Our Badminton blogger Brook has been busy and sent us these thoughts from before her first event of the season. She will soon update us to how she got on and her preparations as Badminton approaches.
Last week I made a mistake. Inspired by updates on ‘days to go’ on Twitter, I added an app to my phone that tells me how many days I’ve got left until Badminton. I’m now considering removing it though because if it ticks down any quicker I’m going to start hyperventilating. It’s just over 50 days and I’ve not even been eventing yet to know whether my ‘form’ is going to help or hinder my nerves. I did manage to go for a cross country practice earlier this week, which proved that my brakes are as good (or bad – I can stop but only if I’m prepared to do it in the same distance as a luxury cruise ship) as they ever were and Supercobs is still massively game for a party, but putting it all into action in a competition will be a very different story. It feels like I’ve not competed in years and the excitement of knowing I’m going eventing soon makes me giddy. We’re at Swalcliffe this weekend and ever since my cross country practice poor Al (the husband) has had to put up with me turning to him every hour or so, giggling and saying “I’m going eventing on Sundaaaaaaay!!” You’d think at my age I’d have got over the thrill. No chance.
One thing that is very very noticeable about Badminton is the ‘buzz’ that surrounds it like no other event for us grassroots peeps. The ‘big boys and girls’ are all busily getting their entries in for the 4* and people are starting to speculate about which key partnerships to watch. The interest in the grassroots competitors is hotting up too. My qualification means I’ve been lucky enough to secure sponsorship from Dengie (thanks to some great marketing by Chief Groom (Mum) after our regional final last year) and I now blog for both them and E-venting. After my first blog for E-venting was published someone I’ve never met (but would love to if you’re ever at the same event as me @kt_p21) tweeted how much they enjoyed reading it and looked forward to following my pre-Badminton journey. Northern Horse Magazine, doing a feature on riders from the North West going to Badminton is including me in their article. Several friends and family have said they want to come watch, and in some cases have already rearranged other plans and booked accommodation to make it happen. If I wasn’t already aware, it is becoming very clear that this is a Big Deal.
And the fact that it is such a Big Deal has been very much on my mind as I set my goals for the competition. On paper, I’ve got a good chance of doing well. But so has every other qualifier. We’ve all had to fight hard to even get a place and none of us are going to be easy to beat. So I’m setting myself some goals based on the experience rather than the result. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as competitive as the next if not more so and I’m putting everything I’ve got into training and preparing as best I can, I’m just not hanging everything on the colour of the rosette I bring home (or even that I bring home a rosette at all). I did the inaugural pre-novice three day event at Great Witchingham many years ago and against all expectations was in the lead after cross country, but without a fence in hand and with a horse that may or may not knock a fence down depending on the phase of the moon. I felt helpless to determine my fate the next day and expected to have a sleepless night. Luckily, I’d been working with a sports psychologist to regain confidence after a big fall and in preparing for this event we’d set clear goals that were only about us, not dependent on what everyone else did. I sent her a text to say how worried I was and she reminded me that my goal had been to go clear cross country and have no more than one fence down in the show jumping – my goal was not about where I finished and even if I did knock a fence I’d still have been successful. I was confident I could achieve that goal and so I went to bed and slept [reasonably] well. As it happened, by the time I show jumped, I did have a fence in hand. And as it happened the phase of the moon was such that I didn’t hit anything and I took home the spoils. I’m sure I’d have been sad if I’d missed out on the win, but my whole experience of being at the event was far better for having realistic goals that I could ‘cling on to’.
I’ve had some thoughts already about what my ‘performance goals’ at Badminton are going to be, but I’ll decide them nearer the time once I know how we’re getting on at competitions this year and what is realistic. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chief Groom hasn’t already done it and got a spreadsheet with potential results already mapped out hidden on her computer somewhere… My ‘experience goals’ are pretty much sorted though.
I want to enjoy the opportunity. I worked out it has taken me 8 years to qualify and when I bought Corey I never expected or even aimed to get to Badminton. I don’t want to forget how special it is and let the competition overshadow the achievement of just making it in the first place.
I want to do my best. I don’t do well with failure (probably something to do with ending up in hospital as a result of a mistake in the past) but I do even worse with failure when I know I could have tried harder. I’m not a perfect rider and I know I won’t get it 100% right on the day (I reckon even Nicholson must get it wrong, he just hides it very very well), but I want to feel that I couldn’t have done any better on the day, given where Cobs and I are at in our training right now.
And I want to make new friends. I love the social side of eventing and having a natter in the warm up (admittedly that usually ends up with Chief Groom telling me I should be exercising my horse more and my mouth less) but at the moment I don’t know any of the other competitors. So if you’re heading to the grassroots and you see me at a competition, do come and say hi! I’m on twitter too: @EventerBrook.
Entries for the grassroots competition open in just over a week. I’m determined to not be too keen and be the first entry posted but can’t guarantee I won’t come a close second….