Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Billy on the Box: Piggy in the middle as Todd is top of the toffs

If it’s lots of toffs and hyphens you’re after then it’s not Westminster Abbey you want, you’re much better plumping for Badminton.

No, not hitting a dead budgie over a net, this is the equine one, although I did get a little confused as it seemed that matters porcine were the order of the day.

Clare Balding was our guide to the final day of the three-day jamboree and having flicked past The Muppets Treasure Island earlier I thought I’d stumbled across a particularly unpleasant scene when Piggy French was being talked about, but that was on ITV, not BBC2.

It turns out that an overly amorous Miss Piggy hadn’t stuck her tongue down Kermit’s throat but that this was a competitor, and a jolly good one too.

Piggy, it turns out ,is actually Georgina and she came second behind Mark Todd, so famous that even I’d heard of him, and just ahead of Mary King, so a real case of Piggy in the middle.

The first part of the show was a thrilling look back at the dressage, where horses are forced to walk from side to side like a drunk Glaswegian trying to negotiate a bouncy castle, and all this while the rider balances a top hat on their head. Tricky stuff.

After this action-packed start to the three-day trial we get to the cross-country, a chance to see horses cripple themselves and attempt to drown their riders at the same time.

Strangely there doesn’t seem to be as big an outcry about cruelty as at the Grand National, but I watched events at Aintree and at no time did I see Ballabriggs have to jump over the back of a Mitsubishi pick-up truck, clear a huge pile of logs or hurdle a pretend farmhouse.

Still, in our Essential Eventers Essentials guide we were told that the riders were now fitted with an airbag-type device that inflated on impact.

No such luck for our four-legged friends whose only previous solace upon landing with a considerable thump is that they may hurt a posh person in so doing.

Our commentators on this madness were Michael Tucker, nee Jenkins, and Ian Stark, who had clearly noticed the TV schedulers had gone Seventies comedy mad over the weekend, with On The Buses, George and Mildred and Man About The House all on show.

He was clearly pining for another as one horse almost came a cropper prompting Stark to utter that it had ‘a bit of a whoopsie there’.

Michael Crawford was nowhere to be seen though, as this was more Earl than Frank Spencer territory.

And on cue up popped a real regal, in the shape of her royal horsiness, Zara Phillips, interviewed by Clare and naturally enough talk turned to weddings.

Bad timing then that during the conversation the camera panned in on Lenny Henry and Dawn French, although I’m sure Wills and Kate and Mike and Zara will be grand.

Spare a thought for the poor equines who looked at the riders’ list and saw a Ms French competing — that would have left a whoopsie even Piggy couldn’t clear.

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