As we set off in the lorry for Badminton last week (1 May), I couldn’t quite believe that we were on our way.
As far as build-ups go, ours wasn’t exactly textbook. Like everyone else, we were affected by the weather. I rely on light mornings and evenings and dry fields for my schooling as I commute 2hrs each way to the Horse & Hound office in London everyday for work.
I was riding my 15hh coloured mare Jasmine (Jas), who I’ve had for a year and a bit, in the BE90 2013 championship. We do a bit of eventing for fun during the summer and we have a great time together.
Our horses usually come out of the winter very fit as they hunt with the Warwickshire. But this year Jas developed an odd skin disease — not mud fever and thankfully not contagious — and was only able to hunt once. It lasted all winter and into the spring, and it wasn’t until a month before the Grassroots that I really started to think we might get there.
I had a couple of great lessons with Louise Bell in the final week. She has been teaching Jas and I for more than a year and totally gets us. She is a working hunter specialist — and also does dressage very successfully — so she has really made me concentrate on sitting up and showing off my horse and not throwing away silly marks.
We arrived at Badminton on the Wednesday afternoon, grazed Jas and made sure she was happy in her stable. I then walked the course as I knew I would be tight for time the next day. It looked fantastic — beautifully built with a good mixture of straightforward fences and more tricky combinations. It was much more technical than the average BE90, but I thought all the questions were fair and couldn’t wait to ride round it.
The atmosphere was brilliant — probably helped by the lovely weather — and the lorry park was buzzing.
We were all up early on Thursday morning and I was pleased to see that Jas was quite chilled. She prefers to be outside, so we took her back to the lorry and gave her some grass before I plaited her.
Our dressage was at 9.18am, so I hopped on board at half past eight and took her for a walk before warming up. I was so pleased with her test and we scored 30.3. Jas was in her element strutting her stuff.
She hasn’t jumped very much this year and was slightly explosive in the showjumping warm-up, which made us all laugh. We were definitely in hunting mode as we started the course, but we both managed to contain ourselves and Jas jumped a super clear.
What a ride I had cross-country. The course and the going suited her perfectly and we finished well inside the time. She towed me back to the lorry afterwards and looked like she could have gone round again — credit to Vicky, our amazing groom, who keeps the show on the road when I’m working.
While we were tucking in to the wine and picnic back at the lorry, I learned that we had finished fourth. Prize-giving in front of the house was a lovely end to a great couple of days. The event certainly had a real championship feel to it and as an amateur it’s a privilege to ride somewhere so special.