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‘Nonsense, You’re a Positive Centaur!’: A Review of Downton Abbey’s Point-to-Point Episode

Hold on to your bowler hat for Lady Mary’s wild ride. (Don’t worry, no spoilers!)

I’ve been looking forward to episode five of the fifth season of Downton Abbey for months. Sure, it was partially due to the usual storylines–landed aristocrats being dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century, servants with secrets and a healthy dose of baby mama drama–but mostly, of course, it was HORSES.

This weekend’s episode (which aired in the U.K. last November) featured a point-to-point race, in which foxhunters from the Kimblewick and Bicester with Whaddon Chase hunts joined the actors of Downton Abbey as extras.

Let’s set the scene: Lady Mary and her Scottish cousin Rose decide to make a day of the town’s point-to-point. Mary finds out that the race is now open to women, and that she doesn’t need to be a regular follower of the hunt to compete. Edith bursts into tears over Mary’s haircut (not entirely unreasonably), and decides not to attend. Lady Grantham instructs her new lady’s maid that furs are not appropriate wear for a steeplechase spectator. With all that settled, the Crawleys are off to the races.

Lady Mary’s mount is a big gray draft cross–not a horse I would typically associate with any kind of race, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because maybe he was supposed to be a safe “lady’s mount.”  Her nemesis Mabel Lane Fox is on a more typical bay Thoroughbred–though, appropriately for the period, he is a solid type with good bone.
Where Downton Abbey shines, as always, is in the turnout. Mary rides aside in a smart tweed sidesaddle habit with brown field boots. Mabel wears a five-button gray hacking jacket, waistcoat, and flared breeches. Both women wear veils with their bowlers–because as everyone knows, the greatest risk to a female equestrian is ruining one’s porcelain complexion and looking like a common laborer.

The actors’ riding is pretty average. Lots of bouncing around and over-exuberant chicken arms from both the men and the women. Kudos to Michelle Dockery, apparently not an experienced rider, for performing her own stunts as Lady Mary though.

Who won and who lost is glossed over–though Mary makes sure she doesn’t let Mabel pass her. Not exactly sure how a draft outran a Thoroughbred…but again, I’ll forgive it. The overall feeling of being at the races was well done, and the whole point of the Crawleys attending a point-to-point is to see and be seen anyway.

As Mabel Lane Fox notes, “If I make it across the finish line at all, it’s a miracle as far as I’m concerned.”

Overall: Great outfits, decent-ish riding and plenty of sass from Lady Grantham. What more could you want from an episode of Downton? Who knows when the next equestrian episode will air…but at least we have Lady Grantham to keep us entertained until then.

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