Its Thursday evening already and Badminton was a week ago. I am sitting in the BA lounge on my way back from Malawi. It’s been full on since we got home from Badminton at 11.30pm last Wednesday night. I’ve been to Paris, home, then a week in Malawi. I haven’t really had time to breathe and to think until now, but wow. What a week we had. It was absolutely amazing. We had such a good time. Hard to believe that three days before we left we were still not sure we’d be able to go, due to the lost shoe/trodden-on-clip saga. Let me take you through our week. Pour a drink, sit back….
After shoe-gate of the previous week, all the poulticing and ice tubbing worked, so Dan was sound by Saturday. We went for a dressage lesson at Whitewood Equestrian with the amazing Sean Burgess, who focused on getting me to sit up behind him – “get left behind”. Dan was a good boy, maybe Francis was right, and the easy week just relaxed him. Sunday my friend Sharon built us a grid in the school at home, which we popped through happily. Monday we had the first and last run thorough of our test with Mark Ruddock. Mark told me to make sure we didn’t look like we were apologizing for being there. “Sit up, announce your arrival. “OWN IT”.
Happily, Mark, Sean and Sharon had all kindly agreed to come for a badminton mini break, along with Chris and my friend Georgie who was driving the still one armed Chris down. My brother and his family were going to come down on cross country day. Sharon and I were sleeping in Hugo the lorry, the rest of them decamping to a local pub.
Tuesday morning I got up at 4am and turned the boys out with their breakfasts as usual, whilst I did the yard and finished the last minute packing. Sharon arrived at 5,30am and we scooped them in from the field, loaded Dan and were on our way before Casper realized anything had happened. The traffic was sticky on the way down, but the M25 in rush hour is only to be expected, and we had plenty of time, so rolled into Badminton around 10am, plenty of time before we needed to get ready for dressage at 1pm.
We fiddled about getting our number, sorting the stable, grazing Dan, plaiting him. We had a dangerous hour of not much to do, but Mark and Sean were such good fun it flew by. Suddenly it was time to tack up and get ready…
Mark and Sean warmed me up . It was so helpful to have them there; I didn’t have to think, I could just do as I was told and try and feel what was happening. Dan was on his toes, but knuckled down and was working well.
In we go… OWN IT. SIT UP. FOCUS. We can do this. And breathe…..
Dan did a really nice test. A few mistakes were rider error, but over all we were 15th after dressage on 31.1. I was really pleased with him, we did our best. We settled him in his stable and went off to walk the xc. I had arranged to walk round with Nick Guantlett, who was a fantastic help.
Nice first three fences, to get us in a forward rhythm. First question was 4ab, a step up and three strides to a skinny. Walked a few times to get the line that gave us an even stride. 5 and 6 up the hill ok, then the infamous coffin, made trickier by a brush about six strides before. Gulp. Nick walked the line with us, made sure I understood what to do( get straight, sit up and kick). On to a tricky drop, nice table then the next big question, hedge corner, steep downhill turn to pair of skinnys. Double gulp. Survive that, then a long gallop up the hill to a nice cart thing, then the corner from hell. We discussed it at length. Carefully walked it and the alternative. Decided that we would gallop on the long stretches early on, and hopefully carry enough time in hand to go the long route. I know Dan can gallop, so as long as we land and kick, we should be able to cope with an extra 10 secs it will take. He probably would jump the corner, but why take risks? Once that’s over it was the best 30 seconds or so, galloping towards the house – the bit we all dream of.. A nice brush roll top then the double of hedges which cause so much trouble. I walked two routes, depending on time. If I was up on the clock I’d take a slightly safer route of left hand to right hand, if under pressure would go straight.
Through the lake, then another fun bit in front of the house before the last question, a double of corners. Someone once said to me “fatigue makes fools of us all” – so mental note to be really careful to get a good line through the corners.
Blimey. That’s as bigger test as we’d ever seen. Back to the stables, sort Dan out and wave off the pub team, before Sharon and I set off to walk the xc again by ourselves, concentrating on the lines and the minute markers.
Sharon then walked the show jumping. I don’t walk show jumping, it’s my new routine. Shaz tells me what to watch out for and I try and JKC…
Back to the lorry, a glass of wine and a bit of celebrity masterchef as wall paper before checking on Dan and going to bed.
Not the best nights’ sleep I’ve ever had… walking those combinations in my head time and time again…
Nice early start as we were jumping at 9.30am. warmed up well for the show jumping, which seemed to be causing carnage.
Just keep coming…. I did, mostly. Sadly Dan was getting a bit strong coming round to fence six, and oxer to a related distance. I let him get unbalanced on the bend, pulled instead of kicked and he breathed on the pole but it wasn’t our lucky day and it came down, so 4 faults. But he jumped beautifully. I was cross with myself but it was a nice round with a blip, not a lucky escape.
Back to the lorry to change for XC. And breathe….
We had the most awesome ride. Dan was foot perfect. He stuck dead straight on every line, let me help when I needed to, kept coming when we needed to. Straight through the coffin, down the drop, through the skinnys… quick look at my watch and I was 40 seconds ahead of my minute markers. Long route through the corner at 13.. still 20 seconds up coming to the hedges, so took the safe route there too. Amazing through the water, so I had time to really enjoy the gallop in front of the house. Only the corners left…. Come on Dan, concentrate… he was full of running so turned and popped easily over the corners and stormed through the finish inside the time. AMAZING. That was such amazing fun. By the time we got back to the lorry Dan had stopped blowing and was hungry and very pleased with himself. He was washed and settled by the time the crew arrived back from their vantage points and we had great lorry picnic. We then had a team wander round the shops with a stop to give Willberry our prize money.
What a day. We eventually left at 7pm, arriving home at almost 11.30pm, but I was so excited it was an easy drive.
Was it worth the stress of trying to qualify? You bet. It was phenomenal.
Thanks to Katie for the photos, and to E-Venting for inviting us to share our journey.
It’s been a blast. Thanks to the support team, to Sharon, Mark Sean, Georgie and especially Chris.
We gave it all we had. I hope we’d have made my big brother proud