I have been going to Badminton as a spectator (& shopper) for many, many years. I can remember going with my mum when I was in pony club and that was over 30 years ago!! After a few years walking the Mitsubishi cup course, I set myself a goal to try and qualify for it.
So to have my goal realised and qualify in 2016 was unbelievable! Now begins the build up to getting my horse fit, trained and ready to go and try to do our best around the famous and magnificent grounds at Badminton in 2017.
I will start with a quick introduction to myself and my Horse Hollyhatch Highflyer (Aka Blue). I live and work on our farm with my husband and two sons in the New Forest. We mainly have cattle but also breed New Forest ponies and more lately part breds (The New Forest is such a good breed to cross with a TB) I fit riding in around working on the farm, paperwork and the school runs. We turn ponies and cattle out on the New Forest so Blue, along with others, is sometimes used for rounding them up and generally riding round and checking them when I’m not competing her.
Blue is an 8 year old homebred New Forest x TB mare. She’s by a prolific show winning New Forest stallion called Farriers Fingerprint and her dam was an ex hunt horse, a good national hunt type TB. I did try and sell her a few times when she was unbroken (thankfully she didn’t sell!) I backed her at 4 but she was quite immature so went back out in the field to mature.
She started eventing when she was 6 and had a reasonable first season visiting many new venues and taking it all in. Towards the end of the first year we were getting quite consistent with our show jumping and Xc (apart from being a bit slow!) but I thought I really needed to improve our dressage, if we were going to be competitive, so i asked Nicola Buchanan if she would help me. I use to dread the dressage part of eventing, my legs would turn to jelly and I wouldn’t breathe the whole test and be so glad it was over!! Nicola has helped me improve and taught me so much that i now quite enjoy the dressage and look forward to it. (I can’t believe I said that!) I’ve even joined BD and had many outings this year in between eventing dates.
So at the beginning of this year my aim was to try and get at least one regional ticket, luckily that came, in April, at my local BE Larkhill where we were second! The best BE result I had ever had. It then took me till June to get another one and that also was another milestone in that I Won my first BE90 at WestWilts with a dressage of 22!!!! I couldn’t believe it, finally everything we had trained for had all come together on the same day. In true eventing style (one day your up next your down) in my next event at Rackham, despite getting another great dressage score, I had one down SJ and went the wrong way not once but twice in the Xc! (I was so cross with myself) however it was a good lesson learnt and in our next outing at Treborough (after walking the Xc twice!) we managed another double clear for a 2nd place finish. That was it job done 3 regional tickets that gave me three bites at the cherry to try and qualify for the Mitsubishi Cup.
I decided to go to an early Regional final qualifier at Firle International for my first go. Although I had never been there before and was a bit unsure what it was like, I just wanted to get on with it. I generally always go on my own to competitions as I find I can concentrate a lot better that way, I can remember setting off at stupid o’clock incase I got caught in traffic and feeling so sick with nerves. It was very windy and cold when I arrived at Firle, I went and walked the SJ and then the Xc, then I went back and walked the Xc again! The dressage went ok under the circumstance (nerves) I don’t go and get my dressage score until I’ve finished everything generally, as I don’t feel it helps me in either way. I went clear SJ and then it started raining and we had Xc still to do but I didn’t need to worry she steamed round all the fences within the time. I hadn’t a clue how I was going in the placing as I had stayed away from the secretary tent all day. After I washed, cleaned and tucked her up in the lorry I made myself go take a look at the score boards. I got a 27.8 for my dressage and was lying in 2nd place and unbelievably that’s where I stayed!
I rang my husband Alan, (who bless him had been putting up with me twittering on about my regional and whether or not I thought she was fit enough or my dressage was good enough blah blah blah…) WEVE DONE IT!!!! I did shed a few tears of relief and joy! I went and gave Blue a big kiss and gave her another carrot! I had also avoided my phone all day and all my friends were following on the various web eventing pages and sending me messages and calling, it was really lovely to have so much support. The lorry trip home, even on my own, was a good one with me Singing very loudly to my dogs!!
After qualifying for the Mitsubishi Cup this winter’s training with Blue through the cold, wet and dreary days has a different feel about it. Great excitement along with twinges of nerves and worry. Lots of planning, training and competition dates are being written in the diary. I have even started going to Pilates, as blaming my lack of core strength on childbirth from 9 years ago quite frankly isn’t a valid excuse anymore!
So Blue has been back into work after having her holiday of 6 weeks. I have got a bit of fitness work into her already and we’ve been hunting a couple of times with our local packs the New Forest and the Wilton. I love lessons and training with different people, I have a done our first bit of training at the end of December with a flat/show jumping lesson with Eric Smiley, through the BE training, which I really enjoyed and has got me motivated for next year.
Show Jumping training with Eric Smilley
Blue is such a special mare to me having bred her and now we’re going to Badminton Horse Trials together! Just qualifying for the Mitsubishi Cup is unbelievable for me. I’m looking forward to sharing the build up and our experience at Badminton with you over next few months
Kate & Blue