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Beginnings at Badminton
Badminton, Glos., England
by Amber Heintzberger
A rider takes a walk past Badminton House
With the few riders who made the journey across the pond for Rolex barely recovered from jetlag, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials CCI**** begins tomorrow in Badminton, England. Today was the first veterinary inspection, held in front of the Duke of Beaufort's magnificent estate home that overlooks the grounds on which the event is held.

All but one of 72 horses representing 12 countries passed the jog, observed by the ground jury of Brian Ross (USA) (President), Mrs. Anne Mette Binder (DEN), and Mr. Nick Burton (GBR).  Riders and horses were immaculately turned out, the horse's manes braided, their coats shining, and many of them sporting inventive quarter marks on their hindquarters. Some of the most inventive of these were Terry Boon's Foreign Exchange, aptly marked with currency symbols, and Rodney Powell's Liquid Ice, who sported a Celtic floral design.

Fashion was of course a highlight of the jog, and this one did not disappoint. While plenty of riders played it safe, a few splashed out with bold and colorful statements. The men were generally understated in tweed suits or navy sport coats and khakis, Rodney Powell's white suit, pink shirt and trendy sunglasses with gold accents made a bold statement.

Many of the women wore dark pants and light colored, fitted blazers, but long coats were also popular. The most striking of these were Beanie Hughes' bright red jacket with a leopard print fur collar and Helen Wilson's zebra-patterned jacket, the effect of which was emboldened by its pairing with her piebald horse's markings.

21 riders are attempting Badminton for the first time. Notably, one of these is German team member Ingrid Klimke, 38, riding Sleep Late. Daughter of renowned dressage trainer Reiner Klimke, Ingrid's successful career, which spans both the dressage and eventing worlds, has earned her the bronze medal in the 2005 European Championships and a slot on the German Olympic team in 2005.

Tomorrow begins the first day of dressage, with the remainder of the first phase wrapping up on Friday.  Saturday, the riders will face one of the most challenging cross-country courses in the world. On Sunday the top riders will fight it out for victory in the show jumping arena, many of them vying for a slot on their respective country's World Equestrian Games team heading to Aachen, Germany this summer.

This is the first year that Badminton will be held as a short-format competition, with roads and tracks abolished from Saturday. Managers of Badminton have said that the event is now easier to manage and because of the removal of steeplechase and roads and tracks, there is more room available for parking. However, since the horses do not warm up on roads and tracks, the warm-up area has had to be increased in size.  Trainers and riders may suffer ‘teething problems as they grow accustomed to the new format, adjusting their warm-up programs.

Also the course has been reversed from recent years; for the first time since 2003 it is starting in the main arena, and the Lake Complex will thus appear earlier on course.

The Riding for the Disabled Association is the chosen charity for this year, and the RDA Staircase is named for the organization. The double banks up have been refaced in stone to improve their appearance, and riders have to be prepared for the skinny log pile at the top.  Though the course has been modified, this year's Badminton is as challenging as ever.

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