fence line near the Fence Judges car park, he seemed to be taking note of the estate forestry department who were busy mowing the car park areas either side of the cross country course near the Cottesmore Leap.

I continued down Capability’s Cutting hoping the gates would be open over the lake, but no need to worry as Philip Herbert ‘et al’ were already at work lowering water levels in readiness to build the new fences around Lion Bridge. We had a quick chat about re-siting the dog crèche and the Defence Animal Centre (DAC) Promo area. Both on the edge of the lake overlooking the new fence, which will be a busy spectator area on cross country day so we need to think carefully how they will be positioned. The DAC are based nearby at Melton Mowbray and their display area proved popular last year with those that came upon it – it was a little hidden away so with a tweak of re-siting hopefully more people will be made aware.

Two lorry loads of grandstands were parked up waiting to be unloaded. It’s incredible how quickly everything comes to life around now and by lunch time great inroads will have been made into erecting the East Stand. Since our ‘star studded’ cast of entries were posted on the website there has been a sudden rush to buy dressage tickets. A little lateral thinking comes into play and noting the grandstand crew standing by reminds me to ensure the centre line is mown in the correct place to ensure our dressage aficionados who have requested very specific seats when booking their tickets, get the view they anticipate.

As I continued on my drive, Jack from Woodhouse was offloading the wooden floors for the tradestands, which his crew were fitting and levelling as quickly as he was offloading them. The same team of six arrive every year to put up the main infrastructure for the event. Five of them are Polish and all work incredibly hard under the direction of Jack, the Site Foreman. They build their own little residential area down by the stables; 3 sleeping portacabins and a kitchen unit, all plumbed and wired in. Jack has been with us for as long as I can remember and is an essential cog in the wheels that bring our event together. Amongst his many talents he also acts as Chef for his team and I know will be down from the showground any moment now to cook their breakfast – Buster loves it and is always sniffing around for the odd scrap of bacon that might have been ‘accidently thrown his way’.

A mixture of recent rain and now lovely sunny weather seems to have resulted in a frenzy of mowing today, and around our offices Dan from the Estate is tidying up around the temporary stables that have been erected. Everyone is enthusiastic about the Horse Trials and the desire to present this beautiful Park to look its very best for September seems to be contagious. Nothing is too much trouble and Dan has just stopped to assure me that they will also be strimming around those ‘hard to get at places’ – as if I would have doubted!

Thursday, August 08, 2013  •  12:27 BST

Director's Blog - Busy weeks ahead.........................

We’re approaching the last furlong, and speed and stamina are the order of the day. However hard I try to get ahead of schedule somehow it never quite happens – fortunately I’ve been in the driving seat for enough years to feel quite relaxed about this; it’s all part of the process – or so I keep telling myself. The last few weeks have been particularly gruelling – our offices are a timber build and have been unbearably hot. Everyone’s been getting in very early when it’s cooler – the intention being to go home early, but this is just not practical and the days are getting longer and longer. Poor Buster has really been feeling it, but all is not lost as Sol has sourced a pet pool – so there’s one on order, which no doubt will result in an instant change in the weather.

Alice, who helped last year in her school holidays has returned for more punishment and has nearly worked the photocopier to death. When she’s not photocopying she’s busy encapsulating instructions, collating tickets, checking caravan and tradestand ‘pegs’ and no doubt much else besides – here’s hoping she will be back next year, but that seems a long way off right now.

Listening to odd conversations taking place in the office I am aware there’s still a lot of passes and instructions to send out to stewards and helpers, but I know it will happen and wouldn’t dare interfere. Anne is particularly busy right now as the three day event entries have closed so is fully focused. Our chief Medical Officer was intending to call into the office over the weekend to check kit and run through everything – as ever she will greet him cheerfully, but when you are being pulled from pillar to post and drowning in other paperwork this takes a super human effort.

Philip Herbert is preparing for our TV producer to come and film the cross country course this week for showing in advance of the event on Burghley TV. Although the fences will not be presented in their full splendour or decorated with flowers until the week of the event, there will still be a flurry of activity in readiness for this, which reminds me the fence names need to be finally decided. Once they’re up on Burghley TV there’s no going back – sounds quite straightforward, but it’s often the simplest of things that need deliberation.

The Main Arena railing went up several weeks ago, which always stiffens the spine as to the imminency of the event. This was further enforced last week by the arrival of Graham, site foreman for Woodhouse, which really heralds the countdown. Graham (known as Jack by many), knows his job inside out and by the end of his first day one of the Grandstands was already up and great inroads made into erecting a whole avenue of tradestands.

It will seem strange this week not to look out of my office window and see members of the Burghley Pony Club who have just finished their first residential camp. I grew up in the Burghley Pony Club so it was great to be able to support this. Our facilities in the stables area were made full use of, including the outdoor ménage and also the showers that our 3DE riders use and which are in one of the old converted stable blocks. Many of the children even said these were better than the showers they had at home, so here’s hoping there will be no adverse comments from our own competitors next month! I was given the Grand Tour, including an invitation extended to inspect the stables, for which full marks were awarded to all. I also applaud the Mums (and Dads) who worked tirelessly throughout the week – the catering effort was mammoth and I am only sorry to have missed the evening when lasagne and apple crumble was served – but I save the best ‘til last. A comment from one of the younger members, that her pony was absolutely 4* but just needed to grow a little – how I wish I was 8 years old again!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013  •  10:59 BST

The Director’s Blog – the ‘countdown to Land Rover Burghley 2013’ continues

So much has happened in the last month and I’m not sure where best to start – perhaps it should be with the Tattersalls International Horse Trials and Country Fair, which I was fortunate enough to be invited to at the end of May – definitely a firm favourite of mine and I have not missed one since the inaugural event held in this lovely part of Ireland 8 years ago. It has grown from strength to strength and comes with the added bonus of the most amazing Irish welcome to all who attend. Close on its heels was the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials, which I visited a week later to watch one of our Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifiers as well as catch up with Land Rover, our title sponsor, who were attending for the day as they also support Bramham. It turned out to be one of our rare Summer days this season and I took the opportunity to walk the cross country which looked fantastic – our own cross country track is still very much in its raw state and it is presently hard to imagine what it will look like when all our fences are dressed – the team at Bramham had certainly delivered the goods.

I mentioned earlier that in parts our cross country course is following a new route. Besides the physical build of the fences and ground maintenance, this brings a myriad of associated considerations. To add further to our challenge, our traffic management plan has been tweaked – of insignificant consequence I hear some round the table say – but this brings exponential effect on other aspects!

Much time has been spent deliberating over so many facets; medical and veterinary cover, fence judges, location of Sector HQ’s, loos, catering points & licence application for bar areas, which have to be defined in advance to within metres of where they will be on the day.

A major challenge is managing spectator flow on cross country day – rather like spaghetti junction this is quite a science – hopefully not as complicated but how fortunate Philip Herbert, is responsible for this element! Our part is finding and briefing the personnel required to oversee all the crossing points that our Clerk of the Course requires, vital for pedestrian and emergency vehicle access on the Saturday. With so much reference in equestrian press recently about volunteers, this is a case in point - where would we be without ‘Stamford XT’ - senior members of our local Round Table - who provide nearly 500 such stewards each year, all of whom are co-ordinated with military precision on the day. I’m wondering whether I can twist their arm a little further to add one more who would be willing to join us for the week to oversee the daily allocation of 20 or so Land Rover courtesy vehicles for our officials – perhaps someone reading this blog might fit the bill? Perfect for a Land Rover enthusiast with an equestrian interest – surely cannot be difficult? Next month I will let you know how I have got on!

I admit that social media is not my forte, but I was thrilled when informed that our new Competition and Events Facebook Tab, launched at the end of May, has been a tremendous success. Not only will it keep you up to date on equestrian events in the interactive calendar, but we also have some truly amazing prizes to be won throughout the summer. You can take part by visiting our Facebook page, click Like and then the ‘Events & To Win’ Tab – Good Luck, we might see you in your new Dubarry boots reading Horse & Hound at the Event!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013  •  12:59 BST

The Director’s Blog – to start our ‘countdown to Burghley 2013’

It hardly seems a year since I sat and wrote my first blog of the 2012 Season and here we are again. Having recently returned from a wonderful week at Badminton I don’t need reminding that we must now concentrate our efforts on the 2013 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Hopefully the glorious weather experienced over Badminton week is a good omen; certainly the trade exhibitors had a better start to the season than they did last year and fingers crossed this continues for us all in 2013.

The Rolex Grand Slam remains as elusive as ever, despite the exceptional circumstances of being contested by two riders, both at the very top of their sport. I can hardly imagine what it must have felt like to have had this within grasp and then for it to dissipate into thin air. Similarly there was disappointment for Michael Jung, who surely after jumping the final fence at Badminton must have felt it was ‘in the bag’, particularly as the crowd cheered so enthusiastically – only to find he had rolled a pole at the last – that’s eventing. Congratulations though to ‘Jock’ Paget, who hopefully will recommence the Grand Slam cycle by competing at Land Rover Burghley in September.

Everyone in the office is up to speed with routine administration tasks for the beginning of the year: numerous outline meetings with contractors; planning and allocation of qualifiers for the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse classes; marketing and PR; invitations issued to tradestand exhibitors and much more besides - most recently the opening of the Box Office at the beginning of May. Thank you for the feed-back which many of you have given to our new booking system, fortunately mostly positive, but teething problems have been incurred by some and we will continue to iron these out. Please bear with us and by next year it is our intention to have an ‘all singing and dancing’ system!

Philip Herbert, our Clerk of the Course, has been busy building the cross country for Brigstock Horse Trials, taking place next week in the grounds of Rockingham Castle, and after this he will commence work in earnest for LRBHT. There were the usual planning and site meetings in the Autumn with Mark Phillips and significant changes are being implemented to our course this year - more of this over the coming months.

Prior to the onslaught of winter our customary ground maintenance plan was adhered to , vital to ensure we produce the best ‘going’ possible for our equine athletes. Philip’s schedule of works also included drainage upgrades for the dressage working-in areas and the hard winter that followed provided perfect conditions to establish these improvements. Following sun and spring showers, mowing of the course has now commenced and it hard to believe that barely 6 weeks ago there were remnants of snow lying in the lee of our hedgerows following drifting of heavy snow that fell at the time.

The Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifiers are off to a flying start. Having watched our first qualifier of the season taking place at Badminton, it was gratifying that the winner of the Burghley 2012 Four Year old Finals won the 5 year old qualifying class. With another 18 qualifiers to run, including one just this last weekend at Chatsworth International, we anticipate the competition will be as hotly contested as ever.
Over the coming months I will ‘try’ and keep you updated on activities and plans for the Trials but that’s all for now – until the next one.

Elizabeth

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