Months of training and it’s all over in a whirlwind of a week! Literally had the best week ever, who needs a sunny holiday when you can say you’ve ridden at Badminton! The boyfriend may not agree but I’m still on cloud nine so who cares!!!
Being a bank holiday Monday, I was really worried that traffic on the A30 out of Cornwall was going to be a nightmare. We were very fortunate that leaving at 7am we missed it all. Cornwall’s typical way of saying good-bye was by tipping with rain until we hit the motorway. We stopped a couple of times on the way up to do a bit more food shopping and arrived at Badminton around 12 o’clock. We were one of the first, so the car and trailer was super close to the stables. It was obvious that they hadn’t had any of the rain we had on our journey up as the ground was dry. The stables were set up in a lovely format with all the Bedmax shavings neatly waiting to be used. I left Sprite to settle in her stable and have a doze while we put our living quarters up… a glorious tent!!
I was super eager to get out and have my first look at the cross country course, so once everything was organised we set off and had a walk around. First impressions of the course… they were pretty beefy (as expected), very technical asking lots of questions of horse and rider… but I was surprisingly not terrified! Scared definitely but not terrified.
I wasn’t riding until Wednesday so Sprite was just gently ridden Monday and Tuesday with lots of grass walks in between. A local BE accredited coach – Sarah Thorne – offered to walk the course with me Tuesday afternoon to answer any questions I may have. My parents also arrived that morning and I was shocked that mum agreed to come along, she never usually can look at the fences until after when she knows we’re home safe! Sarah was brilliant making me think of things that I never normally would. I also liked that she asked me why I was doing something – why are you taking that line? Or that approach? It was really good as it made sure I did understand my logic and not just doing it as a guess. I then dragged poor Chris out again later to walk the course for a 3rd time so I could double check and learn my minute markers… I drilled them in so much I can still remember them now!
That evening we went to the Mitsubishi Motors Cup welcome drinks taking place next to the famous lake. I was allowed to take one guest and asked my mum if she’d like to go. We had a lovely evening drinking Pimms and we met Mary and Emily King! I couldn’t resist asking for a photo with me and mum as we are also a Mary and Emily!!
B-DAY!! It was quite an early start on Wednesday but I was wide awake before my alarm even went off! Sprite had her breakfast and then enjoyed a pampering session from my top friend/groom/photographer Tina while I plaited her up. We were as ready as we were ever going to be! They were running early and it wasn’t long before the steward said I could go in! I tried my hardest not to panic and asked if I could wait for my time, which of course was absolutely fine so I remained calm. Trotting down that centre line all I could do was grin from ear to ear… we’re finally here doing it.. at Badminton!! Literally my dream come true! Sprite produced me such a lovely test that I still love watching back!
I had a long gap between dressage and Showjumping but I hadn’t yet walked the course as the BE100 was still up. Already dreading our worst phase I managed to get over for the first course walk and this was when I wanted to run and hide! The show jumps were HUGE!! The spreads were wide, the uprights were massive and my legs went like jelly!! Bless Tina trying to keep me calm telling me they were all fine. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy course but seriously I went straight to the portaloo after walking it!
The warm up was busy but I’m so lucky Sprite just gets on with it and ignores everyone else but me. We warmed up well, a couple down but nothing to worry about. I heard my number shouted and next minute I’m in the arena with everyone looking at me! I felt stupidly sick with nerves all I thought we were going to do was go sliding through the spreads. Fence 1, 2 and 3 were a bit of blur but Sprite was super keen taking it all on amazingly. Sprite flew all the spreads and waited for the uprights to come to us as I asked. It might sound silly but I know Sprite knew how important this round was to us, I could feel her trying her little socks off for me. Unfortunately we just tipped the very last fence, the second part of the double, but I couldn’t care less that was the BEST round we’ve ever done… it felt incredible!
The buzz from the show jumping made me super keen for the cross country and ready to give the course a good crack! It felt like we were in the warm up for ages (even though i wasn’t!) then it was our time. Sprite set off well flying fences 1 to 3, we then went down a big drop for 4a, turn and then a skinny. I can remember hearing Sprite catch the skinny and then fence 5 she stopped… twice. We managed to get over in on the 3rd attempt but she then stopped at the next. I didn’t know what to do whether to retire or attempt again (I knew I was eliminated already)… bless her she did go and jumped the next although needed a lot of encouragement. Fence 8 was the coffin and first proper combination on the course. Again Sprite didn’t want to go and that was it, my dream of completing didn’t happen but my one in a million pony obviously didn’t like the going and I respected her decision. I jumped straight off and leisurely strolled back with her and Chris.
Like us riders do, we analyse what went wrong and I am 99% sure she didn’t like the hard ground. Bless her she is 22 years old and her joints just can’t keep up with her incredible mind. She flew the first and I think after she dropped down at fence 4 she really felt how hard it was, this probably made her then touch the b element. As well adding that she had just put everything into the show jumping phase! Sprite has always had amazing self-preservation and will never get herself or I into trouble and I know to respect that. Of course it’s disappointing but I’d MUCH prefer taking her home in one piece. To be honest I was and still am beaming about our show jumping round!! The achievement of even getting there is amazing and I can’t thank Sprite enough for getting me to Olympia and now Badminton!!
After getting sprite settled we headed down to watch the 4* trot up followed by the Mitsubishi Motors Cup presentation, all taking place in front of the gorgeous Badminton House. Where, might I add, I saw Katie Hancock (from Cornwall!!!) take the BE100 for the 2nd year in the row… what an amazing achievement that is!! We all set off for food at a local pub, it was a lovely way to finish a lovely day!
Written by Emily Dunstan at EMD Eventing