American rider Emily Hamel has enjoyed a change in fortunes over the past month to line up at Badminton Horse Trials, the event presented by Mars Equestrian. Four weeks ago she had surgery on her knee after a “stupid accident”. At that stage she was uncertain to make the trip over the Atlantic as she was on the waitlist. However, an extra incentive to heal quickly materialised while she was recovering from the operation, when she moved into the proper draw.
“It wasn’t even a riding injury,” she says. “I was grooming a horse and I bent down and my knee just went the wrong way. It wasn’t good!
“It’s hanging in there. I have tape on it for riding and I try to wear a brace when I’m not on a horse.”
A Badminton debut has been a well-crafted plan since the autumn, though Emily has had to make huge sacrifices financially. After clear cross-country rounds on both her five-star attempts last year, Kentucky and Maryland, she felt ready for the challenge.
“I made a plan to come in the fall, and decided I had to figure out how to save money to make this trip possible,” she says. “I rented out my house, so it’s a big help to have no mortgage for a year. I rented a place in Aiken in the winter, stayed in a client’s pool house in Pennsylvania and now I’m renting a place in Cheltenham.
“It’s a whole different thing to compete at Badminton – a completely different atmosphere to the American events,” she adds. “There are so many spectators and it just feels like such a big deal.”
Emily Hamel: ‘He’ll do most things for carrots’
Her test on a bonny little grey, Corvett, left her 77th on 39.5 but dressage wouldn’t be the 15-year-old’s strongest phase.
“I was just excited to be in the ring so I tried to take it all in and also ride well,” she says. “He was feeling pretty fresh but overall I’m pretty happy and excited for tomorrow.
“He’s a hilarious horse, with lots of character,” she adds. “He’s very particular and tries to give new people a hard time and won’t let him catch him. But he will do most things if you have carrots.”
And so the adventure continues. Emily plans to stay in Britain now until after Burghley, with Corvett staying at Mike and Emma Winter’s Gloucestershire yard.
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Read our full Badminton form guide in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound (issue dated 5 May 2022). Our bumper 20-page Badminton report will be in our 12 May issue.
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