Last weekend I made my first trip to the Bramham International Horse Trials, and what a Bramham it was. I wasn't filming for my usual H&C show, Rudall’s Round-up, but instead I was fronting the Bramham highlights programme - so I wasn’t without nerves as I tackled the four hour drive up north.
The first two days of dressage we endured pouring rain, and I was half expecting the riders to come out wearing snorkels and armbands. To start the filming, I had to do a course walk with Angus Smales, and we talked through a few jumps to camera. Having never met Angus I didn’t know what to expect and certainly didn’t think I would spend the next two hours in hysterics.
It all started to go downhill, when Angus - being a gent - offered to help me up the enormous wall beside the next fence to be discussed. My feet slipped and I fell back down, letting out the girlish of screams and landing on the feet of none other than Mr Fox-Pitt, out walking the course. Angus clearly found this highly entertaining and spent the rest of the day threatening to push me in any jump which had a coffin, ditch or water.
Next stop, interviewing the legend that is Ian Stark. Starky is, in my eyes, equestrian royalty. He designed the Bramham course, and was my absolute hero when I was growing up. I was nervous to start with but we soon got chatting about Murphy Himself – a true horse legend – and it was my favourite interview to date.
The weekend’s competition was fierce, but on the Saturday it wasn’t only the weather that dampened our spirits. Two horses had heart attacks and collapsed on the cross-country, one out on course and another after finishing clear. This is a tough sport but when you see horses like Lenamore pinging round, there is no doubt in my mind how much they love it. I shared a B&B with the owner of Lead The Way, one of the two horses that died, and though she was so sad she remembered the horse like he was a member of her family. It was so unlucky and we have to remember this can happen at any time and not just to horses. My thoughts go out to Michael Jackson, Jagganath’s rider, and Clea Phillipps, who partnered Lead The Way.
After interviews with tonnes of riders, including a certain member of the Royal family, the weekend ended with a chat to Mr Bramham himself - William Fox-Pitt - who despite me trying to lame him during the course walk was on startling form to win both classes.
Even after hundreds of interviews and competing three horses, he was on sparkling form. Before our interview, he regaled the story of how his long time groom – Jackie Potts – ended up in A&E after an involuntary dismount from her bike at a previous Bramham.
Congratulations must also go to William, Tina Cook, Mary King, Piggy French and Zara Phillips on team selection, I cannot tell you how excited I am.
Watch out for the Bramham highlights show on the 19th June, and I hope you enjoy the show as much as I enjoyed filming. We have tried to make it a great mix of competition, interviews and fun, so let us know what you think - email [email protected]