The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials cross-country morning is unlike any other. There are lots of very nervous people in attendance and the atmosphere is pretty sombre. I took Splash (Drumbilla Metro) for a stroll first thing before walking the course for the last time and finalising my planned route.
Being early was great — it didn’t give me too much time to overthink things and we sprung out of the start box on time, feeling great. It’s such a thrill jumping those huge fences at speed and our boy flew over the first three and bounded pretty effortless down the steps at four and five. He was very amenable jumping six and nipping inside the tree, before boldly jumping the corners on a curving four strides and flowing over the huge log pile that followed.
We were on time, absolutely flying down to the Shogun Hollow and I was really enjoying myself! The pagoda backed him off slightly coming in to the Shogun Hollow and Splash threw quite a big jump over the ditch killing the pace slightly, but then jumped the log from nothing — a great effort on his part. We cruised down the hill and he made the Footbridge feel like nothing.
We quickly got to the Outlander Bank and as we jumped on (pictured above), the revs went to zero and we came to a halt at the second part. I turned to jumped the alternative and he wasn’t keen, but picked up and jumped it for me. It’s very unlike Splash to stall like that — I wasn’t sure he felt himself on approach and landing of either route, so I pulled up to make sure all was OK.
I made a quick decision to hop off and make sure he was alright. Checks by the vets show that he’s absolutely fine, so I’m really pleased, but I know my horse, and something wasn’t right. We live to fight another day and I am absolutely over the moon at how he was travelling before this moment as we were on time and he was making it feel really good fun.
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Disappointed, yes, but very happy that our horse is OK. I cannot thank his owners Merna Merrett and Catherine O’Connor enough for their support. It’s a rollercoaster journey for all involved and they are extremely good at seeing the positives and moving forward.
Splash is an amazing little horse and we will be back!
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