In Daisy Bunn's latest blog post, she reflects on the sad loss of Mary Breen, and looks forward to the start of the Derby meeting...
I am in fact writing today’s blog from Ireland, as very sadly the wonderful, remarkable Mary Breen died late on Friday night, after an brave battle with cancer. Single handedly responsible for producing showjumping’s dynamic duo, the Breen Brothers (okay well John Breen did have some part in it, but she certainly did the hard part!), Mary was a (hugely glamorous) familiar face on the Irish and international showjumping circuit, and latterly on the UK’s, as she continued to follow the boys’ careers with avid interest and the most enthusiastic pride.
Everyone at Hickstead will miss her hugely, and we shall always think of her and smile. The only solace for her family and those of us left behind who loved her so, is that finally Dad will have a suitably glamorous partner to watch his beloved Derby with on Sunday! He did in fact refer to her ‘as the most delicious blonde in Ireland’ (Dad was renowned of course for his subtlety!)
Having spent the last few days celebrating Mary’s life at her home in Cashel, Co.Tipperary, and hearing everybody’s reminiscences, it struck me again just quite how dependent our sport is on the support teams behind the greats. They do inevitably begin with a mother with boundless energy, the patience of a saint, and a predilection for endless late nights tack cleaning and ferrying ponies and children up and down the country!
There could have been no greater testament to Mary’s unstinting devotion to her boys’ careers, and the high esteem in which she was held in the showjumping fraternity, than the enormous turnout at yesterday’s funeral mass. A passer by with a beady eye would have spotted countless showjumping greats among the mourners, with more than one past Hickstead Derby winner, the odd Olympic medal winner and several Grand National-winning jockeys.
Both Trevor and Shane credited Mary with fostering their love of the sport from a young age, even more remarkable when you think, as her treasured daughter Rowena pointed out yesterday, that Mary herself was terrified of horses. I have very fond memories myself of days hunting with the Scarteen, charged up and ready to go on one of Mary’s famous ‘frys’ (the very best full Irish anywhere to be found) and doused with holy water by Mary to keep us safe. Famous in our family for being rather fond of ‘getting off and testing the ground’, I remember Mary on one occasion actually coming back round to me and dousing me for a second time, uttering with a worried look on her face ‘well, you need all the help you can get!’
Despite the sadness of the last few days, Mary’s was a life that needed to be celebrated and she would be the last person who would want everyone sitting around feeling sad. So with this in mind, we all fly home tonight and the boys will turn their attention to the business of this week, and our British Jumping Derby Meeting that starts tomorrow. With record entries, and the debut of our fabulous new Ring 4, it promises to be an action-filled week, with both Trevor and Shane going into this weekend’s Derby as favourites. And with Mary smiling down on them, who knows just what they could achieve."
Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn will once again be blogging for us throughout the show season. Read on for her updates about a golden era for British showjumping, and some very sulky donkeys...
"And thus it begins again - another season, another blog series… Ah, just think of all the column inches I have ahead of me in which to embarrass myself and other unwitting members of our wonderful team. Be afraid, ladies and gents, be very afraid!
Despite the fact that there seems to have been some delay on our ‘permanent sunshine’ order for the month, we have been experiencing some glorious weather in our little corner of Sussex, and the showground is looking lush and green in preparation for next week’s Derby meeting.
Since I last wrote, British Showjumping has been experiencing somewhat of a golden (sorry I had to!) phase. I was lucky enough to be ringside on that momentous day in Greenwich when our Team won gold, and again this last weekend at the London Global Champions Tour, where I witnessed an amazing British one-two, when Ben Maher and Nick Skelton proved they are still on glittering form.
I cannot remember a time that felt so exciting for the sport, and after the Olympic successes of last year, it is particularly cheering to see that the horse power has been kept in this country and our boys are still very much at the top. The London GCT seemed to be a huge success, particularly seeing as it was its first year, and a new international show, televised live on the BBC, is such a great thing for the sport. The more the merrier, we say, and it can only help in further raising the profile of the sport in this country. It feels like a very exciting time, so long may in continue.
It’s excitement all round really, and I cannot wait for the season to kick off. We have record entries in the Derby proper, and have even had to close entries for all national classes on the first two days of the show, so inundated with entries are we. What a happy problem to have! Obviously we are delighted with the level of entries, but on a more juvenile note, we were particularly pleased last week when the actual physical level of paper entries hid our vertically challenged (but wonderful) showjumping secretary Pip!
We’ve had a little game of musical department chairs over the winter, and I am delighted to say that we have managed to poach the unflappable Emma to join Simon and I in the sponsorship department (or 'the dark side', as our office is so charmingly known in the summer – although we secretly love that it makes us sound so scary and cool!) Crucially though, this move has struck fear into the hearts of many a rider as Emma has been their dependable jumping secretary for so long (and in my opinion was far too nice to all of them, especially concerning late entries!) and they’re terrified of what they’ll do without her looking after them all. Bottoms up though Pip, you can look forward to a summer of constant (wine shaped) bribing, as I don’t imagine they’ll behave any better now and get everything in on time!
Another great excitement at the showground has been the magic transformation of our little sloping Ring 4 into a modern, all weather (resplendent with Derby obstacles and water features) mega arena! You really won’t believe your eyes. Our fantastic sponsors Andrews Bowen made us an offer that was simply too good to refuse, and they are currently putting the last minute touches to the installation of the London 2012 surface from Greenwich into our new and improved Ring 4 that dreams are made of. Although times are tight for everyone, it’s always so nice to be able to make such significant improvements to the showground, and the new arena will allow us to both diversify and protect ourselves from the threat of British weather for years to come!
We have a record number of foreign internationals entered for the Derby meeting next week, with some 13 countries represented, and over 170 international horses competing. All of the Hickstead favourites are back, and the winner’s tannoy is sure to feature plenty of Breens, Whitakers, Billingtons, Funnells, Williams and Fletchers we predict. We couldn’t believe our luck in the Spring, when after Sue Smith had enjoyed such a momentous Grand National win, and the lovely Clare Balding interviewed Harvey live (and in front of literally hundreds of millions of viewers, woo hoo!) about his Hickstead glory days. It was very nice to see Hickstead featured in so many national papers the next day, as countless journalists regaled with the famous V-sign story. To mark a very special year, Harvey and Sue will present the Derby trophy to next weekend’s winner.
It’s also been a very special year on a personal note for some of our riders, with brand new baby Breens and Whitakers making their debut into the world, and a mini Skelton on the way. Watch out the poor Mini Challenge collecting ring steward in precisely five years time is all I can say, who will be tasked with keeping all the little monkeys under control! In fact there’s a lovely symmetry to it (and a horrible reminder of how old I’m getting) as the first mini challenge was started purely to keep myself and (now new dads) Matt Broome, Rob Whitaker and (father-to-be) Dan Skelton under control!
Finally, and somewhat predictably, it is in fact me who said the dappiest thing in the office today when talking about our traditional evening of light entertainment on the Saturday night of the Derby. Hilariously, we have gone for donkey chariot racing this year (the mind boggles), and my sister Lizzie really was quite adamant that I referred to the whizzy little things as sulky donkeys. “I mean I know Eeyore didn’t exactly give the species the best rep,” said I, “but I’m sure some of them are really sweet. I really don’t think we should keep going on about them being sulky, it might put people off coming – we’re trying to make it fun.” “No, you fooooolll”, said she, joining the hooting laughter ringing around the office, ‘they’re not sulky donkeys, it’s actually called donkey sulky racing.” Apparently everyone apart from me knows that in fact the chariots are actually called sulky carts – oops!"
And it’s all over, but what a show. Someone up there was smiling down on us today, as we woke to perfect, cloudless blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. It shined a bit hotter and brighter than usual, it seemed to me, to make up for its pathetic attendance record of late.
Sunday is of course Grand Prix day, and it was one of the most atmospheric Longines King George V Gold Cups that I’ve seen in a long time. An nine horse jump-off brought it to a thrilling finale, and it looked very much like we might have the first female winner ever. Despite some lightning fast rounds from Marie Hecart and the lovely Sussex local, Louise Pavitt, it was not to be however, and Hendrik-Jan Schuttert added his name to the history books. From the look on his face too, he couldn’t have been more delighted.
I was obviously rooting for brother-in-law Shane but a steady paced four faults put him out of contention. As he had the fence down, one of our lunch guests exclaimed loudly “Ahhh, that’s just cost me £20”. An even more disappointed Chloe, Shane’s wife, said simply, “huh, that’s just cost us £20,000!”
As Hickstead’s new unemployed Lady Who Lunches, we had a great day in the Master’s Box. Some of our very favourite sponsors, the lovely Penny and Martin Stoner, had me chuckling away as usual, and Lord Harris (of Carpetright, our brilliant Derby sponsors) was thrilled with Tina Fletcher’s performance on Hello Sailor. The Harrises and the Kirkhams (of our former sponsors DFS) have two horses in the GB Olympic team, and it’s so brilliant to see such loyal owners and supporters of the sport enjoy such success.
Anthony Andrews, husband of Hickstead Patron Georgina, and of course national actor treasure had one of his best days at Hickstead for years – for a rather unusual reason. One of our Dad’s best friend's granddaughters couldn’t believe it at Ascot when her Granny got a wave from someone who was in the Royal carriage sitting next to the Queen. “Of course you don’t know them, you’re Granny” was her charming response! Well she was delighted to meet Anthony today and recite the Scarlet Pimpernel to him, and he was delighted… because he had an 11 year-old fan! “I’m obviously trendy again”, he said.
And finally, everyone has miraculously managed to keep themselves together today and I am seriously lacking blog fodder – in the absence of the usual countless embarrassing things I do on an hourly basis when I’m working. Our lovely friend Henry Cavill, an avid show jumping fan, has caused quite the stir this weekend. Last night, two fans asked for a picture with him and Horse and Country TV’s very own Jenny Rudall. Henry, as usual, graciously agreed and after the picture she whispered to Jenny “I haven’t got a clue who he is, but I just love your Rudall’s Round-Up show”. Clearly a star on the rise Miss Jenny!
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as I’ll be reporting from a few more events towards the end of the year… and enjoy this weather, finally!
This is now getting out of control – give someone else a chance Ireland! Having run out of natty ways to describe the incredible success Shane, Trevor and the Irish in general are having this week, henceforth they shall just be referred to as the Green Breen Machine – and it’s struck again! And it’s family celebrations all round as my cheeky little git of a brother has won nearly £900 this week betting on them! Why oh why oh why didn’t I put some money on? Idiot!
We had a wonderful day in the box today, on one of my favourite days of the year, Ladies' Day (supporting the brilliant charity Variety, the Children's Charity). This whole being ill thing has definite pluses as I managed to convince my sister Chloe to let me borrow her amazing new crazy bird hat, which looks like a black glittery raven diving out of your hair. I totally should have won Best Hat, but of course everyone would have said it was a fix! And actually it was good, but not a patch on my one last year made of Hickstead rosettes.
I digress… the inimitable Barbara Windsor, Babs, the Barbster, was our celebrity judge and she was totally brilliant. One of the funniest lunch guests I’ve sat next to in a long time, and definitely the owner of the best, and most hilarious/dirty laugh I’ve ever heard. The Ladies did us proud today with some incredible creations perched atop beautifully coifed heads, which made choosing the Best Dressed Filly even harder than ever. I love being part of the selection process as you get to have a proper nosey at everyone’s lovely hats, shoes, dresses, gorgeous sparkly jewellery etc. Barbara oohed and ahed and finally chose Philippa Butler, resplendent in a gorgeous 50s-style polka dot concoction. Special mention must go to the lovely Leesha Leeman (joint runner-up Best in Show), who looked amazing, and is one of life’s goodies. The top three placings were very hard to call. It was more stressful (and definitely provoked more wolf whistles) than the Supreme Ridden Championship!
After the excitement of the judging was done, it was time to relax and enjoy the sport, and have a good catch up with my lovely friend Henry Cavill. Fresh back from wowing fans in America with the teaser trailer of his new film, in which he plays Superman, he is a huge showjumping fan. We managed to watch a few rounds of jumping in between the gossiping and catching up. Shane, cool as a cucumber as always, watched the first part of the Sky Sports Speed Classic next to us in the box, giving us a few tips and hatching his own plan. When he left we asked how he was feeling and he said “sure, I’m going to win it!” And sure he did! Fellow Irish team mate, and member of yesterday’s winning Nations’ Cup team, Richie Maloney had posted a pretty impressive and seemingly impossible to beat time, yet Shane just cruised in, cut a few more corners and galloped home. Woo. He just makes it look so blinkin’ easy!
Today’s blog fodder can only be the fabulous Victoria, Press Officer Extraordinaire, and one of the friendliest peeps on the showground… So friendly, in fact, it got her in to a spot of bother today. “Hello gorgeous”, she hollered at her good friend Jay Halim as he walked passed the Press Office door, with a loud wolf whistle for good effect (allegedly). “Hello to you too," replied a slightly bemused (but no doubt terribly flattered) Team GB Chef D’Equipe, Rob Hoekstra, who happened to walk in just at that moment. It is often remarked upon that we have one of the friendliest press officers on the circuit, and now we know her people-handling secret!
Wow, what a day! Another incredible day for Ireland, and in particular for the Brilliant Breen Brothers at Hickstead this week (and that’s not even me just being biased). Sadly I had to watch one of my favourite days of the year from the comfort of my sofa, but I have to say it has given me my first ever opportunity to watch the wonderful coverage provided for us by Sky live for once. And it’s so exciting. It felt like they’d bottled up the showground atmosphere and poured it into my sitting room.
The FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain was today’s feature class, and the last chance to watch Team GB compete on home turf before the games. And what a class! It’s always a bit of a case of divided loyalties when watching Nations Cups competitions as I’m obviously always rooting for England, but want my brother-in-law, Shane, to do well too!
He started off brilliantly with a clear in the first round, going on to have a slightly disappointing eight faults in round two. However, once it was clear that the Brits were sadly out of contention after some unlucky fences down, the entire competition came down to the nail, with the last three horses in the ring deciding the winning team. Germany crumpled under the pressure, as did France, and Ireland stormed to victory after an incredible round by Clem McMahon. Despite being on a youngster, Clem displayed nerves of steel and posted a faultless round. I’m very disappointed to have missed the celebrations in person but felt like I was right there with them with the amazing Sky Sports, and the fact that I can hear the commentary through my window!
Yesterday too was a storming day for Team Breen, with Shane winning the first class of the show in the international arena, and Trevor, his brother, winning the Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix with a lightning fast round, chalking up a very rare win for the show jumpers.
However, it hasn’t all been happy Breens…. Last night we hosted a hilarious Eventers vs Jumpers celebrity bucking bronco competition outside the champagne bar, when the horses had been put to bed for the night. Sadly I missed it, but was treated to the most hilarious post-match debrief by Shane when he got home. After some time of intricate explanations as to why he and Trev had only managed to stay on for a miserably short amount of time, and how the Eventing Team girls had clearly been favoured by the operator, he did finally admit that actually “we were just plain (insert appropriate Irish expletive here) rubbish!” The lovely Ellen Whitaker apparently cut a much more graceful figure and put uncle John’s time to shame, with the surprise of the night being a gravity-defyingly good turn by my brother Charlie – with not much horse riding experience to his name of late, and not cutting the most obvious of bucking bronco figures, he outdid all the riders! Shane did say, though, that Charlie’s display brought actual tears of laughter to his eyes. Well done Chas, acting up for the crowds – he is an actor after all!
Time to go, everyone’s just got back to the house, and not only is Irish team smiling, so is the entire support team – including my adorable little nieces decked out in their Irish team kits. They are in fact running round the house screaming “Daddy won, Daddy won!” – good luck getting them to bed tonight Shane!
Despite a wee bit of drizzle this afternoon and slightly less sun than I’d ordered, day one in the International Arena was a classic Hickstead day with some fierce competition in the jumping winter finals and some boootiful showing stars strutting their championship stuff. I have to say, I’m now getting really rather used to this not being allowed to work thing, and just being able to sit and watch the action. It’s been years since I’ve actually managed to sit through an entire class – let alone an entire afternoon of them! My goddaughter Lottie and niece Darcy watching with me, were mesmerized by the “lovely long hair” of the show hunter ponies and wanted to take them all home with them. There were actual tears when I explained we simply wouldn’t be able to fit them all in the car!
The main class of the day, the Outside Event Catering Grades B & C Championship, was won by Paul Crago on Don Cooley’s lovely Valentino IX after a nail-biting jump-off, even pipping the legendary John Whitaker to the post. Funnily enough just earlier this afternoon I had been talking about Paul’s parents, Judy and Brian Crago, with the very famous Australian showjumper Peter Winton, who is a great family friend and has come to stay for a few weeks. Reminiscing as to how he met Dad, Peter reported that he was at one of Brian and Judy’s famous parties after a Nations Cup show some fifty years ago, when he got chatting to Dad. In Peter’s own words he was being “obnoxiously Australian” and the, uh hum, very “forthright” Dad was being very obtuse in return. Peter told Dad to “stop being so English, pompous and stuffy” and apparently a shocked silence descended as people waited to see how Dad would react, as he was not exactly known for his mild temper! Dad sat up, straightened his glasses, looked over his wine and said simply “what are you doing next weekend, why don’t you come to Hickstead, and we can really have a proper chat then!” Brilliant, the rest of course is history, and the two remained best friends for over 50 years.
The ground in the international arena is jumping beautifully despite the less than idea weather, and the Bunn Leisure Arena is in full use as a back up for the national rings to make sure that the ground remains as good as possible all week. Despite some speculation, we are going full steam ahead with the Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix tomorrow, with just one or two minor alterations to the course.
Finally, my “blog fodder” (as poor members of the Hickstead team refer to whoever is offered for some daily blog humiliation) today is the wonderful Showjumping Secretary and General Lady In The Know, the lovely Emma. In her own words she was so tired that after a phone call she was making had rung and rung without being picked up she “rather forgot who, where or what I was, let alone who I was actually ringing”. When the poor unassuming competitor at the other end did finally pick up, Emma had a momentary lapse and asked to speak to Eragell Blaze – not in fact the rider but the horse itself. A rather bemused, but very good humoured, competitor explained that although they did pride themselves on a very high tech yard these days, they hadn’t quite stretched to mobiles for all of the horses, and that Emma would have to make do with the humble rider!
I’m back! As some of you may have noticed I was unfortunately unable to write my blog at the last meeting in June, due to ill health. “Ah, peace at last”, I can practically hear people sighing over the web ether! But I’m afraid the silence has been shattered and I am well and truly back. Well, sort of, I am not actually back working yet, but rather spending my first ever show just relaxing and enjoying it and observing from on high (the Master’s Box). Despite having thought that everyone would have desperately missed me, it does indeed seem that they were just delighted with the peace and quiet. Don’t worry, I shall get my own back by going around with a notebook and writing down lots of things that I normally don’t have time to have a nosey at, that we can improve upon next year. Mwa ha ha!
Well, the first day of the show seemed to be a huge success with an incredible win from The Humdinger in the Coloureds – again! An unbeatable horse, who has won here at Hickstead no less than four times.
Despite some pretty dreadful weather last week we are more than delighted to be able to have gone ahead, in a summer where so many shows have had to cancel. It is the understatement of the century to say that we as a family are hugely relived that we were able to make the investment in improving the surface drainage in the main ring. Phew!
As I type, the last traders are being brought on site. It is a mammoth task in wet weather, as everyone has to be brought in separately to ensure that all the heavy trucks make as little damage as possible to the ground before the show even opens to the public. The exhibitors have all been brilliant and demonstrated the patience of saints, and we are very grateful, so thank you. Despite the obvious lack of sport and spectator entertainment that comes with show cancellations, people often forget about the often worse hit victims – mainly the many exhibitors and suppliers. They all too seem to be delighted that we have managed to go ahead, and are looking forward to a prosperous week – so make sure to come along and support them and spend, spend, spend!
As you can imagine, a wet summer makes a season of super late nights stretch even longer and later, to deal with all the associated problems, and our team here at Hickstead have yet again risen above and beyond. We would simply be lost without them all, and there would be no show to enjoy, so to all of them, a hundred thank yous.
I will be writing every day from my new ‘lady of leisure’ job, but that does mean I’ll have lots of time to get some comedy behind the scenes photos so be sure to check my twitter account (@DaisyBunn) and stay tuned to the blog.
And just before I go… so as not to break with the long held tradition of embarrassing at least one of our wonderful team per day on my blog, today’s prize for hilariousness goes to the lovely Kate in our sponsorship department. The signage arrived for our press office today, with the all important press backdrop displaying our sponsors’ logos. “Oh it was such good value”, said Kate, “You won’t believe it, if was only £17 – really good for a 2m x 1m sign.” And good value indeed it was, if we were in the business of holding press conferences for the Borrowers or mice, however a 200mm x 100mm sign isn’t quite what we had in mind! (Happens to the best of us, Catherine once ordered teenie weenie horse box signs by mixing up her mm’s and cm’s during a very busy day – great for coasters, not so great for being able to spot from the motorway!) Ah ha ha ha ha (cue a begging phone call for an express sign to our very nice signage suppliers this morning!)
"My how 2012 has flown! As I write my final blog of the year (she weeps!) for the fantastic H&C, I can hardly believe that another Olympia is nearly over, and another year gone. More terrifying still is the speed at which January turns into June and the 2012 Hickstead season will be upon us before I know it.
The best Olympia in years
It’s been a great week here in London, and one of the best Olympias that I can remember – not that the flurry of British wins has made me biased of course! Okay, well, to be honest, it has of course, but it’s hard not to get excited when Team GB performs so superbly, at such a high profile event, and when it really matters. There has been a lot of interesting debate in the press recently about the best way to proceed with the future of British showjumping. ‘PR’, ‘raising rider profiles’, ‘increased coverage’ and ‘commercial investment’ are phrases particularly hot on peoples’ tongues, and while I wholeheartedly agree I also understand just quite how difficult these things can be to come by. However, never has the task seemed easier, or so well supported when the riders fulfill their part of the deal so well, notching up a slew of wins jumping against the very best in the world: here at Olympia this week are no fewer than four previous World Champions and the current European Champion to name but a few.
The highlight of week had to be Ben Maher’s win in yesterday’s World Cup Qualifier, on Triple X III, usually his second horse, but one that has stepped up to the mark to replace his injured Robin Hood this year. An increasingly popular new feature at shows it to interview the riders on horseback, immediately before the presentation, and the crowd absolutely love it. It’s an excellent way of helping spectators engage further with the personalities of the sport (both human and equine: Ben said that Triple X was full of himself and knew how good looking he was, and when the very pretty interviewer asked Ben whether he knew that about himself I thought he was going to fall off sideways with embarrassment!)
Joking aside, showjumping press conferences are very rarely broadcast, something which is commonplace in more mainstream sports such as rugby and football, and it gives the public an excellent inside track in to the tactics riders use, their views on a particular course etc. Sitting here typing away in the press office, I have just heard three of our top riders being interviewed for a variety of print and broadcast media, and they all sounded like seasoned old media pro’s. The riders are playing the game, and it will only help our cause. Keep it up guys!
Some big news of the week has been the disappointment that John Whitaker’s star ride Peppermill is unlikely to be fit for next year’s Olympics, but for once all is not doom and gloom as a lot of riders, including John himself with Argento, are hopeful that they have more than one good Olympic prospect in their string. There’s something in the air, and it really does seem to be a very exciting time for British showjumping.
After such a great week, there is a real buzz around Team GB and a few nice shiny Olympic medals to add to this year’s bronze in the European Championships seems more achievable than ever.
Happy Christmas everyone, and rock on 2012. I can’t wait!"
"Christmas, Christmas, oh how I love Christmas. Yes, the festive season is once again upon us, and one of the very best excuses of the year to eat, drink and be merry.
Olympia means Christmas
To most people it is the groundhog day like playing of bad Christmas tunes on the radio and the unfortunate prevalence of colleagues’ dodgy festive jumpers that heralds the approach of Christmas Day. But for me it is the convergence of the entire equestrian community on a small corner of London town - the Olympia Horse Show - that means it's Christmas time, and it is one of my favourite shows of the year. Some of my best memories of being little are tearing around with the incorrigible Robert Whitaker and Matthew Broome in the Olympia Christmas Finale. Try as I might I am yet to convince Simon Brooks-Ward that I should still be allowed in it!
The show got off to a storming start on Wednesday with a stunning win from dressage’s wonder girl Laura B on Mistral Hojris, and with the brits clinching the top four places two nights in a row. Becoming the first British rider to win the the Olympia World Cup Qualifier since its inception, Laura remained as understated as ever about her win, saying simply that she ‘didn’t want people to think Alf and I were old news.’ That’s certainly one way to show everyone, well done Laura!
Ben Maher provided the first big jumping win of the show in last night’s Christmas Speed Stakes on the lovely mare Milena, and admitted that even he got star struck riding in front of so many celebs! The Duchess of Cornwall, a huge horsie fan, was in attendance, as were half of the cast of Made in Chelsea, and I rather think their tiny xmas outfits proved a little bit more of a distraction to Ben than HRH’s demure ensemble.Tonight is puissance night, with Ben going in as strong favourite on last year’s winner. A class that’s always guaranteed to provide thrills and spills a plenty I wonder what eye watering height they’ll get to tonight.I must go as I have an enormous family and need to start my Christmas shopping – thanks goodness for Olympia’s trade stands!"
Daisy Bunn working very hard... in the champagne bar
“Hello again from HOYS 2011. As blog writing locations go, this has got to be an all time best. Perched high up in the grandstands of the massive HOYS arena, typing away and watching Bob Ellis’ new feature class, the Five Fence Challenge. Certainly beats my spidery old office at Hickstead!
New class scores well with the crowd
What a class it was… New to HOYS this year, it proved a massive hit with the crowd. Set over a (sizeable in the first place!) course of five fences, it’s basically a puissance top score. Each fence carries points and you are knocked out instantly if you have one down. The fences are made higher and wider after every round, and we’ve just gone in to the final round with fences going up to 1.75m!
The Derby bank in 3D?
The highlight of the show for me so far has to be ensconcing myself in the SKY OB trucks checking out show jumping in 3D for the first time. It is quite extraordinary it has to be said. There are 2D screens in the truck too alongside the 3D ones, and it’s particularly interesting to look at them side by side and see the difference. Crucially 3D suddenly allows people at home to get an impression of the enormity of the fences as suddenly in 3D you can see how wide they are. It’s also much easier to see how big the fences are in relation to the horses - in some cases actually bigger than them - and quite the lift they achieve off the floor to clear them. I am positively bursting with excitement at the prospect of seeing the Derby bank descended in 3D!
I am not particularly scientifically or mathematically minded, it has to be said, but it was very interesting when one of the lovely directors Phil described to me the challenges of working in 3D. Exhilarating sport is captured and produced through precise camera work and creative direction, and in 2D the challenge is to cut from camera to camera whilst maintaining and overall impression of the course as a whole.
When directing in 3D, the trick is not to cut away but to let the action come to the camera and, literally, jump out of the screen. As this is the first time they’ve covered the sport in 3D too they were faced with unexpected challenges such as the timing graphics looking like they were in the middle of the jumps, a problem they don’t experience with the flat pitches and greens of football, rugby and golf! A member of Phil’s team was immediately set the task of pulling the graphics further forward on the z axis. Mind boggling!
Regular readers will recall what a bunch of pranksters the Sky crews are and after I’d marveled at the amazing jumping coverage they insisted on showing me the official SKY 3D promo so I could appreciate its amazingness. All of them knowing what a massive arachnophobe I am, there were hoots of laughter when I nearly fell backwards out of the truck in fright and plunged to an embarrassing death (or broken arm at least) when a MASSIVE 3D spider crawled out of the screen at me. Eurgh.
A special mention for John...
Ooh how exciting, William has just shared the top prize in the Five Fence Challenge with Dutch rider Cindy Van Der Straten. It’s William’s wife Pippa’s birthday today so legendary commentator Nick Brooks-Ward is at presence teasing William over the loud speaker about buying Pip a nice present. The tradestand owners are getting very excited.
I must go, as the Pony Club are about to come in and do their mounted games, and a friend of mine’s little sister is in it, so I promised to cheer my absolute loudest. I can’t end the blog though without a special mention of my brother John. Winning the prize of being the most 44 going on three-year-old member of the family, who really was rather upset that he wasn’t mentioned in yesterday’s blog. Say I, ‘John, I was really thinking about those members of the family who are here in a work capacity, that’s why I didn’t mention you,’ to which he replies with quivering Just-William-Style lower lip, ‘I am working, I’m NETworking!’ “