The start of May is always filled with excitement – the thrills of Kentucky and Badminton beckon. But for 2021 the start of May was tinged with sadness and disappointment. No Badminton, the announcement that Burghley was again cancelled due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and then our own sad announcement that Wesko is to be retired and withdrawn from Olympic contention.
So as not to make this Blog instalment too depressing, we asked two of the Windrush riders who have graced the hallowed turf of Badminton to share some of their very best memories of the world’s greatest eventing fixture.
Alicia Hawker made her Badminton debut with Charles RR in 2018, and as local riders go you don’t get much more local than Alicia. Living just a few miles down the road from the Badminton Estate, Alicia can count the most prestigious CCI5* event in the world as her local event. Having attended as a spectator for as long as she can remember she describes the moment of coming back through the stands and into the main arena as “pretty cool”.
“I’ll always remember Pip (Pippa Funnell) winning the Grand Slam at Badminton” says Alicia, “but riding wise my greatest memory is the moment you come back through the stands and into the main arena to finish the cross-country. There’s a huge rush of emotion and adrenaline when the crowd cheers – it’s pretty cool.”
Being so local Alicia benefitted from having plenty of friends and family around to support her and cheer her on.
“First time round I remember hearing my best friend’s brother shout as I jumped one of the fences! That was pretty funny and weird at the same time.”
Alicia has completed Badminton twice with Charles RR, in addition to a Pau and a Burghley competition. As much as Badminton wasn’t on the radar for Alicia in 2021, due to the disruption to preparations due to Covid, it was still a disappointment not to have the buzz and excitement on the doorstep.
South coast based Will Furlong didn’t have the local crown advantage but as one Team GBR’s most decorated young riders there will always be plenty of support at a British 5*. Will also has two Badminton completions to his name with Collien P 2, including his debut at CCI5* level in 2018.
For Will it was the emotion and the sense of achievement that will stay with him as his key Badminton memory.
“I started crying in the wash down area have just completed the cross-country for the first time in 2018” says Will. “I was so overcome by emotion and the sense of achievement of going clear in both of our first 5* – it was all pretty magical!”
We’re all hopeful that a replacement UK CCI5* will be found for the Autumn, if not we look forward to supporting the Windrush riders that are planning to make the trip to Germany this Summer and France in the Autumn.