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

    Forever, ’til the end of time,
    From now on, only you and I,
    We’re going u-u-u-u-u-u-up!”

    Jenny is looking at me with the most disgusted look on her face.

    “Sining isn’t really your forte,” Jenny said turning to look at her phone as a message pinged in, then proceeded to take a photo of the road ahead.

    “Why are you taking a photo of the A1, Jenny?”

    “Snapchat: ‘En-route to Lincoln’.”

    I do not get Snapchat. I understand the logistics of sending photos to your friends but not of the A1 or any road for that matter. Unless Brad Pitt suddenly emerged from the car in front, topless asking for something mechanical like perhaps oil. Not baby oil, though we would indeed have that in our grooming kit. Perhaps engine oil or windscreen wash, then I would definitely be taking a photo!

    It was the first event of the year and we had three horses on board, but sadly Hilly (Fernhill Present) wasn’t competing. He was due his six monthly flu jab at the beginning of the week so therefore I made the decision not to run him. Part of the reason flu jabs are an area of concern for me is because they are designed to cause an immune reaction. Unfortunately there is no guarantee how this will affect your horse depending on a variety of undetectable variables; which brand, allergies, underlying virus or being run down. With all this in consideration Hilly was not able to go to this first party of the year.

    Hilly after cross-country schooling

    Hilly after cross-country schooling

    Lincoln went well for my other horses all bringing home rosettes and it was brilliant to see my eventing chums again after a long winter, catching up on gossip and banter.

    It’s a good feeling for me get the first cross-country round under my belt. I don’t know about others but I always feel a little bit rusty (even after a season’s hunting!) on my first couple of runs and I was very quickly reminded of what having butterflies feels like in the start box!

    Hilly is feeling fantastic and we have been going to the gallops two if not three times a week. I don’t always do fast work with him though. I will quite often practice our dressage party tricks, from flying-changes to mini half-passes and even walk pirouettes while we’re on the gallops. Hilly likes lots of variety in his life and can become bored and, dare I say it, stale quite easily. If he was at school and stuck in the classroom he would definitely be the child staring out of the window, day dreaming about jumping the Vicarage V — oh wait maybe that was me?! He doesn’t fit the mould and I would never want him to but you do have to be fairly tactful about how you approach certain subjects with him.

    The hunting season still hasn’t finished for me and last Tuesday I found myself being wrapped around a tree looking like one of those hippy tree huggers after having a slight misunderstanding with my horse whether we would be going to the right or left hand side of it after the jump into the woods. Well I in fact I didn’t go left or right and went straight on. It was a reminder to myself that if I was going to be Badminton bound the least I could do was get my internal sat nav working a bit better or simply just steer better! Oh well, at least I get to go the tumblers party which always a good craic!

    I am very fortunate to be able to use my cousin Tina Cook’s gallops on the South Downs. They are brilliant at this time of year when sometimes other gallops can be closed. I also use the facilities at Coombelands in West Sussex. They have a huge outdoor arena, including gallops and cross-country schooling and they regularly have outdoor BS shows which is a brilliant way to keep mine and my horses’ eyes in over the winter months. Last week they held a show and I was warming up in the collecting ring when I looked up to see Scott Brash cantering towards me. Well…I nearly fell off my horse! Mr Brash, Mr Scott Brash! I was warming up with Scott Brash! Can I say his name again? SCOTT BRASH!

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

    “Hi Scott. Hi Scotty…” No, Alice don’t say anything to him, I told myself. I couldn’t help but stare at his effortless way of riding. A good eventing friend Harry Dzenis and I stood watching with our mouths open catching flies. He’s is a master at his sport and I felt very privileged to be competing alongside him.

    As I write this I’m driving along taking two horses cross-country schooling and Hilly to canter at Coombelands. My phone rings and I answer putting my mother onto loud speaker.

    “Have you seen? You’re 22nd on the wait list.”

    My heart sank. I didn’t know what I was expecting really. The rest of the half hour drive to Coombelands was fairly sombre, even the sun seemed to disappear. I waited for Becki and and Jenny to jump out of the lorry and I buried my head in my hands and an uncontrollable sob came out. Is my dream over? Can I get in being 22nd on the wait list at Badminton? Will enough people pull out? The answer is, I don’t know.

    In the past, competitors have got in to Badminton as far down as 43rd on the waitlist but every year is different. I sat in the cab, thoughts spinning around my head. It’s out of my control now. Hilly and I have come so far and travelled around the world. We have to try and complete our dream. A part of me wants to scream and shout: “It’s unfair, we’ve qualified! Let’s us in!” But rules are rules and for any sportsperson, part of the job is to respect the rules.

    I pulled myself together and reminded myself of my five rules:

    1. Wait to worry
    2. Keep an attitude of gratitude
    3. Your health is your wealth
    4. Understand the power of discipline
    5. Surrounded yourself with positive people

    With that I wiped my eyes, jumped out of the cab, put a smile on my face and got on Hilly.

    Hilly on the gallops

    Hilly on the gallops

    Trotting down the gallops Hilly soon reminded me to pull myself together as a pigeon flew out of the hedge causing him to squeal and leap up in the air like some wild gazelle.

    “Good boy,” I said patting him. No matter what happens I am lucky enough to be sat on this remarkable horse that has taken me places that I never thought possible. He has made my childhood dreams come true. We have seen the world together and I am forever thankful to him.

    Right now there is nothing more I would like than to see my name off the wait list and on the starting list at Badminton. If you see me reading ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ by Norman Vincent Peale it means I might be having a bad day.

    I will continue with Hilly’s fitness and I still have Badminton in sight. You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.

    Until next time, I will try and not stare at the waitlist and try to remain positive.

    Alice and Hilly xx

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