All eyes are on Badminton!


Everyone in the team is happy at home, the weather has become more settled, and it’s great to be getting my teeth into the season. We’re already delighted to be notching up some good results with horses at all levels. We’ve just had a busy few days competing twelve horses at Bicton International Horse Trials, and a pretty successful trip it was too.

All of the horses put in great performances, and the ones we decided to ride competitively for the time XC all came home with super prizes.
Day One we took home a 2nd in the Advanced-Intermediate class with Alcatraz, finishing on his super dressage score of 29.
Zagreb was having his final run before Badminton and had a very steady XC but a double clear, and great dressage still earned him a lower rosette.
Bonmahon Blue Mist had a much-improved outing and performed a great test for a score of 27. Just one pole added in the SJ resulted in a solid 4th place in the Intermediate class.
Hester produced a brilliant dressage of 25, much improved from my first attempt with her. We’ve only been together a couple of months but I feel we are beginning to build a partnership, and the trust is growing. Watch out for this one by late summer, there are magic things to come from this horse.
On Saturday, Shannondale Aristo put all three phases together well and finished on his leading dressage score of 26 for a classy win.
Kilcannon Dude was solid in the dressage and SJ and we gave him a very steady XC round for experience. This 5-year-old has settled to his job fabulously.
Sunday was flat out with three Novice runs and the completion of the International 2* and 3*.
6yr old, Shannondale Mari contested her first 2*; she has only done two Novices but she took it all in her stride and produced solid performances in all three phases looking classy throughout. In a huge field, she finished on her dressage score for a fab top 10 place. (Could Le Lion D’angers be calling later in the year? ;) )
Our fantastic mare, Quindiva, who is now owned by the Roe family just keeps impressing. In he first 3* she held her own amongst a very large and competitive field. She allowed me to ride her in her dressage as if I was at home and produced a relaxed and consistent test for a great score. Her jumping never lets you down and I would be hard pushed to see a better display in both the SJ and XC. She was totally awesome and was rewarded with a top 10 finish.
The Novice boys all enjoyed a good outing. Ginger Gold led the dressage, but a couple of poles show jumping pushed him just outside the rosettes. Ardeo Premier was full of beans; although he was a little distracted at times he is feeling stronger and more connected. We saved his legs and didn’t run him XC as he goes to Withington next weekend. His lovely owners, Debbie and Neil Nuttall aren’t putting any pressure on me to have him peak too soon, and there is plenty of time for him to shine.
The weekend was closed with another solid performance from Newmarket Cobbler, a double clear and good dressage earned us a 4th place. Another top 5 finish for this guy.

I feel the recent disappointing decision by British Eventing (BE) to remove the International status from Bicton’s event is a really bad one. It’s demonstrated that the South West is being totally overlooked by BE. Bicton is far superior to many other venues on the BE circuit. Both Bicton and Pontispool are exceptional venues. They each have a wonderful undulation to their courses, the surfaces are great for the show jumping, and the dressage areas are good and flat. At Bicton, Helen West and her team are extremely enthusiastic, and the army of volunteers that they are able to draw upon to help at their events ensure they always run incredibly smoothly. It helps that Helen, as a course builder and event organiser, is such a current rider, who looks at the whole business from start to finish through a rider’s eyes. It’s a real shame that BE have made this unfortunate decision at the start of the season. Let’s hope that they will take advice from the Event Riders Association (ERA) and perhaps change their minds.

Moving on, obviously I hope the horses all maintain their current form and learn from each competitive experience they have. There needs to be a good understanding from everyone in Team Bragg of the results in the ‘story arc’ for each horse’s career. I prefer to be kind to all of my horses and give them good experiences each time so that they keep on enjoying it. My ethos is ‘focus on the performance and the results will follow’, that way we always have at the forefront of our minds the horse and their wellbeing. There’s a reciprocated general decency and respect if you offer up that mind-set to the horses.

If I am who I am, and remain true to my ethos, then I firmly believe the right thing will happen at the right time.

And when good things happen I’d rather do them with a good team, so you can celebrate the wins together. The team who prepared and cared for all of the horses over the weekend (and week in, week out) deserve huge thanks; it was a very hot few days and they all worked amazingly. It was great fun to enjoy a drink with the owners at the end of each day too. As I like to say, teamwork makes the dream work, and Team Bragg rocks!

Badminton is now in sight, and I’m really excited about it. We had to pull Barrichello as he has unfortunately tweaked a little ligament behind his knee, which means he’s ‘off games’ for a recuperation period.

I know it might sound odd, but coming to Badminton with just one horse to focus on can be a bit like a fun ‘holiday’! Zagreb has been drawn number 65, so it’ll be quite a relaxed start to the event before ‘show time’. It’s been quite difficult preparing him out of the winter, especially with the spells of cold weather, but hopefully we’ve got it right and he’ll get there in super condition. If conditions are not absolutely perfect for his run we will have to make the right decision for him on the day. Fingers crossed the fine weather continues. He’s fifteen now, so for every big run – as he won’t have millions of runs left in him – we need to make sure they all count. There is no pressure from the owners; they just want what is best for him.

Since the season started the horses have settled in and are being consistent in their work. They’re all out in the fields, which temperament-wise makes them easier to manage. The freedom in the fields relaxes them. It’s good for their feet, their bodies, their respiration, and their wellbeing. We have them all in separate but adjoining paddocks, which is nice so that they can feel like a herd, without any potential for injuring each other with too much horseplay. We’re so lucky with our set-up at home; it’s grown organically since we moved here with a natural progression of what goes where.

Looking forward to whatever will be. Give me a ‘whoop’ if you see me on the course (maybe not in the dressage phase!). And don’t forget a whoop for the horse that Eventing Nation recently amusingly referred to as a ‘hunk’ (Simmone thinks he is too!)

And keep an eye out for Ces and Lucy’s Pontispool-owned, ‘Ginge’ (pictured), who has now progressed to Novice, and continues to do good things. As always, I want to give massive thanks to them for allowing the use of their facilities throughout the season to get my horses in tip-top shape.

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