We left sunny Dorset on the Monday to arrive at mid-day at the wonderful Badminton Estate! Our plan was to arrive at 1:30 to have plenty of time to find and equip stables and to take Ester for a walk around the open fields for a munch of grass after our arrival! And to then grasp an amazing opportunity to walk the xc course with Yogi! However… when does any plan take place to time on a bank holiday Monday?!? So what actually happened was we went arrived at the gates at 2:15! We parked up just by the entrance; I jumped out and walked the course with 10 minutes to work out where everything is!! But I managed just in time to get there successfully and have a lovely and frightful but still enjoyable course walk!
Course walk with Yogi
So, the course walk was amazing, such an fantastic opportunity! I had previously looked at the images of the course to get a rough idea… but the photos did the fences no justice!! I was absolutely mortified by the technicality of the course but managed to squint at complicated fences and walk past them without scaring myself too much without thoroughly analysing them! Yogi was hilarious in the way of how to ride the fences! The cross country course app was recording what he was saying and he would tell us how to ‘properly’ ride the jumps before giving lovely and calm impressions of the jumps! It was very funny! He gave some excellent tips of which I will use when walking all of my future xc courses and hopefully to be very tactful!
The night before stressage!
So, after the course walk I popped on back to the lorry to realize that I had been almost 3 hours course walking! So I collected my tack to then take a venture to the lovely stables that had been set up to find my pony nice and snug in her stable! We then had a venture round the estate whilst practising some movements in our dressage test! After that my mum and I set up camp in the lorry before tucking into snacks, hot chocolate and (of course) a harry potter film!
So I had a long wait before my 2 o’clock dressage test! The wind was traveling at high speeds and the rain was unstoppable! It was most certainly the least ideal day to EVER ride a championship dressage test!!
It got to about 10am and the rain had died down, the winds were still causing flying tents and gazebos! But the wind was slowly recovering the ground from the rain! At 11am we had a massage slot arranged for Ester! She thoroughly enjoyed her massage and remained very calm in the very scary and flappy stables!
The dressage test
And of course, with my luck the winds picked up during my warm up! Surprisingly Ester warmed up absolutely amazingly and I think both me and my trainer Ben were both very shocked to how calm she was in the winds! So with an excellent state of mind to go into my test it was hopefully going to be a calm and positive test! But my nerves completely got the better of me and went straight to Ester! However, she felt like she went amazing, with only a few faults of tension but nothing was a concern to me! Especially with the weather conditions! After my test we sorted Ester out and dried her after the showers and I looked at my test and of course it wasn’t our best due to the wind, and it’s such a shame because I have put in so many hours of practising this dressage test and getting her so accurate; Me and Ben both have! So it was slightly disheartening to see a score of 33.5 but it was just the start!
After feeling completely blown away it was time to get a bite to eat and head off to the competitors party! But there was a different plan! I was a bit unsure on some of the lines to take out cross-country course… so who else better than there was to ask then my instructor who has trained me for 6 years?!? So after my dressage we headed off to the badminton grounds to re walk the course! After marching around the whole of the course in 20 mins… I was 100% of my lines and had all of my points of reference! I was still a bit panicked about my course so, to ease things up we took a stroll around the 4* course to help relieve the worries of my (what seemed tiny) course!
And then at 7pm we were meant to head off to the drinks party however, Ben, me and my mum decided that we were all exhausted and very hungry so we took a drive down to a local pub and enjoyed the luxury lighting and a lovely meal before our busy and gusty day ahead of us tomorrow!
As expected it was blowing an absolute hooley and the Mitsubishi flags were flapping out of control and there were hats, wrappers, paper and poles flying everywhere! So with the tension high I began to warm up for the exquisite hours ahead!! Ben thoroughly walked and talked through the course so that every line and angle was to absolute perfection and I was very relieved that I was 110% of the sj course!
I entered the ring and I could hear nothing apart from deadly whistles of wind! And I could just about hear a whisper of a bell… so I began my round! I rode up the slant to number 2 to see that the pole was rolling frantically on the cup! I was so cautious over this fence as I know what it’s like to be marked as having a pole when it was the wind the caused it to fall off, even after being jumped! But luckily it stayed up! I knew I had to attack at all of the fences to make the distances and to be successful! I rode into number 6 whilst lining up to the double and she jumped the line ad made the distance perfectly! We finished the course and my heart was in my mouth! I came out the ring with such high spirits after thinking I had jumped a clear round before I was painfully told I had a pole down! I had absolute no idea so I rushed into watching the video of my round to realise that I had rolled a pole of which I had no idea how it fell! I didn’t think I was anywhere near it and I think the video proved that too! So I think it was the wind, but I don’t think there was any point in pointing it out! So I was marked down with a pole! I was absolutely gutted as this was our first pole in 2 years of eventing!!
The cross country
I was absolutely devastated about the pole we had been counted for but, nevertheless Ester was a superstar and she had put in so much effort and of course, she kept me safe and sound! Even with the wind dragging her back, she kept her full attention on me! So going into the xc warm up I was reminding myself of the course before warming up with specific ways of approaching all of the fences to hopefully help me out of the course! We warmed up over a log and approaching the brush on an angle and then increasing the angle! I was extremely happy with how ester warmed up with angles being our weak point and this helped me believe in us as a combination but believing that the course wasn’t entirely impossible!
I made my way down to the starting box and I was raring to go! Usually I am never to keen to leave the start box, but at badminton I was filled with so much inspiration and I was so happy and delighted to be in such an amazing place and riding amongst the best riders and this level! I left the starting box and we were finally away… the day I have always been waiting for! I had an amazing crowd of supporters around the course and it was so awarding to hear them cheer! My favourite experience/ memory of the cross country course and infact my time at badminton; was galloping along the strip to approach fence 4 alongside the Badminton House! I will always remember the feeling and sight of looking up at the house in absolute awe! Not only am I on Badminton estate.. I am currently completing my dream! And that feeling cannot be bought! Later on in the course i had stupidly misjudged 2 very complicated lines to result in 2 very unfortunate run outs! But to complete the course and to have cantered through the finishing lines… I was ultimately fulfilled!
My time at badminton was simply magnificent, exquisite and so personally unique and I will remember my time for the rest of my life! I met some of the most amazing people and I know I will definitely stay in touch with them for a long run! I have tackled a course that people failed to finish and at the age of 14 and on a 14.1 cob I am satisfied with the results in finished with!
So I just want to finish with saying a MASSIVE thank you to my amazing trainer Ben Liles who stayed in the back of his car to help me in every discipline and with all of my troubles! And of course so much thanks to my amazing mum who has helped me complete my dream all on her own with very tough circumstances! Last but not least thank you to all of my sponsors who have helped me and provides me with the most amazing clothing and products and of course to EWW (editor, journalists and all of the photographers!) for granting me with the most amazing role and such an amazing opportunity of which I have met some amazing people!
So a huge thank you to everyone and a huge well done for all of those who competed!!
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