Alice Dunsdon’s Badminton blog: We’re in! Now how much cotton wool do we have?

  • I had heard many a thing about this famous phone call you receive from Jane Tuckwell, the secretary of Badminton Horse Trials, when you are accepted into Badminton. It reminded me slightly of ‘The Banker’ in the game show Deal or No Deal. What do they say to you? What do they sound like?

    I was next on the wait list. Only one more person needed to withdraw and I was in. Would this happen? Could it happen? The answer, as many of you will now know, is YES!

    I am driving along on Wednesday morning with a lorry full of horses including Hilly (Fernhill Present)  to take to Coomelands cantering and jumping when my phone rings. It’s the Badminton number.

    “You’d better answer that,” Jenny said with anticipation in her voice.

    My heart begins to thump heavier and louder. I plug my earphones in and prepare myself.


    “Hello, Alice,” Jane Tuckwell says full of energy.

    “All those people praying for you has seemed to pay off. You’re in!”

    “Wow, thank you,” I say. I slightly lost for words.

    “I will send you all the details and passes in the post, well done and see you there!”

    As I hung up I am still in shock and I forget Jenny is still staring at me.


    “We’re in!” I reply smiling.

    I pass Jenny my phone and ask her to text Ben Hobday straight away. Ben is a great friend of mine and we first met as young teenagers in my local pub The Parrot in Forest Green when he came down one summer to train with Pippa Funnell. Straight away we hit it off and his fantastic sense of humour and his charming accent had all of us Surrey girls in a frenzy!

    Since then we have grown up to be good friends. After numerous skiing holidays and one too many late nights with other great friends and fellow event riders such as Amy Young and Lauren Shannon, our friendship has firmly cemented. Ben is an inspiration to us all after battling with cancer last year and it is truly remarkable that he is back fighting fit and ready to compete at one of the biggest, most demanding events in the world.

    I promised Ben would be the first to know when I was in off the wait list as he was now just one place behind me. No one deserves it more than Ben to go well at Badminton. Not even me. Ben has been the bravest, toughest, strongest person I know. How he coped when he was diagnosed with cancer I have no idea and we all need to celebrate how he has pulled through. He is truly a remarkable man, and not bad on the eye either!


    The view from Hilly

    It had only been about an hour from when I received my news about Badminton when I was walking back with Hilly after giving him a canter at Coomelands.

    ” Guess what?” Jenny says smiling. “Ben’s in!”

    I burst into a smile. It is so great I get to do this with him. It really wouldn’t have sat comfortably with me if I had the opportunity to compete and he didn’t after all he has been through. Ben is a seasoned pro at Badminton these days so hopefully he’ll take me under his wing and show me the ropes!

    “Right,” I said to Jenny jumping off Hilly back at the lorry. “How much cotton wool do we have?”

    “Uummmm a fair bit,” Jenny replied a little unsure of why I was asking.

    “Because we will need a lot to wrap Hilly up in!” I said smiling.

    Continued below…

    Read more from Alice Dunsdon:

    As we arrived back home later that afternoon the whole yard had heard the news and everyone is in high spirits.

    “Put a smile on your face girl!” Mark said from a top of a ladder. Mark works for my family and is currently painting one of the farm buildings. “I heard the news, you must be ecstatic.”

    “Thank you. Yes I am, really happy,” I said, but even I didn’t convince myself of my happiness.

    The truth is I am happy, but now it’s game time. The pressure is on. No messing about. I might never have this opportunity again. Yes we have got into Badminton but the trot-up is still five days away. I was joking about cotton wool but it’s no joke that Hilly is my number one top priority for these next few days. Jenny knows her job and she will make sure that she knows every hair on Hilly’s body, every blade of grass he eats and be there for every step he takes. We have come this far, we will leave nothing to chance.

    Until next time, which trot-up outfit should I go for?

    Love Alice and Hilly xx

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