Are you missing Badminton Horse Trials as much as we are?
This week, like many of our followers, we would have been sat back watching the thrills (and sometimes, spills) of one of the biggest competitions of the UK's Eventing season, the Badminton Horse Trials.
Sadly like many other events, Badminton has been unable to run this year, but we have been able to catch up with brand ambassador and professional groom, Becca Nicholson, as she reveals how they prepare for the event, her top tips and her favourite Badminton memories!
- Who have you previously groomed for at Badminton?
"Badminton is the one event that’s always eluded me! So it’s still very much a dream."
"Like any long format competition, the preparation of the horses and their daily routine remains the same. They have the morning in the field after their breakfasts, exercised during the day then put to bed. Generally, they’ll also be on 3 feeds a day at this point; some may even have a 4th late feed at around 9pm. Their exercise programme is at the maximum fitness at this point... so lots of stamina work! We’re very lucky where we are and have the most amazing hills to do their gallop work up. Because of the high intensity training, their muscles are worked hard. So, after every gallop or particularly hard training session, I’ll fully wash them down with the Lavender Splosh wash to help their tired, aching muscles; followed my a massage session and their legs iced to aid recovery. Generally their last ridden day before a big event would be a gallop, followed by a quiet day either off in the field relaxing or on the walker to keep them loose and fresh before leaving for the event.
Wherever my horses go, I’ll follow with a back pack. In there will have literally everything; Hoof Shine and brush, fly spray, body brush, towel/cloth, scissors, spare bridle number, safety pins, Leather Care Spray, hoof pick, tape. You name it, it’s in there. The last thing you want is to have your horse looking great in the stables but once it’s time to be on stage, they’ve rubbed their leg and left slobber behind, walked through a muddy puddle or your bridle number has fallen off, you'll thank god you packed spares!"
"Generally I try and keep the horses routine as similar as I can to home. So I’ll get up and feed at 7am. However, depending on the dressage time, I may have to feed earlier to allow enough time to get ready.
I’ll always feed, muck out, change water and take for a hand graze for at least 30 minutes every morning, then allow myself at least an hour to get dressage ready (longer if I have a grey to allow time for *another* bath!). I’ll plait, apply enhancing gloss and quarter marks then tack up and sew on the number to the numnah (as well as studding up if the dressage is on grass) then we’re ready for dressage.
After dressage, I’ll untack, unstud and wash off with Lavender Splosh. Then, if it’s sunny, take them for another hand graze to allow them to dry. Once they’re dry, they’ll go back to their stable have a massage then left to get plenty of rest ready for cross country day!"
- What product could you not live with out for the Trot Up?
"Definitely the Quarter Marking Spray. The horses will have to be walked in hand o the trot up, which can be quite a trek, allowing plenty of time to “warm up” for the trot up. The majority of the time, they will be wearing a rug of some kind to keep their muscles warm. The quarter mark spray allows you to put a rug over the top and keeps the quarter marks in place."
- What is the recovery process after Cross Country?
"As soon as they cross the finish line and the rider dismounts, the horses are untacked and unbooted as quickly as possible; whilst trying to keep them walking. They’re then washed down thoroughly and walked until their surface temperature has cooled. The more people you have doing this the better! So if you’re by yourself at the finish, it’s good to try and call in some help.
I would also take some ice packs with me to the finish so I can get ice straight on their legs after they’re washed off. Once I am satisfied, I will take them to the vet so they can check that their heart rate has come back down relatively normal. After the vet has given the green light, it’s back to the stables to take out studs and ice. I will stand the horses in what look like wellies filled with ice water and salt, to help aid recovery and reduce inflammation, for 20 minutes. Provided we’re satisfied with how their legs are feeling, I will then apply arnica gel (or ice tight) and stable bandage to offer the legs extra support and protection, then allow the horse to rest and have a good nights sleep."
- Is there an item you would never forget to take with you?
"There’s numerous items I’d be lost without if I don’t take them, so it’s hard to choose only one specific thing! However, I do always take my speaker or radio, otherwise the stables are just a bit to quiet, ironically!"
-Lastly, we know you say Badminton has always eluded you, but is there a specific moment that you will always remember from past years?
"It would have to be back in 2000 when Mary King (who I previously worked for as Head Girl ) won with Star Appeal. I absolutely idolised the pair at the time and had their badminton photo on my wall for years after. "