Leaving the M4 and heading towards my favourite Cotswolds village with Nero in tow felt completely surreal but, strangely, the nerves that had been plaguing me during the preceding weeks seemed to dissipate and were replaced by a combination of excitement and slight disbelief. I was shortly to be warming up for the dressage at BADMINTON ESTATE, on a horse who emigrated with me from Australia, having rendered himself unsaleable with his random rodeo antics.
Dressage day didn’t go entirely to plan. As I came out of the arena, breathing a sigh of relief that our test had gone well, we were escorted to a holding box, our number having been drawn for drug testing, which was not a quick procedure. After then de-studding Nero and administering his long-awaited carrots, I raced off to the cross country to catch what I could of the next guided course walk, checking the latest dressage results en route. A disappointing score was soon forgotten, as I followed Mary King from fence to fence, soaking up all of her suggestions. She was warm, enthusiastic and so generous with her advice and I came away feeling elated.
As you’d expect with a championship course, the MMC track was more challenging and technical than other BE100s, but the guided course walks equip riders to take on obstacles they may not have encountered previously. They were a major highlight for me – I also had the benefit of Tom McEwen’s excellent tips having joined his Monday afternoon walk.
On day two, with a show jumping clear under our belt, I could barely contain my excitement changing Nero’s bridle and boots and preparing to head across to the main park. The many months of preparation were really all for these six and a half minutes of bliss and I relished every moment. With Richard Waygood’s wise words resonating at every tricky turn, thanks to his excellent CrossCountry app audio, the course rode brilliantly and Nero and I had a ball.
Competing in this event has been one of the most fun and exhilarating experiences of my life and I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity.
Huge thanks to the hosts and organisers of the Mitsubishi Motors Cup, for facilitating a grassroots championship in the sport, and allowing it to be a part of the world’s most prestigious and iconic horse trials. Also to Goldeneye Photography for the wonderful images with which to remember it.
And thank you to the following for helping us along the way:
- Craig Weeding, who was responsible for my defection from polo, and supercoach, Sandra Tremier, for her help with our conversion.
- Catherine Burrell, whose beautiful Maizey Manor Farm has been our base since we arrived from Australia. I feel as though we have improved by osmosis being here and have also been extremely fortunate in having access to the best coaches, vets, chiropractor, physio, dentist, etc.
- Fantastic farrier, Scott Rose, for keeping Nero shod and comfortable, despite that he lives out year-round (and had never previously encountered such mud!).
- Coaches Andy Austin, Grant Wilson and Natalie Hobday for their patience and positivity.
- Helen Davis (Rezone Coaching) and Amanda Kirtland-Page (Confident Horse Rider), both of whom have helped me to exorcise my show jumping demons and keep competition nerves in check.
- Our feed supplier, for putting together a solution that suits Nero down to the ground, providing all the condition and energy he needs, without the fizz.
Most of all, thank you to my game little polo pony, who says yes to everything and has earned his airfare many times over.
I hope very much to be bringing Nero the Hero back to the Badminton Estate next year!