Eventing is typically seen as a fairly “gritty” sport- where results are less about polish and more about the combined determination and skill of a horse and rider to tackle the obstacles ahead of them. So seeing a cross country course that winds through fountains, expensive cars, and big screens is an interesting experience.
Just like at the American Eventing Championships in Tryon this past year, it’s obvious what stamp the Bellissimo brand has on an event. Even the simplest hanging log was emblazoned with the Tryon logo, and the elegant mansion fences made their appearance on an immaculately groomed (read: vacuumed) grass footing.
Big screens made sure no one missed any of the action, which in itself is an interesting addition that is so far unique to a Bellissimo event to my knowledge. And as a showcase, well, it does help to be able to see everything at once. It was obvious from the crowd that not only eventing fans were in attendance at the showcase- many a polo player, dressage queen, and U25 jumper star was there to catch the cross country phase.
It was a pleasure to see some of eventing’s greats up close and personal, and the course walk with Boyd, William, and Sir Mark Todd was enlightening and entertaining. I use the word entertaining to really describe much of the showcase, because really that’s what it seemed like in many aspects- the stars, the jumbotrons, and the stage tricks (such as dodging Land Rovers, and running through the VIP tent) all playing a part.
And yet, despite being an invitational for some of the biggest names in the eventing sport, the cross country phase was still one to be respected- this was no derby class. The gimmicky tent fence caused not a single issue, instead, the bogey fences proved to be one giant corner coming out of the first water combination and a combination later in the course that allowed itself to be angled brush-to-brush or jumped, then circle to get a straight approach to a rather vertical brush fence.
All in all, the showcase seemed like a great way to display our sport in a condensed fashion that invited spectators of a kind that may bring more owners and patrons to the eventing discipline. And while it was an enjoyable experience for most horses, riders, and spectators alike, there were a couple drawbacks. But more on that later in the week.