Behind every event rider is the essential support team; mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, grooms, sponsors, owners….. They are often the unsung heroes of the sport spending hours providing their rider the back-up they need to succeed.
One such person is Simmone Bragg, wife of Alex Bragg. Alex and Simmone enjoy eventing from their base at The Poplars, on the outskirts of Bridgewater, with their three daughters Ellouise, Sienna and Florence. Simmone is ever-present at all of Alex’s events, and with multiple horses to ride, it is she who makes sure that everything runs like clockwork.
Eventing Worldwide caught up with Simmone at Alex’s final British Eventing fixture of the season at Aldon Horse Trials to find out the highs and lows of the 2015 season and the success of their new syndicate.
It’s the end of another busy season for Team Bragg, with Alex concluding the season on a high finishing fourth in the CIC* at Aldon Horse Trials with Eventing Worldwide’s The Night Traveller. It has been a great season for the team who are based within easy reach of some of the country’s best events. As the tack and lorry is packed up for one last time, Simmone has time to reflect on the last eight months as the other half of an event rider and the highs and lows it has brought.
So how has the year been for Team Bragg? Simmone describes it as a roller coaster. She says: “It’s been trying because our two best horses Zagreb and Redpath Ransom (both of whom Alex competed at CIC***) were off with small injuries, so we missed some of the really big three day events. But on the flip side it has allowed us to go and get some really talented youngsters and bring them on. And we’ve had some amazing results. Eventing Worldwide’s LVS Stonehaven’s Quebec did a 13.3 dressage and Bloomfield Tiger Two did a 14 so we’ve got some dressage divas on the yard. So whilst it started off a bit gloomy now it has gone full circuit and has been fantastic.”
As a result, she said it hard to pick out one highlight of the year. “Picking a highlight of the year is really difficult as each horse has massively improved. For example, The Night Traveller has just come fourth in his first CIC*, the young horses have been unbelievable and the top horses are coming back in so it feels like we are full steam ahead.”
So what is a typical event day like as the other half of an event rider? “Event day for Team Bragg usually involves getting up at 3am in the morning and bundling the children into the lorry in their pyjamas, making sure the picnic and prosecco is on board,” laughs Simmone. “I guess my role is very different – I try and interact with the owners, deal with the children and help Alex and then I leave the rest to our groom. It’s always full on but I like it like that. I absolutely hate watching Alex. I think I have gotten worse as I have got older as I used to watch. I’m quite happy watching the dressage, I peep at the show jumping but I’d definitely rather not watch the cross country. I always make somebody ring me when he crosses the line. I was never brave enough to ride at this level so I’m able to live my dream through Alex but I get really nervous for him.”
With thoughts of next year already in Team Bragg’s minds, what have they got in store? In Simmone’s mind it is hard to plan because horses never go exactly to plan. She continues: “Sometimes you get to the end of the season and you feel tired. But I’m a bit sad that the year is over – it has come to a quick end. And I’m looking forward to next year – we’ve got a really good team of horses so we hoping it all continues as it has been. The young horses all went out for their holidays after Osberton and they will all have a month to six weeks off. The older horses will have three weeks off – it’s quite a short break – and then it’s straight back into again. It’s not much of a down time for either us or the horses. We always try and come out with a plan. One thing I learnt is that you can have an idea of what you want to do but it always changes.”
The year saw Team Bragg introduce The Ladies Club syndicate for Bloomfield Tiger Two. The idea behind the creation of such a syndicate was to allow Alex to bring on talented horses for the future. And it has been so successful, Simmone is hoping to see this grow next year. “We had a change around and had some syndicates this year which is really new to us. We wanted to get some young horses but with running them we had we couldn’t afford to do it. So we needed to find a way to keep the good horses at our yard as trying to find just one owner was really difficult because they have such an outlay. I came up with the idea of having syndicates for these horses and it has been a great success. It has taken off better than I could have ever imagined. The Ladies Club has been so much fun – they are the loudest people here and cheer all the way and it has been such a good time. There is no pressure with them and it has allowed us to keep the good horses and run them through the event season. It’s something we’re definitely going to carry on next year and look into running another syndicate too.”
Simmone believes the key to their success is team work, and that without their support they wouldn’t be
able to achieve what they have done. “We are really lucky that we are and have a fantastic team to the core” she says. “We have amazing support around us and our team is fantastic. It is the best thing about eventing – the team you have around you. It’s like one big family. It’s not just one person that makes it work, it’s everybody. Without my mum and dad we wouldn’t be able to do it. They help so much with all the little things that people forget about – they are unbelievable.”
With a young family, Simmone and Alex have their hands full. But their three girls love the eventing circuit just as much as they do – they all ride and belong to the local pony club. Simmone says of them: “Ellouise, the eldest, is fantastic as she’ll hand graze the horses for us and help whilst Sienna and Florence are here for the fun. They love it – if I say to them you have to be up at 3.30 in the morning, do you want to come or stay with nanna and grandad nine times out of ten they come. It’s very rare they don’t want to be involved.”
Sarah Carless Reporter at Large