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Thrills and Spills
Badminton, Glos., England
by Amber Heintzberger
Karin Donckers (BEL)
Eventing is an extreme sport, and its highs and lows reach extremes accordingly. Today Andrew Hoy and Moonfleet stood in front of a sold-out stadium to receive a silver trophy that Hoy held aloft, grinning from ear to ear. Fresh off his Rolex victory a week ago Hoy is feeling pretty good about himself right now, and is positioned to take home $250,000 in the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing if his winning streak continues at Burghley in the fall.

It was ironic that he shared the limelight with his wife Bettina, who stood by him as he received his trophy. She gained notoriety for an error of course that cost Germany Olympic gold; but there was not even the slightest hint of regret as she congratulated her husband on his victory with the horse that she prepared for him to ride at Badminton.

Hoy's week on Moonfleet was foot perfect in all three phases: it was a model of how the new format should be ridden. Ingrid Klimke also had a beautiful competition, but with a couple of tiny glitches, like a rail down in show jumping. Lots of riders had close calls, but somehow kicked on and galloped ahead unscathed.

But some riders are not so lucky: numerous riders today heard the clunk of falling rails behind them as they cantered around the show jumping course, each rail representing a significant drop in placing as well as prize money received. The slightest miscalculation or error in timing can mean the difference between going down in the history books or just plain going down.

Yesterday on the cross-country course, Belgian rider Karin Donckers set out with high hopes and went home with a broken wrist from a fall at the infamous Vicarage Vee. Last year's Badminton winner Pippa Funnell had an uncharacteristic fall at a seemingly straightforward jump, and she thinks it was because her horse spooked at a mobile TV camera. What a big difference from last year, when all eyes were on her and Primmore's Pride leading the victory gallop.

Thankfully no horses were injured this year, but in this high-risk sport of eventing, serious injuries do happen. And though the other riders that parted company with their horses didn't leave the grounds in an ambulance, their hopes for completing the most challenging event in the world were dashed. But event riders know that for every time they fall off or drop a rail, there will be another day when they too will jump clear and feel the thrill of victory.

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