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With hardly any competitions to go to in the build-up to this season (22 BE events were cancelled due to snow or waterlogged ground between late-February and the end of April) finally, last weekend, the weather came good and managed to provide a full weekend of eventing. ‘Team Bragg’ took eleven horses to Bicton International Horse Trials, so it was a bit of a full-on whirlwind of prepping and changing horses, and it’s times like these when you’re thankful for having a fantastic support team behind you. Things progressively improved as the weekend went on, after a very hot and intense Friday it cooled down a few degrees for the rest of the event and I found my rhythm again.
It was a great kick-start to the season proper for the team and me. Due to the bitty, stop-start nature to the season so far, it has been very difficult to get into the swing of things – for all of us - but Bicton allowed me to get into my riding flow again and by close of play I felt like I did at the end of last season once more, which was a pleasing position to get into. By Sunday I felt like I was back in the zone and I’d got my mojo back.
Touch wood, my preparation for Badminton is going to plan. I’m taking two horses, Zagreb – who did fantastically well there last year until a slight injury ruled him out of the final phase - and Redpath Ransom. Zagreb has been drawn 5th to go, Redpath 82nd - if you ride more than one horse they give you one in the first quarter of the day, and one in the last. So we’re five from the start, five from the end. Thanks to the recent dry weather I’ve been able to start training on grass and have jumped all of the horses on grass at home. Zagreb, who’s only been run once so far this season, is going cross-country schooling at Pontispool this afternoon. He’s feeling good and is on track – I don’t want to say more than that, as I don’t want to jinx us before the day. I’ll be taking Redpath Ransom along too to go through the water several times. Then later on today we have the BBC coming to the yard for a couple of hours to do a pre-Badminton profile, which is rather exciting.
Now is all about priming the horses; when you’re a week to ten days away from the event the bulk of the preparation work is done. They’re as fit as they can be after the patchy start to the season. Their bodies are as supple as they can be. Their minds are in a really good place. I know the horses inside and out. I know that this horse will need to do a couple of runs through his dressage test, and the other one needs to practise jumping water trays. It’s all about last minute tweaks.
For Zagreb for instance it’s more important in the last week of preparation to get his body in the best shape rather than needing a run out. They are either a Badminton horse or they’re not; there’s no point working them really hard in the run-up to one of the biggest contests in the world and taking them there sore. Their bodies need to feel fresh. We’re turning them out a lot so they’re nice and calm and totally chilled.
When you’re this close to Badminton, you’re just a hair’s breadth away. It’s an anxious time and you just want to get there so you can get on with the job in hand.
For the horse inspection (aka fashion parade!) on the Wednesday, Timothy Fox has once again provided a beautiful new waistcoat, jacket, and tie – they’re such a lovely company and will help me look a bit dapper. Mackenzie & George have supplied me with some belts and Simmone will also probably be wearing some of their accessories – they do fabulous hats. I’m going to wear my usual boots in order to mix it up a bit and put the Bragg stamp on!
As far as preparation goes then, the horses are as ready as they’ll ever be, the lorry will be loaded up with all our kit in the next few days, I’ve got my fancy outfit picked out for the trot up and my all important supplies of Jelly Babies are topped up along with plenty of water.
We have a massive crew of Team Bragg supporters coming up to cheer us on (and if you’re going to Badminton and see me go round, please give me a cheer!)