Saturday morning at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials has an atmosphere all of its own.
There’s a mix of excitement, nervous energy and apprehension, but certainly for me there is also a very strong feeling of solidarity.
Everyone hopes for the same thing, and it feels like all of us riders are against the course rather than each other at this point in the competition. I walked the course for the final time on Saturday morning and finalised my planned route, (with a few plan Bs and Cs thrown in) and felt positive, albeit slightly apprehensive, at the prospect.
The wait for cross-country is always painfully slow, but once on and warmed up I felt ready for the challenge.
Splash sprang out of the start box and catapulted himself over the first — and that’s how he continued.
He pinged his way round, jumping like a pocket rocket. He is so nimble and yet so brave at the same time. There were numerous moments where he helped me out, and numerous moments when I helped him out, because we are a team and I think a pretty good one at that.
Although we were up on the clock to about half way, I backed off when he began to feel a little tired, which I think mainly due to the deep and somewhat tacky going.
We came home with 28 time penalties (which was about average for the day), but also with a horse that felt really good considering how tired many other completing horses were, and with our all important clear jumping round in the bag. He recovered amazingly quickly and was very perky and as sound as a pound that evening.
Sunday morning dawned with beautiful weather again. Splash trotted up well for my vet, Alex Knott, and then for the ground jury at the final horse inspection.
I don’t tend to do a lot in the showjumping warm-up at a three day as I don’t want to leave the good jumps in the collecting ring. The course was causing carnage with poles falling everywhere and time faults aplenty, but Splash was on fire and jumped his socks off.
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As we turned to the last, we were still clear and up on the clock, but I just got a bit ahead of him in my attempt to be quick and he flattened, therefore rolling a pole for four faults.
Such a shame, but what a horse. I feel so honoured to ride such special little chap and I am unbelievably excited for the future with him. I’m also supremely grateful to his owners, Catherine O’Connor and Merna Merrett, for allowing me to ride him.
He has joined his class mates from the young horse championships at Le Lion d’Anger 2014, with Ivar Gooden, Toledo de Kerser and Pamero 4 going very well too. Huge thanks have to go to everyone who has helped me in getting here. It has taken me many years to achieve this, with a lot of hard graft thrown in, but moments like this make it all worthwhile.
The support from friends, family and even strangers has been insane, especially my Mum, Dad and wonderful partner James — thank you all, it’s very much appreciated. As for Splash, it’s time for a little holiday, and (fingers crossed) then the run-up to Burghley!
Jonelle was a worthy winner and Classic Moet deserved this accolade. They are both so brave and sassy — I love the way that the jumping phases carried so much more weight this year with, I think the new scoring system playing a key part in that. Great job Jonelle!
In this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, out on Thursday 10 May 2018, don’t miss our full report from Badminton Horse Trials, including in-depth analysis, expert comment, pictures and more.
Also check out our interview with the 2018 Grand National-winning jockey Davy Russell and we have reports from showjumping at Chepstow, racing from Cheltenham and Newmarket and much more.