Badminton first-timer’s blog: the eventing gods have a dodgy sense of humour

Anyone looking at our form figures so far this year will think we’ve had a disastrous start to the season. Thankfully, in reality Miley is in excellent order and going better than ever… it’s just the ‘sense of humour gods’ seem to be playing games with us during our build up for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials!

Miley’s (Absolut Opposition) first event of the season was at Isleham. All was going well until I realised we’d forgotten to pack our night vision goggles — we were the last competitor of the day to go cross-country and the light was fading fast.  We had reservations about whether to start, but I felt we ought to get on with it.

After I started, someone flicked the dimmer switch some more as the heavens opened. When halfway around the course, I saw even the fence judges had their lights on, so I decided the safest thing to do was to put my hand up and retire… although Miley was a little confused as to why it was such a short course!

On Wednesday my son Toby was somewhat surprised when I woke him up in the early hours and as we arrived at the yard at 4am, the horses were equally blurry eyed!  Along with Granny and Grandpa, we were soon all loaded up and heading to Somerley Park for Miley’s second event of the season. We should have known eventing on April Fools’ Day was going to throw up another surprise.

Unfortunately the ground in the showjumping was like glue. Miley was jumping impeccably when on landing after an oxer, his foot got stuck in the ground long enough for him to over-reach and pull the front shoe off.  I stopped to check he was alright before finishing, but in so doing collected 23 time faults!  My main concern was that he may have bruised his foot in the process and with this element of doubt in my mind, I decided to withdraw him.  It was a shame as the ground on the cross country was perfect, but Miley (and all the horses) are so special to me, I’m not prepared to risk them if I’m not convinced they’re 100%.

Needless to say, Miley was FURIOUS not to get his cross-country fix (pictured below). He bucked the whole way home in the lorry and then jumped the whole way down the ramp when we got back!

Nana Dalton grumpy Absolut Opposition

The two other horses on the lorry who had to endure Miley’s frustrated antics were Romany Piper (Piper) and Elite Syncopation (Bug). They were both at their first party of the season and went fantastically with Piper picking up a rosette.

Piper is also a homebred, out of my wonderful old advanced mare, Romany Tinca. I won a team silver medal at the Young Rider European Championships at Necarne Castle on her in 1999.  Piper will also be aiming for a four-star this year, although as she didn’t quite meet the extra qualification requirements for Badminton, she’ll aim to go to Luhmuhlen with the ultimate autumn goal of having both homebreds, Miley and Piper at Burghley!

Bug is a truly remarkable horse.  He featured in a Horse & Hound write up last August as not only has he defied all the veterinary odds, he does it all with a smile and in style.  After four major operations, he may be missing a fair few of the original features he was born with (tendon sheath, tops of four vertebrae and a tooth), but it doesn’t stop him from loving this sport and completing five three-star events last year.

Despite these couple of weird twists in Miley’s prep runs, I couldn’t be happier with how he’s going, how he’s feeling and his fitness levels. I am very relaxed with everything, especially as we still have five more weeks and two more planned runs before the big target.

Nana