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Badminton Blogger – It was actually real!

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11245185_10100169524740099_655760051_nWell, what can I say?! This week has been a total whirlwind and I feel like I need a few days sat in a quiet room just to process what we’ve just done…I’m hoping writing this will help get it in order, apologies in advance for the length!

We were drawn to do all of our competing on the Wednesday, so planned to arrive Tuesday lunchtime to get settled in and walk the course. Sunday and Monday were spent filling umpteen haynets, feeds, packing, re-packing, and writing lists upon lists upon lists – it really is ridiculous how much stuff you need to take with you when you stay away with a horse!! My friend Lottie had kindly volunteered her lorry and driving services, so we left Northamptonshire on Tuesday morning set for the holy ground of Badminton. Tally usually travels in my trailer but was very good during his 3 hour journey in some strong winds – although he started whinnying when we were about 10 minutes away…did he know where he was going?!

11245358_10100169524760059_1556254561_nWe arrived and checked Tally into his stable, with the tarpaulin on the roof sounding as if it would take off at any minute. The weather conditions were just awful, there really is no other way to put it! Freezing cold gale force winds, with frequent heavy downpours wasn’t quite what I’d pictured in my head when I embarked upon my Badminton dream! We set off walking the course with my instructor Jane Hussell and I was pleased to find that although it was a real championship test, there was nothing we couldn’t do. I was really excited to ride around such a beautiful presented course, and loved the way some of our fences sat right next to the ‘proper’ ones! They’d used all the undulations so cleverly and the length would really test all the fitness work we’d been doing.

804458_10100169524750079_1541250131_nI rode Tally that afternoon – I tried to wait for a dry spell then figured there was no point – good practice for him and he actually worked brilliantly, and was very chilled. I returned to the lorry to find my super support crew had decorated the lorry with Good Luck and Happy Birthday banners, and there was cake & ‘Team Tally’ cupcakes a plenty!! It wasn’t technically my birthday until the 7th but what better excuse to celebrate!?

_Q9A7933-2Wednesday arrived and I don’t think I slept a wink – the wind and rain sounded seriously loud from the lorry & I must admit I wasn’t 100% convinced about going out in it!! Tally looked bright and well & soon enough it was time to get ready; and although the rain had held out for a few hours, when we came out of the temporary stables the heavens opened and I was wet through to my knickers within 5 minutes. Jane had come to help me warm up but I could hardly hear a word she was saying over the wind!! Now anybody who knows Tally knows he’s a massive wimp, and can’t even face walking in from the field into the wind…well bless his heart he just got on with his job and pulled out a lovely test. He didn’t spook, he didn’t die off my leg, and when he was well within his rights to shove his head between his knees & tell me to get lost, he tried his little heart out. I actually think it should have scored a bit better than 35, but the judges weren’t being overly generous to anybody, and I was still thrilled with it in the conditions which were hardly conducive for his best work.

_Q9A8394I had a 4 hour gap until Show Jumping so walked the course one more time and had some lunch. The rain had eased by then but the gales felt even stronger. The warm up arena was rather small and quite stressful – we had to do more than a couple of emergency stops and serves! I was really disappointed to roll 2 poles, as Tally is such a good show jumper and I really wanted a clear. The course was deceptively difficult as every jump came up on you very quickly, and was made up of quite ambiguous related distances. I was rattled after having fence 5 down behind, and let it affect me – I was very aware of everybody watching & suddenly the arena felt very small! We were very unlucky with the 2nd pole as he breathed on it but such is life. The video looks better than it felt, and Tally still tried really hard – we were getting battered by the wind in every direction we turned so it’s not much of a surprise our rhythm that’s been so good recently wasn’t quite there. Only 26 people in my class jumped clear so we weren’t the only ones at least!

_Q9A8498Fuelled by this, I set off over to the XC totally determined to finish on a clear. We had a bit of a wait in the warm up (did I mention it was really cold & windy?!) but soon enough we were heading over to the start feeling like we were about to tackle actual Badminton – I had to pinch myself!!! Set off positively & we did 1,2&3 out of our stride. Then we had to turn down a narrow track & all of a sudden we were out into a massive open space, with Badminton House on our right, the Lake & tradestands on our left, and about 200 people watching! Tally was struggling to take all this in and with the ground getting a touch holding, just dried up underneath me – he spooky nature is not ideal in these situations!!! He had a quick look at the fish into the Lake which had caused lots of problems, and although he went through sweetly I could feel it was blowing his brain. The tricky hedge combination at 8/9 didn’t go quite as planned as he spooked on landing after 8 & before I knew it we were on top of 9A & his head was still up in the air totally not clocking A or B! Not pretty but through we got.

_Q9A8504Now to be honest at this point, I was kicking like billy-o & nothing was happening underneath me, and I started to wonder if we were going to make it round without record time penalties! I knew he had the fitness in him & was jumping well, so I picked him up & told him I couldn’t carry him the whole way round – he needed to dig deep and man up!! We had 2 difficult combinations at 12/13/14 which he did brilliantly, and I felt his legs start to power underneath him. He grew in confidence & finished like a pro – we’d just jumped clear around Badminton!!!

We were just 4 seconds over the time (which was much better than it could’ve been!!) over the longest course we’ve ever done into a serious head wind!! Tally will never be a speed demon, he just doesn’t have the breeding or the purpose. What he lacks in natural bravery he makes up for in heart, and will do any technical question I ask of him. He loves his jumping and believes in himself because I believe in him, and that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

11255156_10100169524785009_1494582445_nSo that was our Badminton! We finished comfortably inside the top 50% which was amazing for us against that level of competition, as we were only ever going for the experience!! We stayed Wednesday night to rest, then did some birthday shopping before taking my superstar home. He loved staying away but was very pleased to be back in his field, and now thinks he’s quite a big deal!! I feel like I need to sleep for a week but I’m hoping to stay on cloud 9 for as long as possible! After planning every single day of Tally’s work since the start of January I think we might be due a few days off!!!

11251489_10100169524809959_778425621_nI had the most amazing time with my brilliant friends, family and animals, and I really can’t thank everyone enough for their support. I must also say a huge thank you to e-Venting for choosing me to be your Badminton Blogger for 2015 – it was an amazing opportunity & I hope we did you proud. It was lovely to meet Katie and have my own photographer – she was so positive even in the hideous conditions and I can’t wait to see all of our pics. I hope people have enjoyed reading our story, and I hope that I’ve managed to demonstrate that you don’t need to buy a world beater, have bucketloads of money (or talent!!) or work in the equestrian industry to achieve your dreams. With the right attitude, sheer determination and some good fortune thrown in along the way anything really is possible.

This post was bought to you by Gemosi who make beautiful products such as this beautiful Gemosi Solace Horse Hair Bracelet . Please take the time to visit our supporters to see what they can offer you as without them we wouldn’t be able to to run e-Venting.

About the author

Katie