Sorry folks, I know it’s long over due but I had my cell phone nicked on my last few days in England. Sadly that means 90% if my pictures and 100% of my videos are gone forever! Let it not take away from an incredible Badminton 2018!

I decided to lunge Woody Thursday morning to see how he felt. We walked through the barn courtyard, under a big archers headed towards the old stables. Hooked a left and there was a perfect indoor arena with carpet fibre footing. A great size, very quiet with just one other lunging horse and a ridden horse. I knew Woody was feeling more settled just from the walk to the indoor. Neither of us had been down the path and I wasn’t even sure I was following the directions properly but he was chill about the whole thing. We did walk/trot transitions for a while (with no side reins yet) then I added canter before changing directions and repeating. He was stretching and working through before I did the side reins up which is a really good sign for Woody aka “periscope up.” I think we both started feeling better about the dressage test early in the morning. Woody took his Omega Alpha Chill Ultra and I took my Rescue Remedy. I also walked the course again which will chill anyone out. 😓

Personal Best Dressage

I decided after Woody’s lunge in the a.m. he didn’t need another ride till it was warm up time. Anne Marie was in charge of walking him up to the rings to graze; he keeps her fit! I think all her hard work walking Woody back and forth all week leading up to dressage played a key role in settling him down to work and laying down a personal best at Badminton (26.4).

Having Christilot there to help in those last days, plus warm us up, was very calming as well. Just the fact that she is willing to take time away from her students and horses to help us achieve our goals at Badminton says it all really. I’m only sorry I didn’t deliver the last flying change. I did consciously try very hard to make that last change perfect. I used the last corner to sit him on his hocks. Coming out of the corner I thought of an uphill balance and I used my seat and leg for more jump in the canter, then I counted down from 3-2-1 asked for the change and nothing happened. So I abandoned all reason and leaned for the change. Good news is I learned what I’m doing wrong. In order to get an uphill feeling I’m riding the horses energy up and OUT with the nose to fake that uphill feeling. I should have risked slight over-bending and supported the uphill frame a bit more with my core and elbows, collected a bit more and most of all I shouldn’t have leaned on the second try.

He was a bit late behind on the last change and those lost points were my only regret. There’s always room for improvement, but overall it’s very exciting to know we can play with the big boys when it comes to dressage. Woody was a star.

Me in my House Of Angelis cocktail dress.

Me in my House Of Angelis cocktail dress.

Thursday night is always fun when you’re invited to the Badminton House for champagne. Shout out to House Of Angelis for my incredible jog up outfits as well as an evening dress for the cocktail party. This one was used on a runway fashion show 😁 and now I get to wear it in a castle! I needed someone to take a picture for the blog and l learned that Paul Tapner has an outfit sponsor as well.

Friday I walked the course in the a.m. with the entire NZL team including Graeme. It was so good to see him again. It was interesting watching each rider think how the combinations would ride for so many different horse types. I made a course walk video, which is good because I had to walk the course five times before I thought I knew it, all the options, minute markers etc.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to jump Woody on Friday because I was trying to save him for Sunday. I hacked him to the warm up rings where there were a few show jumps lined up (like a regular warm up ring) and noticed Mark was in there with Leo. Mark said he decided to do a few jumps since they were set up. Love the causal relaxed attitude at Badminton, it really helps me quiet my focus. DOC appeared and I decided I wanted to set up the “B, C” elements of the head of the lake jump. So basically I jump a vertical straight on for two strides straight on landing then one stride turning right out over another vertical that is perpendicular to me. Hard to explain but easy to do. Just look at the “B&C” elements of the head of the lake complex and you’ll see. Woody did it twice beautifully so I walked him back to the barns. We were ready!

I walked the course again Friday afternoon, this time really walking the plan step for step and paying attention to details, knowing I would walk it again on Saturday morning. Loved that my Shires leather waterproof boots kept my feet dry and comfy, which is saying a lot in UK springtime. ☔

Saturday I walked the course one more time and then I was hungry enough to eat a fruit corner yogurt when the cross country started. It was playing on a big screen in the canteen, which is where I watched a few. No one could believe I was eating at a time like this. But I knew I needed to eat and get my blood sugar up. #thinkinglikeanathlete

As I say, I think with the sun out and that kiwi chill factor I did well mentally during all of Badminton. Our trailblazer Caroline Powell did an expert job with her first horse and I didn’t get to see her second ride. Mark came to my warm up and talked a little about his round on Leo. I admit sometimes I have to switch “fan girl” mode off and remember the words he’s telling me not just the fact that Mark Todd is talking to me🤩

No, seriously now! I really enjoyed every minute of my journey to Badminton. I tried to learn everything I could and soak it all up. Every coaches advice “live in the moment.”

Badminton Cross Country Time

Woody was very strong in the warm up so we spent a bit of extra time on transitions. He was super over the cross country warm up fences so I angled them once off each rein. Then it was time to grease him up and head over to the main arena where the start box is. I knew getting to the start box was going to be a challenge. I was sorry to hear that a French horse was overwhelmed by the start and finish line being so close in the main arena that they didn’t get to start the course.

I trotted on a short rein with my weight off his back with my seat. He was super waiting for his count down in the corner of that already electric arena. I did smile a little at his little rearing jump start out the box with a beautiful flyer over the first fence. Galloped over #2 and a little longer take off for fence #3 then I had envisioned, but it’s Woody the wonder horse so that doesn’t phase him. I do start to realize I’m late on my minute markers, but tell myself to up the speed carefully but stay focused and sharp. Jump clear, make the time, have enough horse to do the above mentioned. So many times it has unraveled for us at world champs in tough conditions where I have pushed Woody too hard for too long and had a silly 20 penalties near the end of the course. (Pan Am 2011, WEG 2014).

I received this photo via text from my vet, Dr. McKee.

I received this photo via text from my vet, Dr. McKee.

So my priorities were clear, and in order and Woody delivered a textbook round on cross country at the most prestigious 4* in the world. I couldn’t be happier I think it was one of our finest rounds together. He was adjustable, brave and clever all the way. He always has his ears forward and he loves the cross country. I was so pleased when we were through the head of the lake and the last combo fence #29. I was most proud when I managed the turn through the barrier after the gigantic “elephants trap” type fence #17 to save time, and when I crossed through the finish flag and knew we had no jumping penalties, we took all the straight routes and we were feeling fine!❤🐴

I had seen many tired horses finishing cross country because the footing was very sticky and extra hard work for the horses. Also it was quite warm for England this time of year. That’s not saying much, but ya know😉We will be faster next time out. #newleymintedbadmintonrider

Woody recovered beautifully and enjoyed the full treatment and many, many, many treats at the barn after dragging AM back there.

I stayed and talked about my ride with the Rumbles, Mark, whoever would listen really. I tried watching some xc in the tent for riders with loads of screens, but I found it hard to keep track of them all. Most of the time they were videoing people eating ice cream. So I went back to the barns (in the same shuttle as Michael Jung) and he said the footing was really tough going. Once back at the barns I went to the canteen to watch some of the other rides. Luckily Woody’s stall is directly across from the canteen and my bedroom was in the same building as the canteen. Woody was in super form and good hands Saturday night.

Jumping Into the Badminton Stadium

Sunday morning after AM washed all his poultice off Dr. Ober had a look to make sure he was ready for the jog at 8:30 a.m. We got the 👍!

I was proud of Woody at the horse inspection. Not only did we find out AM was short listed for Best Groom Award, but Woody behaved beautifully. With the little squeal of excitement from him when the previous horse was applauded I was definitely a little worried he was going to explode.

After you finish the jog each horse was asked if they wanted to be considered for best shod. I said yes please. So they pick up each of his feet and take a picture. Neat!

I had all day to stress about show jumping. I was already worried about it as soon as cross country was over. I walked the course loads and I liked it. I knew the footing wasn’t much improved from the day before and it showed. Many horses were having rails and/or time faults. I watched from the stands then migrated to the canteen screen. Finally I lay my head down for just a brief rest in my room and I was out like a light for the lunch break. 😴

I got on Woody with plenty of time for walking. I tried riding him twice when he’s SJ late in the day (WEG 2014) and it’s never done me any good, so I didn’t ride him in the morning. He was quite strung out in the warm up. Trying, but he felt a bit long and slow. I couldn’t see a distance to save my soul due to the fact that we were about as supple/elastic as melted cheese. Luckily I started to get the canter I needed for the job. Then he really started to jump like he has been so I stopped. I thought we had everything right. As I passed Mark coming out he says “well this should be your clear round then” the footing is dead.

After fence 1 & 2 I was feeling very confident. Knocking fence 3 was a shame, but short lived because I had to focus on the course ahead. When he whacked the planks I almost smiled as we did a smooth fast turn to the big oxer uphill in five strides to a combo. He jumped those all super. Now here we come to a lonely vertical just begging me to knock it. I did. 😔

I did not know we hit the next oxer and was very disappointed to find out later we did. He was super through the last difficult line huge oxer long four or short five strides to a Liverpool (set as false ground line). We came out of turn and were brave over the oxer then decided to stick with the bold approach and go in four strides. He cleared the Liverpool, did a lovely eight strides to the triple combo, which he jumped beautifully. Turn right to a massive square oxer with a narrow Liverpool under it. This oxer is so square and on a slope that it almost looks higher in front. I was so disappointed to hear that last rail come down because Woody has been jumping oxers so well. Many of the jumps I hit came down all day. I’m sorry that was our worst SJ score to date. I still take away a few lessons from the show jumping round and I’m confident we will improve in this area. The jumps he did do were superb and only one time fault means were on the pace. You know I’ll be working hard at it.

My gorgeous gift.

My gorgeous gift.

On Sunday I had a memorable dinner with The Rumbles (lots of them), Jimi Elder and Taddy, Desi, Denya, Penny, Usha and few others. It was at the restaurant/hotel the team stayed at during John and Jimmy’s time at Badminton. I loved the stories that were told and most of all the beautiful picture book that John, Judy, Denya and Shannon Brinkman made of Woody winning Fair Hill 3* 2017. John told me the only writing on it was the first page and it’s the only writing that means anything anyways. I cried a little. The whole Badminton experience was invaluable and I’ll never forget it. I’m already making plans on how to improve and maybe even win next time. “In it to win it.”