Wednesday 5th May
Sunday 9th May, 2021

Rider Blog – Final Count-down from Dani Evans

It is now only a matter of days before I arrive at Badminton for this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials with my two rides Raphael (‘Raph’), owned by Mrs Vanessa Watson, and Smart Time (‘PJ’), owned by Mrs Luana Edge. I feel extremely fortunate to have these two lovely horses entered this year. To have one horse at this level is an incredible achievement but have both going is very exciting indeed. Although it has been doubly hard work getting them both ready, it has been nice in the fact that they have done most of their preparation work together as a pair.

Both Raph and PJ are feeling great and these last few days we will be giving them some quieter days to ensure they are in peak condition – fit and raring to go! I am very fortunate to be part of the National Lottery funded World Class Podium Potential squad which has enabled me to access vital training in the lead up to Badminton; from video analysis to physiotherapy – we’ve covered it all.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Fontainbleau hadn’t quite gone exactly to plan so it was important to try and learn from the mistakes made, and make sure I don’t make them again. Unfortunately, both horses missed out on their Advanced run at Belton International due to the ground conditions being slightly unfavourable and not quite to my liking. Waking up to snow was never on my agenda! A great effort by Belton to keep the show on the road. Next time I’ll be there.

Despite them missing out I have made sure that no stone has been left unturned in my preparation to ensure that we are both, myself and the horses, are in the best possible frame entering the competition. The whole yard has been busy at either Rectory Farm or Summerhouse on Tuesday and Wednesday every week; I nearly feel like a show jumper!! If I have a rail down on any horses in the foreseeable future I’m going to be seriously annoyed with myself, but as the saying goes, practise makes perfection.

I feel like I have gained a lot of experience since my debut at Badminton in 2014 and consequently feel better prepared for what I will face this next coming week. Without the support from my trainers, owners, sponsors and all of my ‘background’ team none of this would be possible so I am extremely grateful and am very much hoping to make them proud in one way or another this coming week.

Although unfortunate for the poor riders having to withdraw – I know that horrible feeling after the Senior Europeans last year (!) – it is great news that my good friend Ben ‘#yehboi’ Hobday has made it to Badminton from the wait list. He was originally quite a way down but this year more people than ever have had to withdraw. After battling cancer last year, I can’t imagine the immense sense of pride Ben is feeling at the moment. From rock bottom in a hospital bed to riding round Badminton in front of thousands of people all in the space of a year is simply an incredible achievement. Moments like these, devastating lows and fantastic highs, is one of the main reasons why I love Eventing so much. There is very little money involved, and long hard hours; but there is a real sense of community within the Eventing circuit.

On a slightly less serious note it has been loads of fun doing some extra media work in the build up to the event. Firstly, one of my sponsors did a photo shoot at Beryl House in Wells (see picture), on Tuesday. I am not sure I could lead the life of a model, but it was good fun nonetheless! Then on Wednesday I did a pre Badminton question and answer evening in Cirencester at the Kings Arms in aid of the Riding for the Disabled Association. On the panel was Rodney Powell, Tom McEwen and Hugh Thomas…. Needless to say the blonde girl, aka me, was sat in the middle trying to avoid all eye contact so no one would ask me a question – not sure it really worked!

On Thursday, I had a truly blonde moment, when Randal from 2Gallop came to do a video with me and the horses and I gave him the wrong postcode by accident (Ooops!). When he rang saying he was just down the lane and could I tell him where the yard was, he said that my description of the lanes was not very accurate and that they weren’t that small and wiggly, I was a little perplexed.

After about 5 minutes we established that where he was and where I thought he was, was not actually where he was. He was some 15 miles away in Yatton in a residential area, not on the grassy lanes of Woollard with the River Chew on the doorstep. Lesson learnt…. Must check text before I press send!

Then on Friday, I felt like a young girl at Christmas, as NAF very kindly sent lots of goodies through the post. A large plentiful supply of boxes to be opened, with everything I could possibly need next week. Thanks, Lorna.

Finally, it was so wonderful to celebrate the inspirational Hannah Francis’ 18th Birthday in the week. She is incredibly tough and never stops smiling. She is such an inspiration and a great friend – I will bring my Willberry Wonderpony mascot to Badminton with great pride.

The Badminton shoes are on, the physio has been and I can’t wait to be galloping around the hallowed turf again.

See you there!