by Janet Elston

I have always suffered from excitement so you can imagine the state I was in leading up to our trip to Badminton Grassroots in 2019 and the following trip to Blenheim Eventer Challenge. The whole experience was absolutely amazing and it started well beforehand with all the planning – packing the lorry for both horse and humans, buying the food and of course a few bottles of bubbly just in case.

We had so much support from friends which was wonderful and this made it extra special as they all kindly made the long journey up there to be with us on the day.

Before I go any further I must stress that this would not have been possible without Alexandra Reeve, who is a very talented young professional rider and has such a special relationship with Molly. She started competing Molly in 2017 and the pair have just gone from strength to strength. To my surprise I have found myself in the position of being an ‘owner’ and I am enjoying every minute of it.

I had bought Molly as a two year old because I had been having fun competing her thoroughbred mum and hoped that her filly would be very similar. Molly is by the warmblood stallion Broadstone Chicago and this may be why she is so exuberant in her jumping and her character! 

May 2019 finally arrived and after months of anticipation we loaded up and headed off and as we turned onto the M4 I couldn’t help taking a photo of the motorway sign – we were nearly there!

From the moment we arrived there was so much happening – settling in to our stable for the week, drinks receptions, course walks, the actual event and a final party to finish. We did the course walk with Yogi Breisner and it was really helpful and informative. The course was very challenging and was certainly a championship course, requiring bold riding with several of the fences giving riders a lot to consider. I must admit that there looked to be some scary moments and I was glad it was Alex in the saddle.

Molly is always excitable and enthusiastic and she had definitely picked up on the atmosphere. She is always rather tense and unpredictable in the dressage but she did a good test in the circumstances and finished on a score of 32.8.

As Alex started to warm up for the show jumping Molly got so hyper that she couldn’t focus but fortunately help was at hand. Padraig McCarthy had been giving them both some lessons prior to the event and he arrived in the warm up area just in time to work with them before their show jumping round. As they entered the arena my heart was thumping so loudly I thought anyone standing nearby would be able to hear. Alex was brilliant and managed to contain Molly’s exuberance enough and they got a clear round –amazing!           

The cross country is Molly’s favourite phase and wow did she attack it! My heart was in my mouth as I listened to the commentary but Alex rode superbly and they finished with a clear round within the time. That meant that they finished on their dressage score and were placed 22nd out of 104 which was a fantastic result.                                                                        

There was still lots more to enjoy though because we were given free entry to the international event, were lucky enough to be driven around the 5 star course by the Willis brothers, Alex was invited to the cocktail party at Badminton House and we were allowed the stable for the remainder of the week with access to ride across the Badminton Estate. At last I could say I had ridden at Badminton!

Later that year Molly qualified for the Blenheim Eventer Challenge and we had another exciting trip. We stayed overnight in an old manor house a few minutes from the event so Molly was full of energy when we got there. It was the same day as the international event so it felt really special driving in to the estate past all the cars queuing to get in.

There were lots of people there, a big trade stand area, the large central arena and the cross country which came quite close to our own arena. The weather had been fairly horrid and the ground was really muddy but it didn’t seem to faze Molly and she warmed up well. The jumps were quite large and there were some interesting cross country fences which gave riders a few problems, especially with the difficult ground conditions.

I thought that Molly may struggle with both the ground and the busy atmosphere but she attacked the course with her usual enthusiasm and we were delighted despite the fact that she had a few poles down. We spent the rest of the day watching the international riders in action and drove home having had another thrilling day.

What a year to remember!