Tuesday 7th May
Wednesday 8th May, 2024

Sarah Ruffles completes her Voltaire Design Grassroots journey

The last few weeks running up to Badminton went relatively smoothly – we managed to get to another event (the other one I had planned got abandoned), which was at Kelsall, and it went well and thankfully reinstalled some confidence after our recent retirement at Norton Disney. We also got out and did some showjumping, hired some long arenas to practice our test and had a few really useful lessons.

Finally, the big day came around. We arrived on the Monday and got settled in and it absolutely threw it down with rain (for a change). I had a little ride in the afternoon and then did my first course walk on Monday evening and it looked absolutely enormous and as I lay in bed (in our borrowed trailer tent) on the Monday evening listening to the rain I couldn’t help but think there is no way in the world I’m going to make it round.

Tuesday came and brought the heat and the sunshine! I decided to ride in the morning as my dressage wasn’t until late and on reflection this probably wasn’t needed as he seemed quite tired and flat. I think the traveling, the sudden change in weather as well as the whole experience of doing a stay away show for the first time took quite a lot out of him and this probably reflected in my test as well which didn’t get the best mark (36.5). He behaved so well though and I was really pleased with him, but he was too much on his forehand for the judges to give him a higher mark. This is something I am aware of, and I’ll continue to work on for the future. He is still only young and is still developing and getting stronger. Tuesday evening, I did my second course walk, and thankfully it looked better and more jumpable the second time around (thankfully).

I got up super early on the Wednesday and after sorting Otis out I went off for a final early morning course walk with Simon, and this was so helpful and got me thinking a lot more positively as well as paying attention to the details – how the ground was, whether there would be crowds and that kind of thing. Simon also very kindly warmed me up for the showjumping and Otis felt like he was jumping well despite the slightly sticky ground. We jumped a really confident round, just catching 2 poles, both where I should have balanced him a bit more as he was making up too much ground, but considering the confidence wobble we had both experienced recently I was so pleased with how it went, especially as I get so nervous jumping in front of people and there was so many people around the showjumping arena. On to the cross country and I felt strangely calm – I think I had been so worried I wouldn’t even make it to cross country that I was just relieved that I had! We set off and he was jumping brilliantly, then we got to the very influential fence 6, where I had been undecided whether to take the straight route or a slightly longer route. I decided to go for the straight route to test ourselves and unfortunately it didn’t pay off as Otis didn’t really seem to lock on or understand the question. I re-presented and took the long route and then carried on, and he continued to jump really well through lots of very difficult questions. We then had another slightly green mistake towards the end, which was completely my fault, as I forgot to steer and ended up presenting him to a quite straightforward jump at a point where he couldn’t jump inside the flags… Anyway, after this silly mishap he finished well, although we obviously racked up quite a cricket score with the jumping faults (his first ever xc jumping faults) and time. But I was so happy with how we jumped around 90% of the course, and it was so educational for both of us, as neither of us had ever experienced anything like this before with the technicality of the course, the undulating ground, and the crowds. 

So, this brings me to the end of my badminton diary! What an experience it was, and I wish I could go back and do it all over again, I learnt so much about myself and my lovely horse and I hope one day I will get to go again and have another crack at it. Thank you to everyone that helped me both at the event and in the lead up – I couldn’t have done it without your help.