Thank you, Horse & Hound for giving me another chance to share our journey with you, although this time in our build up for the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Although when I blogged for Badminton I was a genuine first timer, this won’t technically be my first trip to Burghley.

15 years ago, when I was blonde and didn’t have a grey hair in sight, I had two horses entered there — one broke down two weeks before the event and the other knocked himself in the dressage test so we had to withdraw before the cross-country. I am certainly hoping for better luck this time around with our special homebred horse Absolut Opposition (Miley).

While Miley was enjoying his well deserved post-Badminton holiday, we headed to the beautiful Le Loire valley in France with two horses to compete in the three-star at Saumur.

The only problem all week was trying to control our owners who were taking full advantage of all the fabulous local wines but Abbeylara Prince (Abs) and Elite Syncopation were on top form.

We finished as second best Brit so came home with rosettes, plaques and instead of winning a customary dandy brush, our prizes included breadsticks, pasta, olive oils, plenty of wine…and thankfully lots of euros which helped pay for the journey home again! We also came back with the great experience of being part of a team GB camp, getting the chance to ride around a Pierre Michelet track (cross-country designer for the Rio Olympics), plus we now also have another horse qualified for our second crack at Badminton in the spring!

Another really beneficial spin off from Saumur is that Yogi Breisner (the British eventing team’s coach) has since been coming to the yard offering his wealth of knowledge and experience which I’ve been soaking up like a sponge.

Cracking on with Miley

For our first run back after Badminton and Saumur, we headed up to Scotland for Hopetoun CIC3*. The boys were super excited to be at a party again although I have to confess that I was somewhat concerned by quite how large Miley’s tummy had got — he looked more suitable for the heavyweight hunter class! They all jumped fabulous double clears though and the perfect ground conditions and superb cross-country tracks totally justified the long journey up there.

Barbury was our next stop. After a PB dressage test in the CIC3* we were all comprehensively stopped in our tracks by an evil stomach bug passed on to us by my son Toby. Not a bad strike rate to have rider, groom and granny all completely incapacitated for 24 hours, so we unfortunately had to withdraw both horses after the dressage!

We did get a welcome remedy though by receiving a phonecall from Yogi that Sunday evening to say that Abs would be entered for the European Championships held at Blair Castle this year as a reserve.

Litchfield Perdita before the CCI2* trot-up at Hartpury

Litchfield Perdita before the CCI2* trot-up at Hartpury

Curve ball

Just when you think you’ve got everything nailed and on the right roads, we were thrown a curve ball and had to move yards, which wasn’t really the ideal preparation for Hartpury Horse Trials which is where we currently are this week.

We have four horses competing here although while we were driving down the M4 at 9.30 on Tuesday evening, we realised we only had three passports on board.

Bogrant, who I’m riding in the CCI* doesn’t normally live with me and his owner, Margaret forgot to pack his passport with his pyjamas and overnight bags (don’t worry, she’s sat in the lorry with me as in writing this and has volunteered that I can share that indiscretion!). Thankfully my best friend from junior and young rider days lives next door to Hartpury and so we dropped him off at his B&B there before arriving to the competition stables at 11pm. The next twist was that in the 100 yards between dropping Bogrant off and Hartpury, we managed to get a flat tyre on the lorry. It’s not often you can phone emergency breakdown cover and say they’ve actually got a five day window before we need to continue our journey!

Anyhow, our week is getting better. Margaret arrived with the passport a full 10 minutes before our trot-up time and both horses (as of Thursday evening) so far have done good dressage tests.

This will be Miley’s (pictured top before the dressage) last run before Burghley, so we will be using it as an important time to tune up and finish confident, ready for our upcoming major target.

Whether you are building up to your first BE90 or at the top of our wonderful sport, we all know that it is fraught with problems, disappointments, hazards and injuries (equine and human!).

To counterbalance that, it is full of wonderful people who help solve those problems when they arise, cheer when you succeed, and are there during the difficult times. So as I prepare for the vets inspections, dressage, showjumping and cross-country tests this weekend (ably assisted by Candice my lovely not to mention very capable groom), I will take a minute and acknowledge just how incredibly lucky I am to be doing what I do. To be supported by family and friends, and, to be riding horses that I adore, each and every one of them.

Nana

Next blog: The real focus for Burghley begins