Alice Dunsdon’s Badminton blog: Trot-up outfit or beach holiday?

  • Fifth on the wait list. What do you think? Do you reckon I will get in?

    I have absolutely no idea.

    The Badminton butterflies have started though.

    Belton weekend was successful and Hilly, pictured top, (Fernhill Present) felt fit and on course for Badminton if we get in.

    Our dressage could have been better I won’t lie to you. We slightly fluffed our flying-changes which caused him to become a little tense resulting in not our best mark to date.

    Hilly having his pre-Belton clip

    Hilly having his pre-Belton clip

    The organisers at Belton did a fantastic job of keeping the competition running after the rain and even snow they add but unfortunately this meant the showjumping ground was a little stickier than normal and Hilly became slightly stuck in it. He jumped well but we had 12 faults and I put it down mainly to the ground conditions, though they were not by any stretch of the imagination the worst I have ridden in.

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    Cross-country he felt on fantastic form and he makes me smile whenever I ride him in this phase. As I rode back though the lorry park after completing the course the legendary Tim Price was ridding towards me:

    “Everything ok?”

    “Yes all good, we went clear!” I replied slightly unsure why he asked

    “It doesn’t even look like you’ve been cross-country!” Tim said smiling

    I looked down at Hilly and there was hardly a drip of sweat on him!

    “I either went far too slowly or he’s pretty fit!” I said laughing

    My groom Jenny at Belton

    My groom Jenny at Belton

    To be fair I didn’t go very fast as obviously I was using the Belton run as a prep-run for Badminton and also I think that actually Hilly is fairly fit. I never like to rest on my laurels though and three days later I was back at Coomelands gallops cantering him. I think every rider worries about their horses’ fitness. For me I want the horses to be as fit and strong as possible but I don’t want to go overboard with it as I also have to considered the possibility of injury. In my opinion I would say almost 80% of all leg injuries occur while preparing for an event. I always make sure that my warm up before cantering is as important as my warm down and I would never tire any one muscle or leg when cantering or galloping the horses. Every horse is an individual and what works for one horse may not work for another so I am very flexible with my different approaches.

    On the wait list for Badminton Andrew Heffernan from the Netherlands is one place in front of me though we both have seven FEI points. I thought it is Sod’s Law that I will not get in by one place. So what’s the harm in ringing Badminton to see why he is in front of me?

    “It is drawn out of hat,” the very friendly lady told me from Badminton office.

    “Ok, thank you very much,” I said trying to sound equally friendly. I put down the phone feeling a bit hard done by.

    “Well that was bad luck,” my mother said while putting on the kettle. “You would have thought being a British event they would prioritise British riders and especially with what you are trying to achieve.”

    “Mmmmmmm,” I muttered into my cup of tea.

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    I just would like to know now. I am not looking at the wait list and my brilliant friends have been keeping me well informed. I haven’t found anymore grey hair so this is the tactic I am going with.

    On the way home from Belton I allowed myself to watch the Badminton coursewalk with Harry Meade who is a rider I respect hugely.

    “Yep, that was a bad idea,” I said turning to my mother who was driving the lorry. “It looks huge!”

    Even though this would be Hilly’s sixth four-star I still look at these courses with a fresh set of eyes and appreciate how big and technical they can be. Hilly is not a machine and both him and I can make mistakes and I will be riding round Badminton with the same full set of nerves I had at our first four-star.

    I am telling you all now if I get in I will be going the long route at the Vicarage Vee. Have you seen that fence?! It is enormous! There is no other fence in the world that has the degree of difficulty of that one. If I get the to compete at Badminton twice maybe I will attempt it second time round. Maybe…

    I have never seen a sports psychologist but I am thinking I might need to see one. I am worried that if I get in to Badminton how I will cope with the nerves and the pressure? In the past I have just always kept my head down and got on with my own thing but this time around I have so many more people following Hilly and myself and I don’t want to let anyone down including my horse and I.

    I also might need to see one if I don’t get in!

    Hilly with Star Witness (my cousin, Tina Cook's Badminton horse) afyer a gallop

    Hilly with Star Witness (my cousin, Tina Cook’s Badminton horse) afyer a gallop

    If we don’t get in I think I might have to turn off all social media and run away with my boyfriend and Hilly to a seaside holiday let where you can take your horse and just relax and let the worry of Badminton disappear. I can just imagine it now, cantering along the sandy beaches, not a care in the world. Dave would be back at the holiday home cooking up Eggs Benedict. In the afternoons we would lay in the sun watching Hilly graze in a meadow field with the sun on his back and the buttercups gently dancing in the breeze. Bliss.

    Back to reality…I look out of my bedroom window and the sky is beginning to show signs of warmer weather. I want to share with you a little superstition I have. My mother has always told me that if you drive under a bridge while a train is going over the top, if you make a wish it will come true. True or not I always do this. Just recently I have seen lots of bridges with trains going over the top but no matter how much I speed up in the car I keep missing the train.

    Just my luck, I think to myself. I bet that is what happens with Badminton. I just miss getting there by one or two places.

    However I am delighted to tell you all that a couple of days ago while driving back from training Becki my girl groom was looking at social media and talking about the tragedy of the musician Prince. I was listening intently when I saw a train up ahead about to go over the bridge.

    “I’m going to make it! I’m going to make!” I thought to myself. As we went under the bridge I heard the sound of the train’s wheels overhead. “Please get me to Badminton. Please get me to Badminton,” I wished quietly.

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

    Becki oblivious to my weird bridge/train ritual was still looking up photos of Prince. I bet now you will all tell me it is actually bad luck if a train goes overhead! But it doesn’t matter to me. I think this is maybe a sign? People say if you want something badly enough it will happen. I just hope all those people are right.

    I have a number for Badminton. 54! I will be following my hugely experienced cousin Tina Cook on Star Witness and hopefully they will give me a good lead round.

    I slightly feel a weight has been lifted of my shoulders. Hilly’s prep-runs have gone well and he’s feeling on top form. There is noting more I can do. As they say, it’s in the lap of the Gods and believe you me, I am praying.

    Until next time, I will either be preparing for the trot-up (nightmare, what do I wear?!) or looking at beach holidays for Hilly and I.

    Alice and Hilly xx

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