I have just put Toby down for his lunchtime sleep and sat down with a cuppa to write this blog. As I’ve done so, a wave of surrealism has just washed over me that this time next week we’ll be on our way to compete at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials with our super special homebred horse, Miley (Absolut Opposition)!
I’m so used to those “character building” moments when things go wrong that it’s almost coming as a novel surprise that we’re actually still on track for Badminton.
I will struggle to find the words to express quite what this means to myself and Miley’s other joint owners, Rosie Glaister and Katie Coventry, but it’s safe to say it’s been a long time in coming.
I take nothing for granted as the last time I was preparing for a four-star was 15 years ago and my horse, Romany Tinca, broke down in her final piece of fitness work. I was absolutely mortified at the time, but with some luck I now hope to compete her daughter, Romany Piper, at a four-star this year.
I have known Rosie all my life as we grew up as neighbours living less than a mile apart. She is closer in age to my two older sisters and they spent many happy times progressing through Pony Club, juniors and young riders together.
In 1990, Rosie won a team silver medal at the Junior European Championships in Vittel, France and went on to compete at three-star level at Bramham and Blenheim.
I competed her first homebred, Absolut Magnus, and although we won three novice events, sadly soundness issues stopped him from progressing further.
For many years, I used to rent Rosie’s lovely Victorian stable yard at Ramster, in Surrey. It was while I was based there that my journey with Katie began and also where Miley was born.
In 2003, Katie asked me to ride her five-year-old horse called Society Spice. He was a legend — a big character, a generous heart and we had a ball successfully producing him up through the grades to advanced level. He wasn’t really built for the old format three-day-events though (involving miles of roads and tracks and steeplechase) and we didn’t want push him out of his comfort zone and risk causing an injury.
After much deliberation and tears, we decided he should go to a junior rider where he’d have the chance to shine in his own right. Within six months of selling him, he won a gold medal at the Junior Europeans and continued to flourish at young rider level with Emily Llewellyn. Ironically the sport then changed to short format, but we couldn’t have been more proud of him when he went on to jump clear twice around Badminton.
A day among bluebells
At the risk of waffling on, I’ll just touch on another lovely day we had eventing at Hambleden in Buckinghamshire on Sunday (26 April).
I’m a big fan of this event and had fun cantering through the beautiful bluebell woods over an interesting and well presented cross-country course. I didn’t have my foot on the accelerator pedal so collected a fair few time faults on both horses, but was really pleased with Bug (Elite Syncopation), who still came home with a rosette and Perdy (Litchfield Perdita, pictured top) who finished just out of the placings.
It was also great to see 18-year-old old Romany Campfire competing there and looking so well. After I won Hartpury CCI* on him in 2004, I was finding it increasingly difficult to finance things and so decided to sell him. Trying to keep the books balanced is a really tough part of this sport, but seeing horses I’ve produced go on and give other people success and pleasure is also rewarding.
I didn’t want to jinx things by getting everything ready for Badminton too early, but am now realising we’ve got quite a lot to get organised over the next week, including sorting a trot-up outfit!
I’m a long way from being a follower of fashion, but on this occasion feel I ought to make a bit more of an effort than my trusty pair of jeans. I’m thinking as Miley is black with some white markings, I should go down the black and white theme — better start rustling through my wardrobe and eBay to see what I can come up with!