Horses are great levellers aren’t they? There I was sailing along on my rising six-year-old at his second event. After a sticky start he was gobbling up the BE90 open at Whitfield in a fantastic rhythm when he simply didn’t understand the question that a skinny brush presented and we sailed past it.
Bought up to know “It’s never the horse’s fault!”, I quietly represented and gave myself a good talking to after the finish. It’s been long time since I had a run out, so as far as I am now concerned (I haven’t bored you with the “Chimp Paradox” chatter that went on in my head for a bit and the discussion with my mum, a.k.a BHS APC & Centre 10 coach) Louis (CSF Why Me) has done me a great favour in advance of Badminton. I simply did not do what I teach every day. I did not select the appropriate gear for the fence. I rode better in some ways on a catch ride, Dave (Dartans Green Light), who I was educating for his young rider. Ironic, huh?
That brings me on to what I thought I’d chat about today — competition pressure.
Eventing is a unique rollercoaster of a sport and as we, Continuity (Brad) and I, inch closer to entering the stables at Badminton, I find my mind escaping to some very odd venues, well dead-ends really, where counter-productive thoughts dwell.
I am employing various techniques to avoid thinking “what if” many of which centre around keeping busy. Work, of course, is therapy, as is loud music, cycling HARD, driving my parents demented, lots of water and eating well, and riding… lots of riding, including competing.
I recently visited a riding accident-damaged Dickie Waygood who, nonetheless, gave his time, experience and knowledge unstintingly. When I left I felt on a real high. Fast forward to a hot Solihull where one horse, who was stepping up to novice, had five fences down in the showjumping (negative self-talk alert!) followed by an epic cross-country. Happy again. What an adrenaline rush.
As an aside it would seem to me that BEFAR (anti-doping) is out and about testing more this season, which is great. Continuity was tested after his first run at Tweseldown and we were parked next to a young lady who was very shocked to be selected at Solihull. If you don’t know anything about the testing procedure, it is possible you also won’t know what could test positive in your horse or yourself. Please save yourself the stress and become informed by following this link: www.bef.co.uk
Time, why is there never enough? We just managed to scatter some seed on some resting paddocks (we have clay here which always poaches) before the rain comes. Mum decided to give horse- and bee-friendly herbs and wild flowers a go, so goodness knows what might come up.
A very important envelope has arrived with a Badminton logo on it. I think I will frame it! Inside are car passes – too few for everyone who wants to come – and reams of information. Study of the information reveals that horses are allowed to arrive between 9 and 10am only on Wednesday 1 May and the riders briefing is at 11am. This means Brad will miss a night in the field as we can’t bear the idea of timings going wrong.
I am very lucky to have long-term sponsor Timothy Foxx Clothing dressing me for the trot-ups. I was amazed to be made best dressed male rider at Blenheim 2018 by HiHo Silver, who are also sponsoring it at Badminton. I wonder if I can pull off a double? There will be stiff competition, however, with many of the Badminton stands dressing riders in the same outfits as the spectators can then go and purchase. “The symbiotic relationship between exhibitors and trot-up ‘cat-walk models’ should result in some stunning looks,”, so I am told. I am still hoping to borrow some flash shoes. I have the Willberry Wonder Pony socks already!
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Brad had his pre-event trip to the Priory Farm Equine Spa and Rehab Centre water treadmill and I was touched to be given a Badminton bear to accompany us on our adventure. Everyone I am speaking to is wishing us well with it seems an equal mix of those who have booked tickets to come at cheer us on in person, and those who will be glued to the TV coverage instead. I feel honoured that so many people, from clients, though Pony Club DCs, to friends I haven’t seen for years, have been in contact.
All I can do is my best, and that I am preparing, with the help of my support team, coaches, family, sponsors and supporting suppliers, to do.
Brad feels amazing. He told me so by dropping his shoulder and proceeding quickly in the opposite direction on the gallops… well, not all suddenly appearing Golden Retrievers are friendly are they?
Don’t miss H&H’s Badminton preview issue, including cross-country course walk with world champion Ros Canter (out 25 April), and our form guide issue with details of every horse and rider competing (out 2 May).