Following a fabulous performance in the BE100 Mitsubishi Motors Cup, Nic Bevan takes us through his 2016 experience and where he plans to go next as we bid a sad farewell to our 2016 bloggers.
We arrived at the Mitsubishi Motors Cup in torrential rain at about 1 o’clock on Monday 2nd May.
Qualifying for the Mitsubishi Motors Regional Finals and then for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup it has been a roller coaster ride of joy and worry, anything could have happened in the six months following qualification, so when we actually drove up to the stable block I had a feeling of great relief.
Finally were here, fit and ready to go. All we needed now was the weather to play ball and that was looking a bit iffy, my first job was to book in, so standing in the queue getting an impromptu shower whilst watching horse boxes being towed onto the ground was a worrying sight.
The stable managers were doing a wonderful job despite the trying conditions, they had put my boys side by side which made my job so much easier. Once registered, Goody and Red were unloaded first and put in their stables, give them an hour to eat the grass and get acclimatised to the new surroundings. Once rugged and watered they seemed to settle in quickly so I set off on the Yogi Breisner course walk leaving behind my daughters, Steph and Rachel who were waiting for my wife Sue to arrive with their coats, not forgetting Chloe and Joey (the dogs) who had made it onto the lorry following a last minute team talk.
The Course Walk
Yogis’ course walk was both educational and entertaining, around 50 of us must have followed him around the Badminton Estate like a flock of eager sheep, hanging off his every word, a tip here and a line there, I was anxious to learn as much as I could from this first course walk.
It was interesting that the main discussions took place around Devoucoux Brushes (fence 9), the corner on the Irish Horse Gateway Combinations at fence 14 and then the Mirage Step (fence 18), the main problems appear to have been caused by the Shogun Hollow (fence 15abc) at which I don’t recall many questions being about at all during the course walk.
Perhaps we were all to fixated on the previous corner and thought this to be a bit of a let up. The rest of the crew, now suitably attired, arrived at about fence 17 (the Four Star Wall) to hear Yogi’s instruction for the last few fences. After thanking Yogi, a slightly soggy crew trudged back to the stables to put down beds and feed. Leaving the dogs in charge of the lorry I went back to Sue’s hotel for a hot shower and a meal returning to the village a couple of hours later to spend the night on site.
Tuesday morning and I’m woken at 5.30 am by Joey wanting a walk so after checking the horses we headed out on a beautiful, dry and misty morning to walk the course again. Alone with only the mutts for company it was a lot easier to see the scale of the task ahead. A technical, challenging and up to height course lay in front of us, a true championship test that required both bravery and skill to complete. Expertly constructed and dressed fences that demanded a huge amount of respect. This was one event that wasn’t going to be decided by the dressage score alone. A tough but fair test at our level. The dogs however were more impressed by Badminton Lake and the swans that were grazing there.
Back to camp and a sausage bap with coffee (the bap had to go three ways). Steph and I then took both horses out for a hack to stretch their legs while Rachel and Sue, bless them, mucked out. As my times were later in the day I then set off for a third course walk with Sue and the whole gang. Each walk got me more acclimatised to the route and took away some of the trepidation I had earlier felt. Quick lunch, I then had to plait up, yes I do my own plaiting, they’re not perfect but they are mine, I mention this because I’m fed with people asking me who does my plaits? The question is right up there with, and do you still ride? Guaranteed to get a frosty response!
Jennifer Frogget had arrived and I will be forever grateful to her for stretching my horses before I got on. Polished and on board with 30 mins to go I presented to the steward. Warm up for me consists of stretching my horse then checking if he is moving away from the leg. Serpentines and transitions followed by a quick run through of the whole test if room allows, parts of it if not.
Both horses felt really well and up to the job. The BE100 test was my nemesis, I rode it five years ago and I made an error, then a judge made an error which left me wondering if I knew the test at all. This time all went extremely well and I am not ashamed to say I was quite emotional when I left the arena. It felt like a curse had been lifted. Having little time between the two horses I virtually jumped off one and onto the other. Red was really on his toes, I spent quite a while just trying to calm him down, his test actually went very well but I have to accept it was a little tense.
That evening we all dressed up for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup drinks party, the Pimms was appreciated and an opportunity to meet other competitors. I spotted Mary and Emily King from a distance before they got enveloped in a crowd of people. The real highlight was that I managed to shake the hand and personally thank Lance Bradley from Mitsubishi Motors who had given a short speech. I think it’s important that people who invest their money and time in our sport are shown the appreciation they deserve, they make it possible for us to do what we do and who would miss an opportunity to ride in the Mitsubishi Motors Cup?
The Show Jumping
Wednesday morning after a fitful sleep and exchanging texts with Jeanette Brakewell* I was up and ready for my fourth and final course walk. Jeanette was wonderful, thoroughly going over the fences that worried me, an upbeat confidence giving walk. Despite her own preparations she had spared time and energy to talk me through what must have looked like a very small set of fences compared to the ones she was going to jump later in the week.
Returning to the stables, Jennifer and the team were already prepping both horses for the show jumping. A well designed and up to height course set in the most perfect surroundings with top spec décor and more than a few spectators adding to an already exciting atmosphere. Goody was really on his toes, he knew what was coming and we went around the course at almost jump off speed, neither horse took any faults in the show jumping, two wonderful rounds despite my nerves.
3-2-1 Cross Country
Ah, the cross country phase, what an absolute thrill. Jumping the warm up fences on Goody I began to question the wisdom of riding him in a snaffle, too late now. We headed to the start where a bowler hat wearing starter greeted me with ‘good afternoon Mr Bevan’ at which point the slightly nauseous feeling in my stomach went, time to get on with the job; 3, 2, 1, go good luck and we were off.
First fence, the BE Flower Box, was a good easy fence, close to the start box but very straight forward however fence 2, Huntsmans Roll Top, placed directly behind fence 1 was a full up roll top which jumped better than it looked.
The Park Logs (fence 3ab), a double of skinnies, we meet on a perfect stride then a long run to the ASX Cross Question at 4 and the Wadworths at the Lake, 5ab, put us into and out of Badminton Lake, perfect plus people were clapping, that will stay with me forever, what a thrill.
Fence 6ab, the World Horse Welfare Garden Fence, two straight forward jumps on a slight curve, we were motoring now. Yogi said don’t look at the Woodhouse Table, fence 7, until you’re close to it, otherwise you will start fiddling and upset your horse.
Fence 8, the Danco Shooting Butt, was crucial to making it to the Devoucoux Brushes, 9ab, the wrong line at 8 and you’ve got all sorts of problems at 9, following several walks and taking Jeanette’s advice we stuck to plan A and aced the whole complex.
On to the Spillers Horse Feeds Beam at 10 and up hill to the PHEV Brush at 11. Yogi had said be at fence 11 approximately 10 seconds ahead of your half way time, as I had fluffed starting my stop watch at the beginning this proved to be irrelevant for me, I was by now busy concentrating on the next set of jumps.
The Irish Horse Gateway Combinations (12, 13 and 14), three fences built in a circle the last one being an imposing corner off an arcing approach, another complex I walked several times on different lines and learnt a lot from discussing with Jeanette.
15abc was the Shogun Hollow, no problem, we then flew to the CrossCountry App House, 16ab, an interesting fence that I hadn’t seen before, jumping one half took you a slightly longer route but was safer however, jumping to the left hand side was shorter but made it a very skinny corner risking a run out, a very clever fence with excellent use of the terrain. Goody and I took the riskier path and it paid off.
17ab (Four Star Wall) proved to be quite straight forward onto 18 the Mirage Step, a rider frightener, me included, which looked as though it had been widened slightly so making it a touch easier.
A long, uphill run then to 19 the Outlander Haywagon, down a dip to the Careers in Racing Quarry, fence 20, an angled double of skinnies with one stride in between at the top of a steep slope, impulsion was the key and coming at the end of such a long course needed to be boldly ridden and jumped
The last fence James’s Book at 21, the book looks like a let off but I always say the last fence is the finish line so you can’t let up until you cross the line.
The Prize Giving
In between horses I received a call from The Event Horse Owners Association, EHOA, with some fantastic news that left me walking about 2ft off the floor, even Red’s less than perfect cross country round later that day couldn’t dampen my spirits [following good performances in the first two phases Nic and ‘Red’ were sadly eliminated early on in the cross country course].
Goody and I were 2nd in the EHOA section sponsored by Shearwater Insurance Services Ltd, we were 7th in the Mitsubishi Motors Cup BE100 and we had won the Keep Kicking On trophy (highest placed rider over the age of 40) so I was required in front of the big house for presentation.
The EHOA wanted me on foot at 5.30pm and the Mitsubishi Motors Cup wanted me mounted at 6pm. For once, and only due to time restrictions, I asked Rachel to plait Goody and I have to say she put my plaits to shame, so I still need the practise. Shearwater Insurance Services and the EHOA presented me with a fabulous coat which I will treasure. Steph had ridden Goody down for me, he was a being a real handful, I’m not sure if he thought he was off hunting or going around the cross country again but after having a leg up from a very helpful bystander he was impossible to keep still, even in front of glorious Badminton House he was too excited to stand still so we ended up walking in small circles, he always had one eye on the cross country course that was directly ahead of us and would have been quite happy to go again.
This was a truly magical experience for me, all the hard work had paid off and here I was unbelievably receiving a trophy in front of Badminton House where so many great legends, people I respected and admired had stood before, I’m getting goose bumps just writing this, what a fantastic three days.
Goody has five qualifications for Mitsubishi Motors Regional Finals in the bag already this year and despite the almost irresistible magnetic draw of the Mitsubishi Motors Cup in 2017 and its electric atmosphere I would like to move on and look to attempt a CCI1* next season, so Goody and I will be aiming for Novice.
Red’s fate hangs in the balance at the moment, he is a great horse and I love him to bits but he could prove to be too careful for cross country, so it looks like I’m saying a fond and unbelievably happy farewell to the Mitsubishi Motors Cup, for next season anyway.
*Following a fall during the cross country test of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, we are pleased to say that Jeanette Brakewell is now at home recovering well