cover

A disappointing start for me at Badminton. See my interview with Horse and Hound.

Recent News

BETWEEN THE EARS
BETWEEN THE EARS

Life after Badminton is just as busy as life before hence the rather late update.
Firstly I want to say how delighted I was with Nick and Sarah Ross’s MCS Maverick (Eric) at his first Badminton.
I can’t say I should take all the credit as Eric was previously ridden and expertly produced by Helen Wilson, who works for us at the Billy Stud. It was Helen’s suggestion to Sarah that I took on the ride of Erik at the beginning of last year. I always watched the horse with great interest right from when he was a young horse cross-country schooling for the first time. To end up riding a horse of his calibre at an event such as Badminton was a privilege and absolutely thrilling to finish 9th.

He has a massive amount of talent but it’s been no secret that he can at times suffer from nerves and be a little tricky, so throughout my time with him the main thing has been working on getting his brain to just slow down and relax so that all his ability can be channelled in the right direction.

I was very happy with his mindset on arrival and relieved he settled so well and seemed quite relaxed when I worked him on the Wednesday. My problems started in the first vets inspection. Poor boy was so surprised by the crowd of spectators as he came under the archway from the stables to the trot up strip in front of the main house that he reared up in front of the ground jury. Thankfully I managed to hold onto him before successfully trotting up.

This whole experience genuinely worried him to the point that he didn’t want to leave the quietness of the stables. It was a major concern for me that I might not even get him onto the field of play let alone perform a decent dressage test.

So throughout the week this was my greatest challenge, to quietly persuade him that there was nothing to be worried about. This is why I want to document it for people to understand how I overcome these sort of issues by dealing with it in a quiet reassuring, patient way, by holding his hand all the way through.

I know how nervous I feel at Badminton with all the pre competition nerves, being barraged by a sea of spectators on top of an electrifying atmosphere so why shouldn’t these super fit equine athletes suffer pre competition nerves too.

There was so much head scratching, I couldn’t plan my warm ups. I had to leave all my options open and ride the horse that was underneath me at the time, trusting that if I could get his mind right I could rely on all the endless hours of training done at home.

The long walk up from the stables to the main arena was the hardest challenge.
Emily and Lily were complete superstars in helping me deal with the situation.
Emily covered so many extra miles by following behind to help usher us up as I lead him in hand. A lot of miles were covered last week on our poor feet.

So for anyone witnessing, this was the reason why thanks to members of the Beaufort hunt and their trusty steeds that I had mounted escorts on the dressage and cross country days. It took many people to help me get the
tune I got from him, my girls, hunt staff, stewards, commentators even some of the security guards.

I know this is not the norm but Badminton isn’t the norm so I really do thank all those people that helped me. As I said he is exceptionally talented and he really enjoys his job. Every photo I’ve seen he has his ears pricked and a smile on his face. It was so important to me that he had a good experience.
I feel excited as there is more to come from him. It was so worth all the time taken to get his brain channelled without having to overwork him. I really hope how we handled him at Badminton will be of benefit to him in the future. Only time will tell!

As we all know they are not machines and they are all so very very different. As I have said many times before it is not about the colour of the rosette, it is about the satisfaction, achievement of the individual performance and I was so so proud of Eric’s performance and how he handled himself within the white boards, over those enormous XC fences and on the final day.

I will just have to keep going a little bit longer!!!

Thank you Jon Stroud, Elli Birch and Serena Shelton for the great images


A true team effort.
A true team effort.

For me one of my stand out moments for Badminton 2024 was when Emily Gibson my long standing Head girl won the Stable Managers Grooms Award. Head girl is the wrong word because she is so much more than that, as is Lily Wilson. One is my left hand and one is my right. I literally couldn’t function without them.

These two girls having been with me for over six years are out and out stars. Their care, love, dedication to my horses is quite outstanding.
They have become very special to me. How they cope with me I really don’t know. My way with how I deal with the horses must be so challenging for them. I’m often having to change my mind on things due to the way the horses are feeling, thinking and reacting to situations. This weekend was one of the most challenging examples of that. I will write about that in another news story if people are interested.
As riders we get so wrapped up in our own feeling of nerves and anxiety that we loose focus on what our poor grooms must go through, particularly on cross country day. Watching their beloved steeds tackle the demands of the course just praying above all else that they come back safe and happy.
They really are the unsung heroes and they deserve every bit of recognition they get and more.