Gladiatorial — that is definitely how it felt like walking my horse, Continuity, still in-hand, out from under the stable arches at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and onto the lawn before my cross-country round yesterday. This was a precaution with his precious feet since we run with one stud in each shoe.
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Brad is experienced and could hear the tannoys, so his usual impeccable manners then deserted him and I was glad to get into the saddle without too much difficulty. I was able to keep his stress levels down by free walking in front of Badminton House for while and then trotted as steadily as he could be persuaded all the way over the brow of the hill and down to the warm up. If only he would do that trot in the dressage arena we would compete with Oliver Townend!
Mistake number one was not having someone at the collecting ring to tell me in advance that the course was running late. Then suddenly, due to an incident it was running 30 minutes late. I quickly removed Brad from the other horses but not before he had got VERY EXCITED ready to jump. Back down again and a correct warm up done it was up to the arena. Mum only just got there in time to yell “DAVID, ATTTAAACKKKK!”.
I rode every fence. That sounds obvious, right? No, I mean I RODE every fence. Looking back on some of the footage I could be disappointed with my style, and my ‘elbows’ and ‘hunting seat’ were the subject of some discussion in the commentary box. But I don’t care. There is no style prize cross-country and I have always been taught to believe that it’s not what you look like, it’s the results that matter. I never knowingly or willingly restrict my horse in the air no matter where I am with my shoulders and going over those drops I wanted to be BACK!
Brad was amazing until fence 17 where he over-jumped the running water ditch so I had to circle before presenting at 18. He was careful and I should be grateful for that but it put us a long way down on the clock so rightly or wrongly I did not go ‘hands and heels’ the rest of the way. It was not a conscious choice and I certainly rode to finish, but I was no longer chasing the time. I also recognised that Brad had used up a lot of energy in the warm-up that we could have done with at this point.
Brad gave me everything out there but finished with fuel in his tank, sound and happy looking for the next fence. Should I have pushed more and been further up the leader board than 37th? Who knows, and I won’t look back on that instinctive reaction now. That would be not to trust myself, and it was that trust and my partnership with my brave, brave horse that got us home when so many did not.
Looking back now the Shogun Hollow was the scariest moment. At the Lake I wasted time but, hell, I just cleared the ‘Big Lake’, the one I have been dreaming of since I competed here in the 2012/13 Grassroots Championships (now the Mitsubishi Motors Cup). I’ll take that!
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Find out how David fared on dressage day and discover how his cross-country preparations are coming along
I may not have ridden the racing lines that the top riders used, but I will analyse the footage and be better here next year.
Brad finished minus a hind shoe so extensive icing was required there as well as his legs and other feet. He trotted up well last night and we are shortly to do this again before final inspection in front of the house.
I know we are both well capable of a clear in the showjumping arena this morning. I will focus on the quality and height of his canter, wait for the fences and let him do his best.
Pick up this week’s magazine (dated 2 May) for the full H&H Badminton form guide, pick up next week’s issue (dated 9 May) for the full report and check back to the H&H website for more news from the final day of competition.