It’s been business as usual since Belton CCI-S4*. People keep asking me, often in hushed tones, how I am feeling about riding at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. They seem surprised, disbelieving and even disappointed, when I say: “It’s just another event so I am just doing what I usually do.” But it’s true.
Before I went to Pau last October I increased Brad’s (Continuity) fast work a little from what he had done for Blenheim. At that point I had no idea if we were capable of a long format four-star (now five-star). Now I know that he can go the distance at almost the right speed as he only had 6.8 time penalties. Since he had also travelled across France, I am quietly confident that we can reproduce the right pace and endurance for Badminton. I usually do fast work every fourth day but will taper off in intensity and distance on the last two before an event.
In 2013 we were fifth in the then Grassroots Championships (now Mitsubishi Motors Cup) at BE100 level so I have already galloped around the estate. At the time, and every year since, I have eyed up the “main event” fences with longing. It will be fantastic to be walking them in earnest soon! I have looked briefly at the course map and pictures online but have chosen not to go any further. I want to look at the course through my eyes only so I can make the best choices for Brad. I will ask for help and advice too, but mostly I walk courses the same way I ride them, with my gut.
But, it’s not just about the cross-country, is it? Mum has just done our pre-event WOW Saddles check and Brad’s jump saddle needed to go up a headplate size. She is also my eyes on the ground as we work on the dressage test. I have ridden it before at Pau but the flying-changes let us down there and we have been working to get them cleaner, straighter and more expressive. The trouble is Brad is clever, and has learnt the test, so now we have to chop bits about and do it back to front. This is not too difficult as I only school him on the flat twice a week and as much as possible on the grass in the middle of the field with a choice of boards or no boards.
Brad has had a busy stint of lorry trips to the gallops and water treadmill. This weekend I am heading off to Richard Waygood for a flat and showjump tune-up. His physio saw him on 3 April after Belton (pictured top) and the chiropractor is set to visit on the 26th. He has one or two days off a week and hacks, in some form or another, most days.
Brad’s feet have always been a concern, needing a mixture of nailing and glueing to get shoes on and our farrier Mark is coming to check him over on the 24th after he has jumped a Foxhunter. The next day we have our final dressage outing at Addington, where we are booked to do a medium and advanced medium, but I may just do the latter.
Brad, mum, Bradberry (our Willberry Wonderpony) and I will travel to Badminton early on Wednesday 1 May to settle Brad before the first horse inspection at 4.30pm. He lives out 24/7 and we want to keep things normal for as long as possible. Of course this does mean that we spend many hours grazing in-hand at any away event but that’s fine. We also pack many kilos of carrots for moisture and pre-cross-country energy.
We have quite a team coming to support us during the event including my grandma and two close family friends. Add to them other family and friends, Pony Club parents and riders, and other clients and there will be quite a #TEAMBRITNELL vibe going on.
Meanwhile, in addition to work I have had fun, and some rosettes, competing mine and other people’s horses at Larkhill and Ascott-Under-Wychwood with entries at Solihull and Whitfield to come. Having missed both preparation BE90 runs, Continuum proved they hadn’t been required by finishing second his first ever BE100. He is the first horse I have backed and produced to that level so that was quite a thrill. Our super six-year-old grey CSF Why Me completed his first event with an overly-enthusiastically blued tail thanks to mum’s hatred of yellow! I had to remind myself, when he went very green and spooky in the showjumping, that that was equivalent to a five-star event for him.
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A recent Pony Club competition camp gave me the opportunity to talk about my journey from there to five-star. The members’ questions made me think carefully, and I understand more than one parent was not happy to hear that I did not go to university, favouring instead the horsey route to happiness. So far so good for me, I’m having a blast!
And just as I have finished writing this blog, the live draw for the Badminton start order has completed — we are number 64 which should mean a Friday morning dressage time — fantastic! OK, it’s quickly quell the excitement and get on with the day — coaching, coaching, riding my youngster and bizarrely replying to another journalist, this time from Denmark!
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