We’ve just hit the midpoint of July and I’m home again after my annual pilgrimage to Barbury International Horse Trials.
It’s bit like a 4-day mini-festival of Eventing really with some fabulous supporting acts. Set in a historic area of Wiltshire that supplies an incredible natural amphitheatre to the main action, it’s a place where some of the greatest event riders congregate for thrilling competition and some seriously social time. It’s a real diary entry at the start of each season for most riders, owners and trade stands alike.
I’ve been going for a few years now, part of the Ultimate Images official rider photography team and although it’s one of the most physically demanding 4 days of our lives we all just love love love to come back each year. This year I trundled down the entry track, where the sponsor flags cracked in the breeze, in my camper van… as this year I was no longer local, but living on the Devon/Cornwall border. I wanted a proper bed each night for my weary head!
There are bigger events than Barbury that’s for sure, people don’t save their cash to spend it in the stores like they would at other equine events through the year, but there’s something really magical for me about Barbury. Maybe it’s the stories created from the results, maybe it’s the great backdrops you have to some of the fences or arenas, maybe it’s the sight of legendary Barbury hero Avebury, maybe its because its one of my few times each year I get to catch up with many of my photography friends, those on the team with me, or those there covering for various media outlets.
Whatever your own reason, like Badminton in the Spring Barbury drives folk to drive for hundreds of miles to get there and be a part of it.
This year our little team worked blooming hard to provide the riders and owners the images that captured their competitive time there. You’re concentrating for hours at a time. There’s never-ending problem of toilet break opportunities – it’s ok in Dressage as there’s planned breaks, even in the main arena there are course changes for different crowd-pleasing spectacle, but out in the show jumping or Cross Country your only real chance is if there’s some kind of hold on course. Fence Judges hunt in pairs or have a relief writer at the end of a radio message, photographers don’t have this chance. We’re the ones running for our lives to a portable ‘tardis’ ½ mile away when some horse has ducked out and deposited a rider and is now loose on course…
No event runs without some kind of test or trial for us but at the end of each day there’s a chance to sit together, eat something truly awful we’ve shipped in or is easy to cook on a camping stove and wind down with a drink as we talk over the day’s moments. Then it’s time head back to tents with blow up beds or vans with blackout curtains and soundproofing.
This is the bit where each morning I’d say to the team over the porridge pot (see, rubbish food on the go)…
“What wind and rain? What party? I never heard a thing”. Soundproofing 😉
It was bitterly cold though this year, despite the incredible sunny skies we had. The wind played a huge part in the comfort of the photography team. I hunkered down heavily in the boot of a borrowed car for cross-country on one day, desperate to relieve my bones from the harsh cold. Fence Judges strapped down everything they were using and frequently rushed up and off to retrieve paperwork, but no-one stopped smiling.
It’s a pleasure to be at Barbury, and now that the dust has settled and I’m home again and know that despite the hard work, rubbish diet and bad hair days, I’ll be back in 2017.
Have a fabulous week!
All images (taken by me) are copyright of Ultimate Images and are used with permission