Well where do I start…??? What a week I have just had… my first Badminton, RAYEF’s first CCI**** and we came home with a top 10 placing, a saddle and 3 trophies!!!
I can safely say I had a dream debut!
As we entered the stable yard I had butterflies in my stomach….’We’ve made it… !!!’ I said to Zanie (super groom!)
RAYEF settled straight into his lovely stable in the main yard…. he was stabled next to do Pippa Funnells horses.
With everything a day late, trot up started at 4.30pm on the Thursday afternoon. My sponsor HOLLAND COOPER clothing provided a stunning outfit for me to trot up in, pictures will follow!
I couldn’t believe how many people were watching, RAYEF loved every minute of it, he definitely thought every person there was watching him!
He strutted his stuff and passed.
I then had a lesson with Yogi and took him for a walk around the main arena… he was going beautifully!
7am Friday morning and Yogi was there for the last drilling, things were looking good and I was getting quite excited about doing my test!
10.32am we entered the arena…. RAYEF felt fantastic and I was just hoping he wouldn’t get too tense or spooky in the arena, he had a quick look at the photographers as we went around the arena but then he felt amazing! I got a 9 for my entry which is always a good start! I couldn’t fault him at all, everything came up as it should and the advice Yogi gave me just before I went in, “build the four walls of your indoor school around the arena and ride like you do every day at home!”, seemed to have worked!
I was so pleased with him, he had pulled off his best test and what a time to do it!!!
I was congratulated by everyone as I came out and then suddenly Yogi said “36.5” at first I wondered what he was talking about and then I looked at the big screen… I had just scored a 36.5!!!!!!
I couldn’t quite believe it… I was 5th to go on the first day of dressage so to get a mark like that was crazy!!
That evening I got a call from Becky Elvin saying I was needed for the press conference… I was still in the lead after day 1!!!
I loved being sat up there and I really did savour every minute of it… you never know whats around the corner and it’s not every day you get interviewed for being the current leader at Badminton!!
I had a day off on Saturday, well that meant alot of walking of the xc course! I walked it with Yogi, on my own and then with Sam Watson.
I was sure after all the really smart combinations had strutted their stuff on Saturday afternnon that I would be scraping into the top 10 or just outside but to my amazement I had another call from Becky Elvin asking me to go to the press conference again… I was so shocked when she told be I was lying 3rd!!
Ruth Edge had performed her normal stunning test to score 33.3 and Piggy French (who scored the only 10) was just 0.6 ahead of me on a 36.0
The cross country fences suddenly seemed to double in size with the realisation that tomorrow I had to attempt to jump them!
XC didn’t start until 12pm and I was due out at 12.16pm…. One final course walk with Yogi in the morning and a gentle hack for Rayef.
I then had to occupy myself for an hour or 2 so the trusty Bridget Jones’ DVD came out!!
Jason Houghton (Rayef’s owner) came into the lorry and was a little shocked to see his jockey relaxing infront of the TV but it was a good distraction!
What some of you may not realise is that we have a lucky mascot…. SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS! He comes in the form of a small ball and a small toy… he kept myself and Zanie amused throuhgout the week…. he sat outside Rayef’s stable and on the odd occasion he came hacking in my pocket!!
When I went down all ready to get on for XC I walked around the corner to find an enormous cowboy SPONGEBOB… Jason had infact embraced the Spongebob theme and decided that as XC day was a bigger deal than dressage, we needed a bigger Spongebob!! It was the perfect thing to make me giggle and take my mind off the very sick feeling I was witnessing!!
Back to the serious stuff and I was legged up and hacking down to the warm up… now feeling really sick!!
Rayef was well up for the task ahead but I was getting more and more nervous and had a small moment with my best friend, Georgie Spence, in the warm up! We had a hug and the spectators must have wondered what these 2 muppets were doing!!!!
Zanie was brilliant and as she led me up to the start box she kept reassuring me that Rayef would fly round and reminding me that this is the moment I’d been waiting for!
As they counted me down and I jumped out the start box the roar from the crowd is something I will never forget! It felt amazing!!
Once I had jumped fence one and left the arena I took a deep breath and got on with the job in hand… suddenly it was just me and my boy with 4 miles of galloping and jumping to do!
He was faultless… as I jumped the big spread down to the skinny at fence 6 I realised
that Rayef was on flying form and felt like a true pro!
I actually started to enjoy it and as he cruised through the vicarage vee line I was having a wonderful ride.
The only time I really noticed the crowds was when I jumped through the lake…. the cheer was incredible!
Galloping up to Huntsmans close I felt Rayef begin to tire a little, he jumped the gate in and the log but then he had locked onto the log that we had to turn inside which slightly messed my line up to the bounce, he managed to fit a stride in the bounce but that just showed how honest he is… he only saw the bounce at the last second and was tiring so could have easily used that as an excuse not to jump but he fiddled his way through and off we went towards the quarry.
He was foot perfect through the quarry… now just one more combination and then the last fence…Whilst walking the course, Sam Watson had said to me, “whatever you do don’t get to here and think, ‘oh my God, I’ve nearly jumped clear round Badminton’!!” That is exactly what I thought and had to give myself a talking to and remember that it’s not over and until you have crossed the finish line!
The Rolex combination seemed fine when I walked it but I suddenly realised that Rayef was tiring, he picked up and jumped through it brilliantly and as I entered the main arena the crowd cheering sent shivers down my spine… I have never in my life witnessed anything like that before, Rayef jumped the last and my childhood dream of jumping clear round Badminton had come true!
8.8 time faults seemed like I would drop down the order to about 20th but as I sat and watched the carnage unfold I couldn’t believe it when the final scorebored showed I was lying 6th and just 1.7 penalties behind the leader… the legendary Mark Todd!!!
Zanie was taking brilliant care of Rayef and Mark Lucey (our vet)gave him a check over and seemed happy with him!
I was asked back to the press conference, even though I wasn’t in the top 3… they wanted me to sit between the 2 eventing greats, Mark Todd on my right and Andrew Nicholson on my left! We had a laugh as Mark said the last time he was sat in the leaders seat on cross country night at Badminton I was being pushed around in a push chair!!!
I also then realised that Mark’s Badminton debut was 10 years before I was even born… so there is plenty of time to hopefully one day be sat in his position!!
Trot up on Monday morning went very smoothly, another stunning outfit provided by HOLLAND COOPER!
I had jump on Rayef in the morning and he was feeling very fresh!
It seemed like a very long wait until I jumped…. first we had the parade which was a great opportunity to get Rayef into the ring and see the crowds!
As I entered the arena for my showjumping round, I was so nervous, this was by far the biggest moment of my life!
Rayef got spooked by the cameras at fence 3 and although he managed to clear fence 4 he was still a little unsettled coming to fence 5 and unfortunately he knocked it and it came down! He then settled and jumped the rest of the course beautifully, I was over the moon and devastated all at the same time!
In the prize giving I was awarded a saddle for the best under 25, I also recieved trophies for being the best British first timer and best local rider. Rayef picked up the trophy for the youngest British owned and ridden horse in the top 12.
I have watched the replay a hundred times and feel so lucky and priviledged to have had such a fantastic horse to have my first ride round Badminton on. If I’d had the chance to ride the showjumping again I would have ridden it differently but we can all say that with hind sight!
The reality is that I finished 8th on my Badminton debut and I can not wait for next year!!!!!
I am so Thankful to Jason Houghton for being so patient and such a fantastic owner… let alone one that has a wicked sense of humour!!
Also a big Thankyou to Yogi Breisner who has helped me from the start of my career… I couldn’t have done it without him!
My sponsors who have all been so supportive and provided me with everything I need!
The team at home are amazing (Mum and Felicity Organ)… they got up early and got the yard done so they could come and support me each day!
Zanie Tanswell for looking after Rayef to perfection, turning him out beautifully and most of all for putting up with me!!!