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2017 was a great year for Team Bragg Eventing – although not without the inevitable ups and downs you get in this amazing sport that I love so much.
After the absolutely thrilling highs of the first couple of days at our first Badminton where Zagreb and I were lying in eighth position overnight after the cross-country, we then had the crashing disappointment of being sent to the holding box in the trot up on the Sunday morning and then withdrawn because of a bump to his stifle. That’s the rub of the green though, and we went home obviously disappointed, but glad that our boy was in one piece and had learnt valuable lessons for the next time we happen to be in that gorgeous corner of Gloucestershire.
In July, we had some great fun and even WON the Lavazza Prize for the Combined Jumping, Eventing and Driving Competition aka the ‘Ride and drive course’ in the main arena at the World Equestrian Festival at Aachen in Germany. First the riders jumped a course appropriate to their discipline before they left their horses and ran to the four-horse carriages to take them full speed for another round in the arena.
The atmosphere in the stadium was electrifying – basically we were in an arena the same size as a football stadium with 40,000 people screaming and cheering us on. It was quite nerve-wracking if I’m totally honest, and to settle the nerves I tend to start joking around, so I was giving a few fist pumps to get the crowd cheering some more, then the nerves went and I was having a blast as was Redpath Ransom.
I like to have a little bit of a spark and sense of humour around everything I do – it is a serious business, but you need to be able to laugh about things and enjoy life. I think our sport, when you’re not on a horse, can sometimes be a little monotone and boring, maybe not so much boring, but serious – after all it is one of the most dangerous sports you can do. Formula One motor racing drivers have cars built around them for protection. Event riders are just perched there on their horses with trust and skill holding them together – living on the edge with the adrenalin buzz feeding through your veins, that’s why we do it and love it so much. That buzz is addictive.
My ultimate aim for 2018 is to get to the World Equestrian Games at Tryon in North Carolina, USA in September (11-23). Whilst I would really love to go, Badminton is – and has to be - my first goal of the season. Every eventing season, like so many things, is like a big jigsaw puzzle – you have to get the first part in place if you want to have a chance of completing the puzzle. In fact, my main aim is to win as many competitions as I can, because I’m not at ALL competitive! Obviously it’s not that simple, but yes, Badminton is my first big goal and it will be very competitive, which suits me.
This year we will be aiming to do as well or better and then see what happens with the selection for WEG.
Once the season finished in October all the horses had a good long break from work, and have now systematically come off their breaks in December and January so that they’re now all back in work. They’re doing a few dressage and show jumping competitions as gentle warm-ups, and of course I love that we have the perfect facilities at Pontispool to use for all our cross-country schooling needs. We’ll also be concentrating soon on more fitness work so will be using the gallops for real from mid-February to get fit for Badminton.
I’ll give you another update towards the end of February to let you know how our preparation is going. In the meantime, let’s hope this rain eases off sometime soon.