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12
APR
Alex Bragg's Latest Blog

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

14
MAR
Alex Bragg's Latest Blog

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.

24
JAN
Alex Bragg's Latest Blog

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.

5
JAN
Prizes for our Unaffiliated Horse Trials in March

We are delighted to announce that Treehouse Sporting Colours, Connolly's Red Mills and NAF are all kindly supporting our Unaffiliated Horse Trials on 24th March 2018. They will be providing prizes from 1st to 3rd for all sections.



www.treehouseonline.co.uk

Body protectors, air jackets, cross country colours, horse racing silks, riding hats.

A personal and bespoke service specialising in equestrian safety wear, racing and cross country colours.

Treehouse are equestrian enthusiasts, the team offer an expert, qualified and personal service to all.

info@treehouseonline.co.uk

Phone: +44 (0)1299 851625


www.redmills.co.uk

Top event riders, trainers and breeders choose Connolly's RED MILLS.

Connolly’s RED MILLS is quite literally the feed of champions.Their horse feed formulations provide all the nutrition high performance animals demand, using the finest of fresh, natural ingredients to support digestion, wellbeing and performance.

You can be confident you are feeding a fully balanced diet, perfectly tailored by our expert nutritionists, to deliver all your horse's dietary needs.They work closely with vets and research departments of leading universities to bring the latest nutritional technology to their products, and to you.

info@redmills.co.uk

Adam Johnson, Equine Sales Rep - South West of England Email: adam.johnson@redmills.co.uk

Telephone: 07860 771 063


www.naf-equine.eu/uk

FIVE STAR FOR THE BEST PERFORMANCE WORLDWIDE

NAF are passionate about both horses and the products they manufacture to keep them healthy, happy and performing at their very best. They offer an extensive range of products; from joints, breathing, hooves, digestion and calming supplements, to silky mane & tail detanglers, super shampoos and luxury leather care.

info@naf-uk.com

Helpline: 0800 373 106


15
DEC
NAF Kindly Supporting Eventer Challenges and ODE

We are very pleased to announce that NAF are kindly supporting our Eventer Challenges on 14th January and 24th February as well as our Unaffiliated ODE on 24th March 2018. They will be providing prizes for all classes.

NAF are passionate about both horses and the products they manufacture to keep them healthy, happy and performing at their very best. They offer an extensive range of products; from joints, breathing, hooves, digestion and calming supplements, to silky mane & tail detanglers, super shampoos and luxury leather care.

Please visit their website www.naf-uk.com/uk for information on their products or contact the helpline on 0800 373 106.

20
NOV
BE Horse Trials Dates 2018

Our British Eventing Horse Trials dates for 2018 have been confirmed and we are running on:

Saturday 26th, Sunday 27th & Monday 28th May.

Saturday 15th, Sunday 16th & Monday 17th September.

Put the dates in your diary!

17
OCT
Sponsored Rider - Alex Bragg's latest blog!

The 2017 season is drawing to a close and hopefully it will finish for us on a high note at Pau where we head next Sunday evening with Zagreb and Redpath Ransom. It’s a long drive down to the south of France but it’s a great event in a lovely setting.

Zagreb went there last year and was fifth. Fingers crossed we’ll follow that good form next week. He’s really stepped up to the mark this season. We were unfortunate not to be selected for the Europeans but maybe it was a good thing as he went well at Gatcombe and then won at Bicton. He was also eighth at Blenheim in the ERM3*. It was a nice run around for us as he has plenty of experience and we really enjoyed it. It was great that the showjumping and cross country were so influential as otherwise it becomes a dressage competition. The ground at Blenheim was fantastic too. I’d forgotten how nice it is riding there, as although it is undulating, it’s very smooth and has a really good flow.

Redpath Ransom had a busy first half of the season and was placed at Strzegom, Aachen and had a top 20 finish at Luhmuhlen. He was also fourth in the eventers’ Grand Prix at Hickstead where he had the fastest time, but had an unlucky pole. It was great to ride at Hickstead and the experience was great. He’s had a lot of little breaks and he’s really fresh and ready for Pau now, so fingers cross for a good result.

The young horses have all progressed very well this season and I hope next year they’ll step up to intermediate so that I start to have more horses at the higher levels to support the two big boys. I’d love to have a proper crack at the ERM series next year but to do that I need more horses at that level so that Zagreb and Redpath Ransom can continue running in the three days.

The classes suit me down to the ground as I’m quite an attacking rider, they’re so exciting to ride in and its great to be a part of the series. The prize money is fantastic, each leg helps raise your profile through the publicity surrounding it and the build up, live footage and interviews are all brilliant

There’s a great team behind the series that work hard to make it exciting. That's what the public really engages in, and it makes it so much more interesting. This season they made huge improvements on last year and I don’t doubt that next year will be better again. They added Europe to the series this year, and next year there will be an American leg – it’s fantastic! I watched each leg as its so exciting to watch, and I’m competing every day!

Our girls have been busy competing in showjumping and one day events. Ellouise, who’s nearly 13, will affiliate next year and ride in BE80s and 90s. She’s been working her socks off and we have some nice horse lined up for her. Sienna has been competing a lot too while Florence, who is only seven, is proving utterly fearless. She’s a point and jump girl! I think they’ll be taking over the yard soon.

We’re at Westpoint in December for the South West Equine Fair, which is exciting. It will be interesting, educational and fun – well that’s the plan anyway!

For some reason, I’m also on the official poster for next year’s World Equestrian Games jumping out of the page – which is great. Maybe it’s an omen – that would be really nice. I’ll certainly be giving it my best shot!

It’s been such a great season, but none of it would be possible without my sponsors who are Pontispool Equine Sports Centre, Protexin, Devoucoux, Gatehouse, Mark Todd Collection, Griffin Nuumed, Gain Feeds & Dengie.

10
JUL
LOOSE DOGS CAUSE ACCIDENTS

DON’T BE IRRESPONSIBLE

Dogs to be kept on leads at ALL times when using Pontispool facilities. This includes course walking before competitions.

If any dogs are found off a lead, owners will be fined £10, which will be donated to the air ambulance.

7
JUN
Sponsored Rider - Alex Bragg's latest Blog!

Badminton was an amazing experience with Zagreb. I don’t think I have ever had so much fun across country. When we completed everyone who had come up to support us was crying, cheering, laughing, and there were a few bubbles mixed in too. Between us we felt every emotion. It was frustrating on the Sunday that we couldn’t show jump as he’d bumped his stifle and we decided to save him for another day.

The build up involved three months of intense preparation for Zagreb so that he was able to peak at the show and the hard work paid off as after the cross country he recovered well and his heart rate returned to normal after a short time.

By Monday he was sound and on the Wednesday I rode him and gave him a good stretch. Since then he’s had three weeks of light hacking and time out in the field giving his muscles plenty of time to relax and recover and now he’s gradually coming back into full work as preparation begins for the European Championships in August, where I am hopeful of selection. He proved himself to be one of the best horses in the world as that was one of the toughest courses seen for a very long time. He was best of the British after the dressage and cross country phases and we have both gained so much experience, despite not going showjumping.

With these big horses you aim for two big shows a year – one in the spring and one in the autumn, and the rest of the time is spent in preparation.

You have to build up fitness levels so that you get that all important one hundred per cent out of your horse at that show. If Badminton had been two weeks earlier he might not have been quite ready, two weeks later and I might have over-cooked him.

Redpath Ransom didn’t get into Badminton but I was asked to be a part of the Nations Cup team competing at Strzegom in Poland, the same venue as where the Europeans will be which gave me a really great opportunity to get to know the event ahead of possible team selection. It was also the first time I’ve worn the British flag which was a great feeling.

We were first to go for the team – I am not sure if they wanted to test my mettle and see if my character could take the pressure!

Going first means you need to be able to come back and give some constructive feedback to the other team members. It really got my adrenalin going! I loved it. On the final day I showjumped last for the team, and while we weren’t going to win, we finished second on the podium as a team, and I was best of the British, fourth individually, which was great.

It was a very good performance for me, and I hope it proved to the selectors that I have got championship ability.

On the technical side, I am still playing catch up as a lot of riders have been competing for so many more years than me, but at least I know I can turn up on the day, not let the side down, cope with the pressure and put in a strong performance for the team. Hopefully it will stand me in good stead.

I’ve not come up through the normal channels where selectors get to know you through the Junior and Young Rider programmes, and everything has happened so quickly – last September I rode in my first four star at Burghley. The selectors don’t really know much about me, so going to Poland was a good fact finding mission for them. Now I just have to have good enough form during July when Zagreb will go to Barbury International and hopefully we’ll get picked.

If it doesn’t happen, it’s not the be all and end all, as we can still target the big shows with Badminton the focus. I think both my top horses are more Badminton than Burghley types which suits more thoroughbred types.

With Luhmuhlen on the agenda for Redpath Ransom next week, I will have experienced all four of Europe’s four star tracks having ridden at Pau and Burghley last year.

This weekend I went to Tattersalls with two young horses and the lovely mare Swang Crackers who ran in the CICO3*. We were asked to go on the Nations Cup team but unfortunately we had a run out one fence from home but I was really pleased with her. It’s a very strong three star track so I was proud with how she coped and she jumped round really well. The two young horses both went clear across country and jumped well on the final day, with two rails down each, as their bodies don’t quite work as quick as they needed to, but that will come. Tattersalls itself is such an amazing venue. Everything about it is immaculate. It was a great experience.

I’ve had a re-think about the way I compete the horses, as previously I didn’t compete in internationals until they got to two star which meant their first experience of a big show with all the atmosphere was when they were seven or eight. Now I will compete them younger in one star classes so that they can get used to competing in that type of environment. Big young horses do take time to mature, but they coped so well with the atmosphere. You are always making minor adjustments to your system to improve it, and only experience can help you do that.

Pontispool’s gallops have been fantastic in my horses’ preparation. All the young horses have been going there regularly for schooling too and it plays an integral part in their training. Zagreb will go there for a play before he runs at Barbury Castle as its nice for the older horses to go out with no pressure and have a pop around. There’s every type of fence you need to see, and it’s so beautifully presented. I cannot big it up enough, and we’re lucky to have it on our doorstep.

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