Badminton 2019

My first words on Saturday morning were ‘I don’t think I can actually move my legs’.  Friday had been a busy day.  I’m just in the process of upping my exercise again now that I am 10 months post hip replacement and feeling pretty invincible.  Nevertheless, I had the motivation to crawl out of bed – it was Badminton cross country day!

The Journey

We left home just after 8 with a rough journey time of about an hour.  I had made the error of suggesting we leave at 7 in order to really beat the queues but that didn’t go down very well with driver Alex!  We did hit traffic on the way into the trials but it was moving and I was excited so it didn’t matter.  It did give us the opportunity to look back at pictures from 2 years ago (our last Saturday visit) to see that we had left an hour earlier and hadn’t hit any traffic.. who had the better idea eh?

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The Shopping

I’ve done Badminton, I’ve done Burghley, Blenheim, HOYS, Your Horse Live, pretty much all the big horsey shopping opportunities and Badminton has got to be the best.  I’ve had a big shopping list for pretty much the last year (!) so I’ve been saving my pennies in case I saw anything from the list at Badminton.  I did!  I managed to snaffle some HALF PRICE Tredstep Donatellos from Townfields Saddlers so that I finally have some smart black boots that fit my skinny calves.  I also visited Emily Cole’s stand to treat Alex to some new oven gloves, Hiho for a new leather bracelet and Colne Saddlery to get some more bio reins and a bit for my spare bridle.  At the end of the day I snuck back to Gibson’s Saddlery to try on/fall in love with Woof Wear’s new Fonte Verde Marvao’s in cognac..  woops!

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Thank goodness we don’t have endless funds because we were very tempted by the Ifor Williams Eventa and basically all of the horse boxes.  Badminton is the perfect place to dream big!

The Action

Despite the lasting effect on my bank balance (and probably a large percentage of the other visitors’), Badminton is not about the shopping.  It is about over 50 supersonic horses and their brave riders, doing a dressage test (when all they want to do is jump), pinging around a showjumping course (when all they want to do is gallop) and flying around Badminton park over mental cross country obstacles!  The later was what we witnessed on Saturday.  We started walking the course at fence 6 and steadily made our way around from fence to fence, seeing a different rider at each.

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The Shogun Sport Hollow (fence 10) was the first scary hairy one we saw – there were some big leaps over the ditch onto the bank the other side.  The combination of the Outlander Bank at 13 and the allegedly straightforward Rolex Grand Slam Trakehner at 14 were the next to have me swearing in awe!  The fence that gets me every time is undoubtedly the HorseQuest Quarry (at 30) – maybe I have an immense fear of banks!

Favourites for me were Ben Hobday on his newest super cob, Harelaw Wizard.  He’s just so personable and I love his penchant for chunky horses with dinnerplate feet!  I also love seeing Pippa going round, she was my idol when I was a child, sitting at home watching the TV and she still is now.

The Return

Last year (pre op) I went to Badminton on crutches so to be returning and walking the whole course (and shopping village) this year without any real problem was awesome.  I did get to a point where I was dead on my feet and at that point we trundled off home, just in time to do some quick midwifery.  Two years ago I hand raised four lambs and this year they are having their own lambs.  Buttercup (one of my babies) was having a bit of trouble delivering what turned out to be a big bouncing baby girl so my small hands were drafted in to help.  What a special end to a special day!

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Falling In And Out Of Love

Time for a confessional to address a slightly taboo subject – falling in and out of love with riding.

Before I start, just to clarify, not a day has gone by where I haven’t loved Pea.  Even in the early days when sometimes I couldn’t catch her for love nor treats.  Even when her tankiness caused me to have plastered fingers for weeks.  Even when she reared whilst being held by my ‘horses are dangerous’ boyfriend! I’ve never fallen out of love with Pea or horses.

There has also never been a point where I haven’t wanted to WANT to ride.. Just the achieving the wanting has been hard.. Have you got that?

ANYWAY, I have had my fair share of roller-coasters when it comes to how I have felt about riding (even having only started five years ago) and in the interests of honesty I thought I’d share my experiences and tips.

The Lows

Unhappy Hacker –

If you’ve read Riding – How It All Started you will know that I had a major confidence wobble right at the beginning.  There was a time when I didn’t want to leave the yard.  I even walked miles and miles leading a horse when I was too scared to ride it after half a hack!  And cantering our? Forget it!

There have been plenty of days when I have opted not to ride because I had no-one to hack out with.  If I do go out alone, I never go far.  I’m too worried about what might happen if something went wrong.

Confidence/Nerves –

The confidence issues continued.  Prime example being the time I managed to enter a hunter trial but turned into a complete nervous wreck/stranger and ended up falling off due to losing all control over my own limbs/ability to do anything!

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A special mention also goes to the preparation and occasion of my Level 2 Diploma riding assessment – there were a LOT of tears.  The utter fear of assessment is something that really affects me.

Pain –

If you are reading this you are probably aware of my hip situation (if not, you’ve got a lot to catch up on.. My Hip Story).  There have been many many occasions when I have forgone riding because I couldn’t face the pain and the after effects on my hip of having ridden.

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The Highs

The Summer Of Jumping –

There was a time when I did weekly clear round (small) jumping, jumped a yard horse 1m 15 in a ‘Chase Me Charlie’ and was happy to go to a friend’s house and jump their horse!

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Happy Hacking –

Also, in what feels like a past life, I was hacking out three a day!  Kilbeggan Blade/Brian (an ex National horse) and Bobby (a 4 year old driving pony just starting ridden work who I also competed at Intro dressage) alongside Pea.

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Horse Confident –

As I’ve said, in the past I was jumping onto different horses left right and centre, even riding the yard’s most infamous team chaser AND I went to try horses and ponies for the yard owner.

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Finding My Goal –

The catalyst to writing this post was that right now, with a new hip and a dressage ambition – I am SO in love with riding. I have a very long way to go before I get to where I want to be but I’m happy I’m on the right track.

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What I’ve Learnt

– Identify the problem. Be honest with yourself. What is the reason you’re leaving your riding kit at home or using other avoidance tactics?

– Find what you enjoy and stick with it. If you don’t want to jump, don’t. If you never want to ride in an arena, don’t. If you don’t want to hack alone, don’t!

– If you want to make a change, don’t be an island – allow someone to help you. If you need to build your confidence, book a lesson. If you need a hacking buddy, find one! If you’re struggling with your horse, get someone else to ride it and see if they can help.

– Measure your success against yourself and be realistic with your expectations. Albert Einstein wrote ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’. If yesterday you wouldn’t walk over a coloured pole, don’t expect to be eventing any time soon.

– Celebrate your successes! Walking over that coloured pole may have been a massive achievement over your confidence issues! Celebrate that!

– Be aware of the Olivia Towers ‘stretch zone’ theory (read about it in Tips from HOYS). You’ve got to branch out of your comfort zone a bit but don’t tip yourself over the edge.

– If you don’t like something – change it. Are you avoiding going for lessons because you’re not keen on your instructor? Find a new one.

– Go with the flow. Accept that sometimes you will feel better than at other times. If you’re feeling good, roll with it.

There are some loves worth fighting for!

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