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Wow, what an amazing few months! At the beginning of the year I could only have dreamed to be ranked 21st in the world and 11th in Britain by the end of the season, with Mrs Sally B. Ellicott’s Zagreb ranked 20th in Britain. I’m totally blown away by it all.
It’s been an incredibly busy and rewarding season, and due to its non-stop nature it’s quite nice to come to the end of it so we can have some family time and a long chill out. We’ve got a holiday booked, because we realised when we were in France, that family time was long overdue and necessary after we’d completed Boekelo.
We had a wonderful week there in the Netherlands and with just one horse to focus on it was a mellower week than the usual ones spent on the circuit. Shannondale Percy is a relative youngster at eight-years-old and fortunately our fairly new partnership has gelled really well this year. Being on a team adds an extra dimension and possibly a bit more pressure. You’re all truly in it together and digging in to get your best results. You obviously need to focus on your own performance as an individual but you also want your score to be counted in the team, so you’re absolutely giving it your best.
Being part of the Nations Cup team that sealed a series victory was pretty spectacular. Ending the season with Team GBR as 2018 champions called for a lot of celebrations, followed by some late night lorry driving, and especially some singing. Well there is a new Queen/Freddie Mercury biopic out…
At this level, you have to keep your eye on the prize, and the Olympics are something that every event rider strives towards. We have a lot of great horses in our yard that should all be hitting the prime of their careers for Tokyo. Young, vibrant, championship teams are a huge goal of ours. And they need to be! If we weren’t focusing on that there’d be something wrong. We’ll be pushing hard in the spring to catch the eye of the selectors for the Europeans next year. Don’t get me wrong, everyone realises the Olympics are a tough gig to get into, especially now there are only three riders picked for the team, with the fourth as a substitute member under the new Olympic regulations, so there’s additional pressure. But that’s what we have to focus on and prepare for. The quality of combinations in GB made it a tough decision for the selectors to pick five riders for WEG and now they can only take three for the Olympics. Whilst other championships are hugely relevant they don’t have the same impact on funding for our sport. To do well at the Olympics is vital. We have a huge amount of training and support depending on it and it would be a tragedy to lose that.
We’re ending the season on a massive high; it’s been absolutely great, with our new horses having proven themselves especially well since first coming onto the yard. The second half has been much stronger, mainly due to having had six months to get used to them. We’ll keep the momentum going with lots of training through the winter, and aim to come out with ‘all guns blazing’ in the spring.
By next summer we should have seven or eight horses at 3* level. I’m very proud to look along the stables at the quality of horsepower we have and it’ll be a wonderful team to play with next year. We’re off to look at some new horses through the winter to hopefully join our ranks. It’s vital to always be on the look out for the next superstars. The championships run on a 4-year cycle so each horse may only get one of these cycles in its prime to compete, and as it takes so long to produce horses to this level you need to keep the process of horses coming through the ranks continuously.
We’re very close to all our owners and try and spend a lot of time with them. When you finish cross-country your first concern is with the horse, cooling them down, washing them off, and usually the owners are with the team on the spot. But if they can’t be there either because they’re based abroad or due to work commitments, then it’s crucial to be in touch with them on the phone as soon as possible after you’ve finished to give them an update on how their horses have gone. We’re constantly trying to improve on how best to communicate with owners if they can’t be there, through time management, planning, whatever it takes. We value our owners and we want them to feel cherished.
We definitely finished the season better than we started. It’s been totally relentless – as well as a lot of fun. When you go to an event, there are so many commitments with horses, owners, sponsors, press, organisers and so forth. Now, even in winter there are the same sorts of demands.
We all do the sport for the love of the horses and competition but it’s important to realise that the business side is crucial. Without support and money the job wouldn’t remain sustainable; you can’t win medals on baked beans.
Happily the feedback that we get from our owners and future owners is that they want to join us because of the overall package. Everyone here is smiling and happy, and to us that is massively important. Having everyone on board sharing in the journey and experiencing it together makes it much more enjoyable. We’re always looking to the future and taking the positives from every situation is as important as highlighting the negatives. That is the ethos we want to express.
We spend so much time on the yard it’s literally in our blood. Sometimes things happen that will rock our world and there are bound to be occasional off-days. The children are a great distraction at times like that, and when all else fails – red wine helps!
I don’t consider this a job; it’s a lifestyle – one that I wouldn’t swap for anything.
The main XC course on grass closes for schooling on Sunday 4th November for the winter months.
Our Arena XC will be open for schooling from Monday 5th November (fences from 80 cm upwards) and can be booked online from the website.
Well, what a time we’ve been having since I last wrote here!
From Chepstow at the beginning of July, where we took five horses and Dancing Ghareeb
aka ‘Mr Consistent’ finally got his reward by winning the Novice class and Cooga Hat Trick
claimed third in the Novice Regional Final, it’s been non-stop ever since.
At Barbury, in scorching hot conditions, the team worked exceptionally hard and most
brilliantly and we had really great results with the six horses that travelled. Alcatraz did
fantastically to earn second place in the Intermediate, Quindiva was third in Novice, Zagreb
claimed a great fourth and was well on his way to Jardy for the Event Rider Masters leg in
France. Bonmahon Blue Mist came sixth in a huge class of ninety! Shannondale Percy did
really well with 13th in the his first CIC3* and King of the Mill proved himself well enough to
move up to Intermediate on his next outing.
The next week, ooh la la, we were ‘en France’. Zagreb, Alcatraz, and Percy were
representing Team Bragg at the Event Rider Masters 5th Leg at Haras de Jardy, and what an
experience it was. The venue is set in the grounds of the superb facilities that were formerly
a famous Thoroughbred stud and now the largest equestrian facility in France.
Alcatraz performed a lovely, consistent test for a score of 31 on the first day in the 2* and
ended up in 9 th place at only his second competition with me. Shannondale Percy also
performed very well the following morning to come 3rd in the CIC3*. Zagreb, in the ERM, did
an impeccable dressage test in the late afternoon, scoring 23.6 – which sat us at the top of
the leader board overnight. I may have had an extra glass of wine out of excitement that
evening – well, when in Rome, erm – France!
Zagreb only went and won the competition on his dressage score! I went out a little keen in
the show-jumping and ‘Lord’ Zagreb (as he became known by the end of the event) showed
his class by helping me out and going on to jump brilliantly, over six seconds inside the time.
It was an absolutely amazing experience later that afternoon to be on the top of the
podium, showering my buddies Tim Price and Izzy Taylor with champagne – and those
Formula 1 guys are right, champagne in the eyes really does sting!
To top the ERM event off for the team, our terrific head groom Heather Brannan won the
award for the 5th Leg ‘Super Groom’, which was awesome and so well deserved – we
couldn’t be prouder.
From France we went to Dauntsey and then onto Aston-Le-Walls. The team at Aston did an
amazing job with the ground. It’s super to see your start fee going to good use and it was
hugely appreciated by all of the riders. Bonmahon Blue Mist and King of the Mill both
showed consistent form to each come 3rd in their classes. They are both really talented
horses with exciting futures. Cooga Hat Trick did a steady clear XC in his first Intermediate,
and Quindiva performed really well and I can’t wait for her next competition.
Then we headed off to the beautiful Isle of Wight for the first event to be held at Osborne
House. A stunning setting with fantastic weather where the horses all did me proud with
Alcatraz coming fifth in the OI, and Barrichello earned a podium place of third. Will definitely
be heading back there next year. Bede Events should be proud of running such a great event
and London Capital & Finance Plc put on the most amazing hospitality for all our owners.
Following a great time at Wilton with wins for Cobalt de Dugny (100) and King of the Mill
(Intermediate), a 3rd for My Lucky Day (Intermediate) and a 7th for Ginger Gold (100), we
were off to Gatcombe for the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing. Here Shannondale
Percy and Barrichello both put in super-cool performances. Percy finished in 2 nd place in the
intermediate championships and Barry certainly didn’t disappoint at the 3-star BCO (CIC)
where he ate up the XC like a pro to finish 9th. He also won the trophy for the best young
horse (at 9-years-old) in the top ten.
Then Team Bragg continued onwards to Homme House in Herefordshire. Shannondale Mari
produced a lovely dressage test of 28.5 jumping a very confident double clear to finish 3rd .
Shannondale Pete also jumped a great double clear in his first BE 100. Ardeo Premier gave
me another double clear. It gives me such a buzz to have such a talented string of young
horses with fantastically supportive owners. Quindiva had a run in the Novice as preparation
for Hartpury and she bossed her way round giving me my fourth double clear of the day.
Ellouise (Team Bragg Junior) was also competing and posted the best dressage of 26. A slight
spook in the double was costly but she jumped a perfect XC round. Proud Dad moment was
Then, just to prove that horses are the greatest levellers we are just back from Hartpury,
where it just wasn’t our weekend with any of the horses. They all jumped well, got safely
round, but it wasn’t to be.
I have to say how privileged and lucky we are to have such lovely horses to ride and amazing
owners that support us fantastically. My support team at home (and, of course, on the road)
does an amazing job keeping the Team Bragg tidal wave pushing on! I’m thrilled that my
partnerships with the horses seem to be gelling so well with them all and am consistently
thrilled at the results. We are especially lucky also to have incredible sponsors that improve
so many aspects of the horses’ life from their bedding to their fodder to their fitness, even
Team Bragg is such an exciting rollercoaster to be on and I love every minute.
A few weeks ago we were at Nunney International Horse Trials – a beautiful setting in Somerset, and one of our most local competitions. Team Bragg was out in full force, with many of our owners able to attend the event.
Nunney did a magnificent job with the course surfaces considering we’d not had any rain for such a long time (not complaining by the way, as the snow is still a recent memory!) When the ground is firm you have to be sensible how competitively you intend on running your horses cross-country; pick the right moments to gallop for the time (maybe if you’re trying to qualify for a competition) or choose to save your horse’s legs for another day (maybe he has flat feet and feels the hard ground, etc.). Remember, you can only win on a sound horse.
All the horses jumped well and all of the owners were smiling at the end of the day. I did run a couple a bit more carefully due to the ground conditions, and of the nine entered, eight ran; we pulled Ardeo Premier due to the ground being a touch hard as he’s one of the babies with a big exuberant jump. Quindiva had a nice steady schooling round in the Novice section.
Cobalt De Dugny, one of the youngsters, a lovely grey, was going round in the 100; he dithered a bit going into the water. We had to jump over a fair sized brush into it. When young careful horses see brush fences they tend to want to throw a big jump to clear the brush instead of travelling through it. Cobalt saw the water behind the fence and hesitated as he was unsure where his feet were going to land. He’s a young and inexperienced horse but very capable, and it’s important at this stage for them to learn to go forward and through the flags. Whilst our entry into the pond wasn’t the smoothest, with a little encouragement he jumped through and out over the skinny well. He will log this in his memory and hopefully negotiate this type of question with more confidence in the future.
Shannondale Mari completed her first event with us in the 5yr old class at Nunney. She performed a lovely test and finished double clear on her dressage score for 6th place. She did a fab job considering we only went XC schooling a few days before. She a brave little firecracker and will be one to keep an eye on!
Then we had team training with Barry, Percy, Alcatraz and Zagreb to help prepare for the Summer Internationals. We left the yard at 4.30am for Aston-Le-Walls, and didn’t get home until 7.30pm – but it was worth it; all of the boys had great lessons and gained some additional experience away from home.
Following some feedback I thought it might be useful for you to get a little insight into how our yard works, from what information we provide our wonderful owners to who keeps the yard running like a smoothly oiled machine. I’ll probably add to this over the coming months.
Part of the service we provide to all of our owners, as you would expect, is to provide them with a full ‘post-match’ report for each horse after an event if they can’t be there, in order to let them know how their horses have done. We send emails and text updates and will ring them up after an event. Behind the scenes every owner will get the full rundown on each of their horses, with as much information as possible. We continually review our plans and try to make decisions for future events together.
Dr Sarah Hughes currently resides in the USA so keeping in touch like this about her horses’ progress is very important. Courtesy of Sarah we have been blessed with the company of the fabulous, Frog and Field photography to take photos and ‘behind the scenes’ film of course-walks and of her horses; they effectively act as her ‘eyes’ on the ground in the UK. They spent a week with us at Tattersalls, which was loads of fun and as you can see from the pictures on social media, they did a great job. Of course, lots of our other owners and supporters will take photos and share them, and all of this is fantastic for our team profile, and raises our presence on social media.
Heather is our Head Groom. Although she only started with us in October, in those eight months (through all the snow and ice) she has proved that she’s worth her weight in gold. She is the most laid back, loveliest person you could meet. The horses adore her and she is like my right arm. Her day probably starts at 5am, and doesn’t end until gone 7pm, and she is on the go for pretty much all of that time.
Becky Stokes has worked for us for nearly three years – she’s incredibly hard working, reliable, and helps out with the riding. She has her own business and is a qualified BHSAI and has Stage 4 riding and horse care qualifications. When she’s not working with us, she looks after horses at different yards and teaches for the local Pony Club. She also competes her own two horses.
We’re having lots of fantastic moments this year – from Chris Gould’s recent acquisition, Masterclass Ramiro (aka Ronaldo, aka Ronnie), joining us as a project to bring out next year, with all the breeding and raw ingredients making him a thrilling prospect, to the recent win on Chris Gould and Roseanne Cutsforth’s Dancing Ghareeb at Chepstow and Matt Stanford and Emma Floyd’s, Cooga Hat Trick booking his place at Gatcombe Festival in the Novice champs. There’s also the excitement of being long-listed for WEG in Tryon, North Carolina with Zagreb, but there’s a long way between then and now, but it is rather wonderful to be considered.
I’m writing this off the back of a very exciting win at Rockingham in Leicestershire at the weekend. I got the first and second placingswith Barrichello (Barry) and Shannondale Percy (Percy) and ended up with identical scores for both horses, which was pretty incredible. Barry got first place with a score of 28.30 penalties – dressage score of 24.3, and 4 show jumping faults. Whilst Percy got second place, ALSO with 28.30, but a dressage score of 27.5 and 0.8 time faults cross-country. It made getting up in the middle of the night and leaving the yard at 1.45am all worthwhile, and the journey home was a pleasure after that success.
It feels like the season has now well and truly started. We’ve got a very exciting summer and autumn of eventing ahead.
Obviously this weekend we have Pontispool, which is going to be very exciting – I’m taking five horses on Saturday and five on Sunday – which will be my 100 and Novice horses. I’ve also got three in the regional Gatcombe final. Ellouise - aka Junior Bragg (the first!) will then be competing on the Monday. She competed at Millfield last weekend, and had a super dressage test and cross-country round and just missed coming into the combination quite right in the show jumping to have a pole down, but she thoroughly enjoyed it and had a really nice time. I found it really nerve wracking as a spectator, and it was good to put myself in the shoes of everyone who watches me from the side lines in order to get a bit of empathy for how they feel – especially Simmone.
After Pontispool, the big lorry will be at home all packed and ready to leave on Monday night for Tattersall’s in Ireland – I’m taking three over there (in fact writing this has reminded me I better book the ferry!) Cooga Hat Trick will be doing the 6 & 7 year olds CCI*, ShannondalePercy the CCI**, and Barrichello the CCI***. Pontispool acts as the final preparation run for Tattersall’s – and it feels so good to be hitting form at the right time for the International competitions.
When you’re riding that many horses, and find yourself walking the course at 6am, it’s really reassuring to know you have a truly great team behind you. I might be the guy at the head of the team, but it’s all the other guys making the cogs turn smoothly to ensure all the horses are immaculately turned out and I’m wearing the right things on the right horse with the right number at the right time!
Following the tragic events at Badminton, I’ve said a lot about my old pal, Reeko aka Redpath Ransom, who devastatingly had to be put down due to irreparable injuries to his suspensory ligament on his right front leg. The way I look at it is that I am really grateful for everything that horse has done for me. What I’m most proud of from what happened is that all of the owners and everyone within Team Bragg rallied round and supported each other and Simmone and me.
Zagreb and Redpath Ransom came up through the grades together, and we built the entire yard around them. They created the whole ethos around the team spirit here. When tragedy strikeslike that it makes you realise how special thefeeling is here in our own particular extended eventing family; how everyone here cares about each and everyone, and cares about the yard. I’m very proud that those horses have created thatfeeling – and fittingly that’s Reeko’s legacy. Of course, I cherish the memories of the amazing round at Aachen we had, but more that he was a really integral part of setting up our yard.
People have shared videos and photos of his last day when we were going around Badminton and those shared moments have been magic. He went out in the best way possible – the way he skipped through the lake, and the cheers from the crowds, he was living it and loving it right up to his last moments. When we were in the start box, I had supporters cheering and giving me high fives; we were both so relaxed – with him and me together as a partnership and a team. We shared some really amazing and great moments.
Sadly, they’re the highs and lows of eventing. It makes you really appreciate the good times. It takes good people to ride the rollercoaster with you – one minute you’re up high, and the next so low down. Cherish every moment. Reflect and reassess and do it together. As they say ‘Team work makes the dream work’.
With that we’re all really looking forward to Pontispool this weekend, because their particular special team always put a great course together. I shall need plenty of Jelly Babies to keep my energy levels up! I hope to see you there, cheering me on.
Pontispool are delighted to be supporting Devon Air Ambulance at our forthcoming BE Horse Trials on Saturday 26 May 2018. All monies collected on the gate will be donated. Please give generously to such a worthwhile cause.
Last year Devon Air Ambulance celebrated its 25th anniversary, as well as flying their 25,000th lifesaving mission.They are now flying up to 17 hours a day, including into the hours of darkness.
2018 looks like it’s going to be equally busy, with a
further extension of flying hours planned to 2am.
Did you know?
Devon has two Air Ambulances; one in Exeter and the other in North Devon
Last year it cost £6.4 million to keep both aircraft flying
Every single penny needed is raised or donated by the community, businesses and friends of Devon
If you would like to make an even bigger difference you can get involved by:
Holding a fundraising or sponsored event
Make a donation
Leave us a gift in your Will
Become a volunteer
Donate unwanted items to our charity shops
Find out more about us via our website or social media
If you would like to find out more please do get in touch with a member of our fundraising team on 01392 466666, email [email protected] or contact us via our website at daat.org
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!)
Having a busy yard full of horses, in order for everything to run smoothly we have a very regimented routine, as you might expect. I’m a creature of habit; I’ll start every day with a bowl of Alpen. The girls all start on the yard at 7am, with the horses’ morning feeds, mucking out, and then tacking up. I give the girls a list of instructions for the week – as in which horses I want to ride in what order, and they work through the list. I’ll get down there to start riding at 8am and keep riding until we’re done.
In the case of all our local events, Aldon, Bicton and Pontispool, I aim to take ten to twelve horses. There’s a three day turnaround – and each day is rapid to say the least. Come the Monday after each competition I’m wiped out, wondering where my mind’s gone, but you just climb aboard the next horse and carry on with your weekly routine.
To the average rider, it will sound physically exhausting but professional riders are used to it. We need to keep as fit and supple as our horses, and with the daily routine you maintain a good level of fitness just by riding. If your fitness is off, your balance can be off, which is no good at all in this sport!
I regularly see a physiotherapist who has taught me the importance of lots of stretching. My physio’ works with the horses as well as me. As I’m in the World Class programme our physio’ is the UK Sport Physio’ – so she’s the best in the country and has given me lots of tension bands to stretch into. This helps to sustain suppleness and symmetry – to help keep and maintain your balance.
I also have an inversion table, which helps me by hanging upside down on it, which stretches and relaxes me. I also build my core strength by doing sit-ups on it. I tend to try and multitask – amazing for a man, I know - and will be doing stretches whilst I’m brushing my teeth in the morning, and anytime I’m not on a horse. I would notice if I didn’t do it.
You can feel yourself not being so manoeuvrable on your horse if you have any stiffness or tension in your body. Whilst I may not run up the gallops any more after the horses I do find that course-walking also helps to keep you fit.
I’m very aware of the importance of rehydrating – I find that on competition days there are lots of bottles of water left everywhere for me to help me keep sipping away. The girls and my wife, Simmone are very good at reminding me and making sure I do keep taking on water. Another thing I have a good supply of on competition day is Jelly Babies – they really help keep the energy levels up, plus I find them quite addictive – maybe @MaynardsBassett would like to sponsor me?! #jellybabies
Training for all the event horses is properly firing up. Last week we took six out onto the gallops on Monday and another load out the next day. They’re all ticking over nicely, and we can start looking forward with some excitement to the season ahead – especially now that pesky snow is out the way (fingers crossed!)
We have fourteen event horses to compete and they’re all getting primed and ready to rock and roll. In the future it’s possible that I will have lots more five and six-year-olds and the yard might also grow as the season goes on – but in order for smooth running and a good transitionary period to integrate new horses into the routine it’s best to do it a few horses at a time.
The first event we’re aiming at is Aldon (18-20 March) – we’re there for all three days and we’ll be taking nine or ten horses. To the non-professional event yard it may seem a bit daunting but when you have that many horses competing, you make sure you plan everything to the ninth degree – from running order, to the time to get on each horse, to the right dress – whether dressage tails or cross country colours or whatever. It’s pretty intense. To be honest it’s easier at the higher level, perhaps with the better regiment of organisation at the events. It can be harder at the smaller competitions.
The excellent training facilities at Pontispool are only forty-five minutes away from our yard in the lorry. We’ve utilised the Arena XC course several times through the winter months, which has been splendid for our fitness levels.
The gallops there are first-class; they’re circular and you can go round and get a nice rhythm going, which is obviously essential when you’re training. For part of the year I also use Phillip Hobbs’ gallops, as Phillip has more hill climbs, so you can get a proper ‘pipe opener’ run before a big event.
My good friends, Ces & Lucy at Pontispool, came to our charity ball recently and loved it. They have kindly given me a new ride, Ginge, an ex-racehorse who is with us training to be an eventer. He will be going from BE100 and hopefully step up to Novice this season. Ces & Lucy are excited at the prospect of having an eventer; Ces (Richard Mitford-Slade) got his trainer’s license for racehorses this season and has already had some thrilling wins. I think for eventers to get racing people interested in the sport is a good way to join up the different equestrian disciplines. It’s occasionally rumoured in the racing world and eventing world everyone thinks the other lot are snooty – but neither set of people are! We’re just a bunch of people with the same, but different, interests at heart – horses and sport, with our own distinct disciplines and we can all get along very nicely.
We are incredibly fortunate to have the support of Pontispool and their super facilities, and now an event horse to bring on too. Exciting times.
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.
You'll find results on our results and photos page.
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