5-8 September 2024

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Final Directors Blog of 2017

As I pen my final blog a sense of normality is permeating into the office. Although there remains much to be done and it will be a while before all can ease up, there is still a sense of euphoria – another event safely and happily concluded. So many congratulations to offer – not least to my team who have worked enthusiastically and energetically throughout the year – their line of work demands early starts, late finishes and weekends throughout the summer months. There are still long days ahead until all has been tidied up…. and then the process commences again!

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 10:30

An outstanding result for Ollie, and also great to have a British 1,2 3 on the podium. Extra rewarding that Ballaghmor Class was one of the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse finalists in 2012. Hearing of his colourful antics from Ollie at the final media briefing, I would love to have been ringside to watch him in this class – obviously our judges at the time recognised future talent! Ollie’s respect for his equestrian partner certainly shines through emphatically in his Winner’s Analysis recently posted here on our website.

The event week always passes quickly and occasionally it would be good if we could stop the clock on-event just to allow time to view the fruits of everyone’s labours. Anne Whitton, who has been our Competition Secretary for over 25 years (unlikely she will read this, so hoping to get away with that fact!) has not had time to see the cross country course in the last decade, so…….perhaps a resolution for next year? Mark Phillips’ cross country track was a masterpiece and has elicited much complimentary comment from within the sport, both at home and internationally. Our cross country team led by Philip Herbert, Clerk of the Course here for many years, really did us proud and both the turf and the fences were presented to near perfection. None of this just ‘happens’ and, along with the administration team, they deserve so much credit for the success of this great event.

Turning to equines of another variety, the return of the donkeys after many years was a great success. A particular favourite of mine as everyone in the office knows only too well – hoping I’m in good company as we have some lovely photos of HRH Sophie Countess of Wessex and Lady Louise at our event, talking to the exhibitors and making a fuss of their long eared trusty companions. In advance of the event one of the challenges was who would break the news to our Sunday Stewards that they were to be in charge of enticing these potentially wayward creatures, complete with their turnouts, into the Main Ring. Every year on Saturday evening our Sunday Stewards, the majority ex military, and two of whom commanded the King’s Troop at some stage of their career, all gather in the Main Arena to rehearse proceedings for the following day, primarily the Prize Giving. Over the years this has developed into a ritual much to the amusement of some. It is certainly a more light hearted part of the day, following 5 hours of full focus on the CCI competition. It is however none the less important as Prize Givings are notorious for going ‘wrong’ – ask any Event, large or small – but thankfully often not obvious to the public eye! Intricate arrangements were made for the donkey procession, including plans to close Lion Bridge to the public in anticipation of their hesitation to cross the Causeway. With the King’s Troop in command we should have had more faith as our equine guests marched over the Causeway and into the Arena with military precision. Chris Tar (who heads up our Sunday Stewards) together with his Burghley Regiment all deserve medals!

There is much more to look back on. Our charity of the year, World Horse Welfare and their equine ambassador, ‘Pamela’ the Shetland with attitude. I understand she was quite high maintenance for her team and perhaps her stable companion Clippy enjoyed the event more. The Musto Simulator – this was phenomenally popular – thankfully no-one asked me to have a go! I missed seeing Blyth (Tait) ride the final ten in the DBYEH classes, and would have liked to watch these young horses being ridden by such an exceptional horseman.

I did of course visit Defender’s new exhibition area. Defender, our title sponsor, are so supportive of the Event and it was gratifying to see this eye catching exhibit so well received in the centre of our retail village. The Defender Experience on Saturday afternoon was also attracting huge crowds, not only adults, who were enjoying the experience of being driven but also our younger visitors who could test their driving skills on a fleet of mini Defender Series Ones.

The week of the Event is full of reunions and brief catch ups. It is a strange ‘business’ which I guess can be likened to being in the military and over the years close bonds are formed with much camaraderie as everyone pulls together, whether they be our stewards or contractors. Our core site team have now bade us farewell and there is a sense of ‘dejection’; most of our stewards and officials work on the circuit so we are bound to meet up soon. In fact Blenheim is taking place as I write and thankfully it will be our turn to be in the relaxed mode as we exchange a few words again this weekend.

Clearing the showground has nearly concluded and someone on high was certainly looking after us this year – how fortunate we have been – a monumental cloud burst with thunder and lightning on the Thursday evening of the Event, but which waited until our visitors had dispersed and, following this, perfect weather for the week, which was enjoyed by so many visitors from far and wide. Since the Event the weather has thrown everything at us; yesterday morning Stamford was mentioned on the National News following 58mph winds the previous night. We keep an eye on the weather not only in the weeks leading up to and during the event, but also in the breakdown so our ‘Ops team’ had the foresight to baton down a few items still remaining on the site. Fortunately there was no major damage. The 5Ps are many an Event Organiser’s motto – Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance – essential for a competition such as this as there is only one chance to get it right. It is a salutary reminder however that the weather, which is such an important element and so often the make or break of an event, is totally in the lap of the Gods.

Personal thank you letters are now the order of the day, alongside numerous gatherings to run through what went well (or not), with next year’s event always in the forefront of our minds. The first quarter of the 2018 diary is now also beginning to fill and I’m presently wishing there were 10 days to the week.

As I draw to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for coming, for sponsoring, for helping, for competing, for exhibiting and for supporting us. My office door has just opened and someone has come in to check on the smoke detector and fire alarm – yes there is life after Defender Burghley, but it is a little more mundane now than it has been for the last six months!

To view some of our 2017 highlights please click here