We had a fantastic week away at Badminton. We had a good few months preparing for it and Away Cruising (Spot) was feeling on great form and we couldn’t be happier with the way he was going. As the weeks drew closer we just needed to make sure that he was wrapped up in cotton wool and that he stayed fit, happy and well and stuck to our routine. It’s lovely being so close to Badminton (all of a 15min drive away). When we arrived it felt so special to be back. We hadn’t competed there since 2014 when Wild Lone (Alf) finished 3rd so it was exciting to see what this year would bring and I was hoping that Alf would bring us lots of luck and could pass on his XC shoes to Spot!
Spot settled in well and not long of being there he was already asleep lying down! He is a laid back character in the stable but as probably a lot of people saw once he is out of the stables he wasn’t quite so laid back! He was very fresh at the trot up and they both certainly stole the lime light and flew through. Though I’m hoping some people noticed Spot not just Harry’s lime green trousers!
There is always such a lovely atmosphere between all the grooms and riders in the stables and although we are all competing against each other at the same time we all help each other out and really do want everyone to go well. It is like one big family. We were stabled in the Portcullis yard which is lovely and quiet and I was pleased to see that we had got our usual stable again!
Harry and Spot were drawn number 74 which was pretty late on. We were pleased that we had a Friday afternoon dressage test but the ground was always going to be testing on XC day especially with the awful weather that we had in the run up but everyone is in the same boat and we just had to get on with it!
Spot being grey required a lot of washing most days especially before his test on Friday. I do then have to remind Harry before he rides off to stay clear of the puddles and muddy patches otherwise my hard work would have gone un noticed before he had even got to the collecting ring!!
Spot warmed up beautifully for his test. He is not one to get affected by atmosphere but as he went in he wasn’t bothered by the crowds or photographers but he caught sight of himself on the big screen and got a bit of stage fright! So from that point on was tense the whole way through which was a real shame. He executed the test very well and for the first time ever nailed all his changes and produced some really super work. Harry did a fab job on keeping a lid on it as it could have been a lot worse, it also could have been a very good test if it wasn’t for the tension. We were pretty pleased though and had to move on and think about XC now!
Saturday morning arrived and I honestly felt like not wanting to be at Badminton and instead be at home on the yard! There is always an atmosphere in the stables and you can feel the nerves and tension throughout the day. I unfortunately am getting worse the longer I have been with Harry and the older I am getting but always deep down have faith in Harry and know that if Spot wasn’t fit enough or ready for this level then we wouldn’t be there! We were almost last to go so I had a long wait before it was our turn.
The course had been causing problems and we were worried with a few of the angles and very tight lines that were spread around the course. Spot is a very big horse and isn’t that easy to manoeuvre in twisty places so he could easily slip past a flag. It is always the longest 12 minutes of my life whilst he is going round! You just want them to go well and come back safe. There is so much hard work that goes into it. We weren’t sure how he would cope either. This was his first Badminton and it was very hot and the ground was very sticky and holding which sapped the energy out of them.
I’m pleased to say Spot stormed around. He was apparently the only horse of the day to be on time at the half way mark. At that point Harry turned his stop watch off and rode by feel. This horse has his whole career ahead of him and we wanted him to have a confident run and come away from this event feeling more positive. The relief after having seen them cross the finish line having had a fantastic ride from start to finish left me with a tear in my eye. They were both just amazing to watch – well so I was told anyway!!
Spot recovered very well and flew through the trot up on Sunday morning. He then jumped a fabulous round to just have one unlucky rail down. We were thrilled to have moved up the leaderboard instead of down. This has always been Spot’s weak phase so we were delighted with how he jumped especially as it was causing trouble for some very good combinations in this phase.
The week couldn’t have gone any better. Spot tried his heart out and Harry rode very well too! We were all delighted with him and it’s amazing to think that now he really is a true 4* horse!
When we arrived home we were greeted with a lovely reception on Spot’s stable door. It was very much appreciated and means so much to me knowing that we have a great team behind us who were just as excited about how the week had gone as us. Spot was loving his welcome home carrots and apples and if he wasn’t before he most certainly is the king of the yard now and he knows it!
It is weeks like this that make my job so rewarding. Getting a horse to the stables at Badminton is an achievement in itself so to go well there is even better! All the long hours, working in horrific weather and sleeping in a lorry when it is -6 pays off. I have looked after Spot since he arrived as a gangly 4year old (who we also thought was covered in ringworm…thankfully he wasn’t!). To see him progress through the grades is something else. I am so proud of Harry and Spot and what they have achieved over the years. It is a very slow process but god is it worth it when you have one of the best riders producing horses from the start. I know I keep saying this but I honestly am very lucky to be in charge of this team and all these wonderful horses that we have on our yard.
A huge thank you to our team as always, to everyone who has made this possible. Spot will wind down for a week or so and then have a very deserved mini break in the field. He will now all being well aim for Burghley in the Autumn. An exciting horse for the future!