Never make a promise you can’t keep, so why oh why did I promise monthly blogs, must try harder next month! The season is now in full swing and as I write, the third four star event of 2017 is well under way in Luhmuhlen. Bettina Hoy is presently lying in 1st place in both the CCI and CIC, but we all know fortunes can change quickly in this game – few could have imagined that Badminton Horse Trials would prove so emphatically that there is no logical way of forecasting the outcome of a competition at this level. For that event, commiserations must go to both Mikael Jung and Ingrid Klimke but who could not have been moved by Andrew Nicholson’s and Nereo’s win. Mr. Stickability or Mr Cool – describe Andrew as you wish – there surely could be no one more deserving – here’s hoping we will be welcoming him to Land Rover Burghley in 11 weeks’ time. 11 weeks or 75 days and 13 hours as the Rolex clock states on our website as I write this, it makes little difference – the clock IS ticking and preparations are well in hand.
We are fortunate in the UK that Shows and Events are part of our culture and I try to fit in as many as possible throughout the year as there is always something to be learnt if you know what you are looking for and Tattersalls Ireland never disappoints. Definitely one of my favourites and I wear the badge of having attended every event they have run – twelve to date (I think!). It is a perfect opportunity to catch up with many officials on the international circuit who travel from far afield to judge the numerous classes they run.
Several of our team work on other events and Sophie, who is a key member of our squad, deserted us earlier in the year in favour of Royal Windsor Horse Show where she oversees the Endurance competition. I was relieved when she returned, definitely a multi-tasker as she is now wearing her ‘Operations’ cap. A far cry from the medical connotation this term may suggest – ‘Operations’ are wide ranging and incorporate elements such as: site layout, grandstands, signage, car parking, temporary structures, loos, showers, electrical supply, security, and much more besides. In essence the nuts and bolts required to turn a greenfield site into a showground fit to welcome our circa 160,000 visitors over the first week of September.
The Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifiers are also well under way, with eight now having taken place. Again, we visit as many as possible, ringing the changes each year as to which venues to focus on. It is important to see first-hand how they all run at various locations. Realistically however, it’s now the time of year when I have to prioritise and this watershed seems to arrive earlier every year, so sadly though intent on going to Bramham HT, other diary commitments prevailed. I caught up briefly this morning via email with Nick Pritchard, the event’s Director, to see how it had run – next best thing to actually having been there, but this cannot make up for not having tied up those loose ends that might otherwise have been, whether it be talking to exhibitors, sponsors, competitors or those officials, who will also be helping at Burghley HT, there is nothing like communicating in person. As an aside, I am sure there are linguists amongst you who will be able to explain why there are relatively so many names beginning with ‘B’, whether they relate to surnames of officials or other categories in our database, but also the events: Burghley, Badminton, Bramham, Blair, Blenheim, Barbury and Burgham, potential for confusion when referring to the event as BHT, albeit in our eyes there IS only one BHT!
In between visiting other events there is work to be done. Liaison with sponsors is top of the list and as their plans evolve we work with them to help ensure the event is a success for them. Land Rover will have a new site this year for their main exhibition stand and although only moving ‘across the road’ from where they were previously, I suspect it will be like moving house to next door – which I am told never proves as straightforward as one thinks it should be! One thing is for certain however, we can all be sure that the end product will bring a ‘wow’ factor to the Event. Our retail offering is such an important part of the four days and my tradestand team work exceptionally hard to maintain our standing and to ensure neither exhibitors nor visitors will be disappointed. The selection process of who will attend is virtually concluded and some specific areas of the retail lay-out have been re-designed to complement the Land Rover exhibit in its re-located area.
The cross country course is coming along well and Mark Phillips visited earlier this week. This is a significant stage in our planning, not only from the technical side as the intended questions to be posed to our competitors develop further, but also as we consider sponsor requirements and how to incorporate into the overall cross country presentation. The weather was fabulous and it was lovely to be in the Park which looks so magnificent at this time of year when the trees are in full leaf and everything is so green and fresh. A productive day was achieved and we took forward some ideas Land Rover have for Discovery Valley. Also some thoughts regarding the Maltings complex are coming to fruition. It is now that we begin to seriously factor in the TV broadcast and the first of several site meetings will shortly take place with the TV production team.
Earlier today we had a conference call to discuss livestreaming – a focussed 30 minutes was planned, but over 2 hours later …………… A lot of ground was covered though! It did serve as a timely reminder that it is no good being too black and white in how we think the work schedule should pan out – flexibility has to be top of the agenda at all times and as sure as night follows day tasks often take longer than originally anticipated – fine at this time of year but as the weeks draw closer to September this becomes a little more serious.
Initial contact has been made with our stewards and officials, many of whom are experienced volunteers and have specific tasks allocated to ensure the smooth running of the equestrian competitions (CCI and Ring 2). We also appoint officials to oversee other aspects of the event: the retail area, site management, Members and catering, caravan and camping, traffic and contractors, to name but a few.
Over the coming weeks as detail becomes finalised for the administration of these elements we will correspond further with our helpers, providing them with the information they require to perform their many and varied tasks over the event week.
Apparently applications for a recently advertised vacancy have been flooding in – reminiscent of football transfer days, so whoever is successful will have to hit the ground running as everyone in the office has moved up a gear. Looking back on just this past week much has been achieved; layout for the retail area nearly concluded, circulation of health and safety questionnaires for contractors well under way, topics for fence judge training day concluded, accommodation booked for the on-event media team, applications submitted to the Highways Agency re traffic management, review and indexing of all our internal and external signage – well done team but doubtful you will read this – an onerous task that could so easily have been ‘put off for another day’ , floral decoration finalised for Members Enclosure (together with carpet and table linen scheme – how I wish I had such an interior designer for home!), meeting with World Horse Welfare, our chosen charity – watch this space – there will be lots of fun shortly to be announced by them.
Last and not least the competition schedule has been approved by the FEI and circulated to competitors and overseas National Federations, so Andrew, if you are reading this, your stable is waiting together with the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam!