Here across the Pond our lives have been full of incident.
Badminton Horse Trials ran May 5-10 in Gloucestershire, England, attracting over 250,000 spectators, the second-largest number for any paid-entry sporting event in the world. The lanky William Fox-Pitt won against his old rival Andrew Nicholson, also known as the ‘Silver Fox’, who was leading until the Sunday show jumping. Thrilling.
Gloucestershire local Bill Levett, who had a top-ten finish at Rolex, finished a respectable 15th at Badminton. But I raised my glass to Bill for his top-three placing on the best-dressed list for the trot-ups – which at Badminton draw a huge crowd of frenzied fashion bloggers - with plenty of credit given to his sponsors, A Hume Country Clothing, friends who also supplied me with the (not sponsored, just bought online) elegant heather and green tweed Coat I wore on the day. Here in my household we say a top-three placing is a win; I feel a bit of reflected glory.
When the Duke of Beaufort, neighbour to the Prince of Wales (whose Highgrove Estate is next door), isn’t running the largest, most-prestigious eventing competition in the world, he’s hosting one of the finest foxhunts on the planet. The earliest records of hounds being kennelled at Badminton is 1640, and the oldest recorded genealogy for an individual modern Badminton hound reaches back 54 generations to 1743. The Beaufort is one of the few remaining private packs in England, and the Dukes have been continued to be great supporters of the sport, with the 10th Duke being Master of the Beaufort from 1924 to 1984, earning him the life-long title of ‘Master’ (as if he needed another title).
Members of the Beaufort, the Heythrop and other local hunts were on hand at Badminton Horse Trials to help, looking festive in their bright coats. The hunt dress of the Beaufort is striking and is also steeped history: Whippers-in wear green, and subscribers wear a blue coat with bluff facings, which are the Beaufort Livery colours. Churchill said that ‘no hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle’, and although you can’t hunt foxes in Britain, a day out with the Beaufort is a day not wasted. The country round Badminton house is sublime, with wide, open fields and big hedges and gates. The Badminton hounds are fast and courageous, and so is the Field. It’s a thrilling day out and I recommend that you seize upon any invitation to hunt with the Beaufort that may come your way.
We’ve also had an election here, as you may have heard. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is a member of the nearby ‘Chipping Norton’ set, and a local hero. In an unexpected blaze of glory, Cameron and the Conservatives received a vote of national support they can only have dreamed of. One of the promises of the Conservative Manifesto is a repeal of the dreaded hunting ban. Let’s hope they are men and women of their word.
Marianne van Pelt is an American equestrian journalist living between the UK and Ireland. She has hunted, show jumped and evented in all three countries, and has written for The Irish Field, Horse & Hound, Eventing Nation, and The Chronicle of the Horse, among others.