Thursday, 6 September 2012

Burghley Horse Trials 2012

Hello blog friends

If you follow me on Twitter (@madeupof) you will know that my lovely boyfriend took Saturday off his non-stop slog on our new house in order to treat little ol' me to a day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
Traditionally I watch from my sofa, I went with my best friend about four years ago and it was great but you see so much more when you watch it on TV.

But there have been numerous discussions lately over whether a horse will be joining our family next year and, buoyed up by watching that Jennifer Saunders documentary last month, the Boyfriend has been quite keen on all things horsey recently. And who am I to pass up an opportunity for a horsey day out??

So we hit the road at 6am on drizzly Saturday morning with the dogs in the back of the truck, looking forward to a day of excitement. We would hit the tradestands, eat junk food and position ourselves next to the largest eventing fence in the world, the Cottesmore Leap (fence 23 of 33). I was already planning the blog post I would write and the photos I would take.

We spent most of the day making our way to the Leap, stopping along the way at particularly good vantage points. And we never made it all the way there.

Mid way between fences 19 and 20 I heard the whistles of the stewards which signal an approaching horse. I heard the hoofbeats and looked around to see Paul Hart and Heartbreak Hill galloping towards us. All of a sudden the horse pulled up short, so  short that Paul nearly pitched over his shoulder. I looked down and it was immediately obvious - the horse's leg was broken.

I heard myself say 'oh my God, he's broken his leg' and saw the rider jump off. Luckily, the man standing next to me had more presence of mind than me and ran over to help. I just stood there uselessly with my hands over my mouth. There was just the rider, the horse, the other spectator and me and my boyfriend - the rest of the world ceased to exist. And all I could do was shut my eyes. I felt terrible but I just froze and was no use to anyone. I couldn't go and help, I couldn't walk away. I just stood there.

Within a minute the horse ambulance arrived and the screens were put up to spare the feelings of the crowd that was starting to form. We started to slowly make our way back to the truck, the day was over as far as I was concerned.

As we walked back I started to question the sport that I love. Should we be doing this to horses? I had wanted to stand at the biggest fence on the course, for thrills. I'm pleased I didn't - watching the BBC coverage on Sunday was harrowing enough, more than one horse ended up in that ditch.

I used to be an event groom in my younger years and I remember how driven some of the riders were to succeed, even at the expense of their horses. One horse on my yard was persistently lame but it was the only Advanced level horse the rider had, so her only concern was to keep it sound by whatever means necessary, not to get to the root of the problem. He was a lovely horse and I remember wishing I could afford to buy him and take him away from there so he could retire and live a peaceful, pampered life with my old horse.

I still don't know what I think about the events of Saturday. Even now the shock has worn off, I can't stop thinking about Paul Hart going home in an empty horse lorry to an empty stable. I looked him up on the way home and found that he had narrowly missed out on an Olympic selection and had done a lot of fundraising to get himself and his horse to Burghley. For what?

I keep telling myself that the horse broke it's leg on the flat, it wasn't even jumping, it was just a freak accident that could have even happened if he had been out in the field on Saturday. But would it? Are horses really designed to tackle these ever more complicated obstacles?

I don't know. But it didn't feel right to post a cheery write up about shopping and eating hot dogs in the wake of such a tragedy. That said, it wouldn't feel right to not mention it at all as it has dominated my thoughts this week.


So please spare a thought for Paul Hart and for his horse Harry, now grazing in the big meadow in the sky.

RIP Harry xx



  1. Oh that is such a horrible thing to happen, I agree about having mixed feeling on horse racing, I've seen awful things on TV what with the sheer number of horses all trying to get ahead resulting in numerous falls :( I hope you're feeling better now, it must have been horrible to see, sad animals always hurt my heart xxx

  2. Racing is a big bugbear of mine. Breaking horses in too early, riding them before they've finished growing, stunting their development, only teaching them to go as fast as possible. Then after a couple of years or less they are too old so what happens then? If no one can be bothered to spend years retraining them and making them useful riding horses they get shot or sold for meat. And galloping flat out, unbalanced at huge fences? Makes me shudder. The Grand National makes me sick, it's cruelty on a huge scale, for mass entertainment and money making.

    Rant over :-) It was awful to see, so unbelievably sad for the poor animal xx

  3. Ahh this is so sad. I was actually in tears reading this. My sister and I had horses for several years growing up and she had an accident with one of them. She broke her leg and had to be put to sleep, it was such a sad day. I adore watching horsey sports like showjumping, dressage etc, but I must agree with you in that I'm not sure we should be putting them through it. After all, for us, a broken leg is no big deal, but for a horse, their life is over. One thing I just cannot and will not watch is the Grand National - it ALWAYS ends in tears, and everyone knows it will, so why hasn't it been banned!?
    Sorry you had this experience :(
    Mel x

    1. Oh your poor sister, that must have stayed with her. I can't understand why the Grand National is still allowed, it's so terrible xx

    2. PS. Sorry to bring you to tears too! xx


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