Alice Dunsdon’s Badminton blog: ‘I could have died with embarrassment’

  • “So at some point you have broken your collarbone,” the doctor says pointing at an X-ray.

    “I wonder when I did that?” I question.

    I am leaning in to take a closer look at the X-ray. It’s Monday afternoon and after booking an appointment with a specialist I am in Guildford Hospital with Doctor Hearnden telling me at some point I have indeed broken my collarbone. I came in thinking I had broken my index finger!

    No seriously, after my fall out hunting where a tree decided it wanted to make contact with me, my finger has been agony and grown to twice the size.

    As all equestrians will know, we normally only see the A&E waiting room if we are strapped to a stretcher with neck brace on, gas and air on full blast and we have absolutely no choice in the matter. But after two weeks of my finger being very annoying with its pain, I decided to see the specialist who I had seen previously when I broke my wrist.

    The reason why he X-rayed my collarbone is that a couple of hours before I had an appointment with a chiropractor.

    “Have you always had this lump?” the chiropractor asked me while massaging my shoulders.

    “Yes,” I say slightly wincing at the uncomfortable pain as her fingers run over the top of my shoulder.

    “Well before I go any further I strongly suggest you have your shoulder x-rayed.”

    So here I am.

    “Your finger looks finger looks fine,” the doctor says.

    “Are you sure?” I ask looking at the screen tilting my head to one side. I like to think with my limited experience of reading horse x-rays, human x-rays must be a doddle. “It’s very painful.”

    “Yes, no fractures,” the doctor insists.

    “Mmmm,” I mutter doubting his ability to now read x-rays.

    “However, Miss Dunsdon, your shoulder blade is not in the normal position,” Mr Hearnden changes the image back to collarbone and shoulder blade. I’m still looking at my still swollen index finger.

    “What do you mean not in the normal position?”

    “Your superior tip is prominent; you have Scapular Dyskinesis.”

    ” Right…but my finger is fine you say?”

    As I leave the hospital I take out my phone to ring my mother.

    “Hi mum. You’ll never guess what — my finger is fine!”

    More physio has been recommended for my shoulder and even my finger! I knew something was wrong with it.

    As I drive home the heavens open yet again and the rain pours down on Surrey.

    >>> Alice Dunsdon’s Badminton blog: ‘Live your dreams today as no one is promised tomorrow’

    The two events I have most recently been to are Lincoln and Burnham Market. The going has been perfect. It has really made me appreciate these early runs and I am very grateful for it. There would be no chance of running an event around where I live due to the wet weather and this was proven when South of England had to abandon their competition last weekend. So instead I put my showjumper’s hat on and jumped the horses at Pycombe and Coomelands.

    Luckily Hilly’s (Fernhill Present) first outing went very much to plan in the open intermediate at Burnham Market (pictured top).

    We scored a very respectable 30.7 in the “stressage” and then jumped double clear around a well built intermediate course. I took him steady across country but went fast enough just to give him a decent pipe opener to help with his fitness.

    Hilly has always been cautious with water and even at this level I have to ride him with a bit of tough love into the waters.

    Competing Cool Investment in at advanced at Burnham Market

    Competing Cool Investment in at advanced at Burnham Market

    He gave me my first wake-up call at Munstead hunter trials a few years ago. It was his first run of 2012 after he completed Burghley the pervious season. The course was around the BE100 cross-country and it was just a fun run for him as he had been on holiday over the winter. We set off in fine style until we came to the water. Well, let’s just say I was highly embarrassed. Luckily I did not fall off when he stopped at the water’s edge but I imagine I looked like a Thelwell character kicking her fat little pony, and the pony saying “absolutely no way am I going to get my feet wet!”

    As the fence judge bellowed out “first refusal” I could have died with embarrassment. Fortunately we went through the water on our second attempt. As I walked back through the lorry park I remember seeing one of my eventing chums.

    “Good day?” he called out to me.

    “Yes, just young ones today!” I replied. 10-years-old is still young, isn’t it? Naughty Hilly!

    Competing Wolf Tone in the CIC2* at Burnham Market

    Competing Wolf Tone in the CIC2* at Burnham Market

    Ever since then I have never trusted him at water, so if we get to Badminton I’m sure you will hear me saying “up, up, up” from the other side of the park as we enter The Lake!

    I was unfortunately not blessed with Cindy Crawford-esque legs; probably more like Ronnie Corbett legs, so I do find it hard to wrap them around Hilly and thus I developed the “up” shout. Saying “up” is not the most stylish attribute I agree but if it gets you to the other side of the fence then I’m all for it.

    Walking back after some evening training

    Walking back after some evening training

    Last time I checked I was 13th on the Badminton waitlist. Not only can people withdraw from the starting order but also from the waitlist itself. I have prepared myself for the heart break of not getting in. We have entered Hilly into Saumur CCI3* in France (19-22 May) if we do not get in to Badminton. Aiming for Saumur gives me something to look forward to as well. Obviously I will be truly gutted if we do not start at Badminton but with Saumur also in sight I’m not doing any of his fitness prep in vain.

    >>> Alice Dunsdon’s Badminton blog: Is my dream over?

    My Badminton dream seems to be disappearing in front of my eyes at the moment and what is worse I have no control over it. I have been trying to keep myself busy and keeping focused with my other horses.

    Hilly tucking into some hay

    Hilly tucking into some hay

    My friends have been brilliant at staying positive for me. One of my best friends Holly Shearman has been especially supportive and has even created Facebook page called “Get Alice and Hilly to Badminton”. I am truly overwhelmed by peoples’ support for Hilly and it’s means so much to me.

    Holly and I have been friends for the past 15 years and at one point she was even my head girl! A lot of people will say that having a friend working for you would never work out but Holly and I had a brilliant working relationship and I prefer the saying, “If you can laugh together you can work together.”

    Holly is now the practice manager for Shotter and Buyers Equine Vets and we are still the best of friends. Holly has always suffered from a bad back and just recently her condition has deteriorated making me appreciate how lucky having my good health is. Holly has two herniated discs; one in her neck and one in her lower back, both are pressing on her spinal chord and Holly is in the middle of making difficult decision whether they should be operated on. She is currently having physio treatment and doing a lot of remedial exercises too.

    Holly and I in the pool

    Holly and I in the pool

    “So what exactly do you have to do?” I ask Holly while trying to work out where on earth you put a “swimming noodle float”. We are at The Old Rectory in Ewhurst in their hydrotherapy pool. The water is so warm it’s like a bath and I’m trying balance myself on a foam float which are apparently called noodles.

    “I need to lie on my back with the noodles supporting me, that includes the one you have Alice,” she says.

    I have come along with Holly to help her with her exercises but in fact I am having far too much fun seeing how long one noodle can hold my weight before I sink.

    “Yes, right, sorry.” I place the noodle underneath Holly and watch her float about.

    “Next time we should bring music!” Holly says with a glint in her eye; “make it a pool party!”

    In our youth Holly and I loved to go to Guildford and hit the clubs. We danced all night and if you grew up in the 90’s you would agree our “big fish, little fish, cardboard box” routine was truly on point.

    >>> Alice Dunsdon’s Badminton blog: Please let us get in

    I smile at her while attempting to do squats in the pool. My phone bings out and I wade fairly unelegantly to the side of the pool.

    “Hey, you will get a run at Badminton… I can just feel it!!! Xx”

    The text is from my good friend Gemma Tattersall who is one of the toughest people I know in the sport. We have grown up together competing against each other in Pony Club to being in junior and young rider European teams together. Her grit and determination is inspiring and her confidence is something I wish I had more of. Before I could message back my phone battery died. I put it down and turn to Holly.

    “Everything ok?” I ask.

    “Yeah, all ok,” she replies.

    “Now don’t I have to push you about or something?”

    The truth is I don’t think I will get the run. I have this horrible feeling that I will just miss out by one or two places. I know I can’t think like that but how can I not?

    Hilly is entered into Belton advanced this weekend and it will be his last run before Badminton. It was his last run before Kentucky CCI4* in 2014 and it is a decent, well-built course to get your eye in. I have other horses at Belton too and Jenny (my groom) and my mother will be there for the whole weekend helping me.

    I don’t think I have ever wanted anything more in my life than to get the chance to compete at Badminton. If you have a dream, go for it. If you have a chance, take it. Things are only impossible when there’s no one willing to achieve them. I am desperate to try and achieve my dream. I lie in bed at night thinking about what might happen and put it this way, I have found more grey hairs on my head recently! I found the first one in Sydney during quarantine but since arriving home I have been grey hair free! I never thought of myself as a stressful person but I think the worry of Badminton is taking its toll.

    Until next time, Hilly is feeling on top form.

    Alice and Hilly xx

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