Nineteen-year-old's Badminton Horse Trials achievement

PUBLISHED: 01:16 28 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:37 20 February 2013

Nineteen-year-old's Badminton Horse Trials achievement

Nineteen-year-old's Badminton Horse Trials achievement

Abbie Lloyd, a nineteen-year-old student and eventer from Burgess Hill, competed at Badminton Horse Trials this year...

Badminton or bust

Abbie Lloyd, a nineteen-year-old student and eventer from Burgess Hill, competed at Badminton Horse Trials this year.

For almost any rider, competing at a major event like Badminton Horse Trials is a dream. For nineteen-year-old student Abbie Lloyd it became a reality. The young eventer qualified with her coloured cob, Jack, for the Grassroots Championships last year and this April Abbie competed in the infamous three-discipline event.

Eventing is arguably the most challenging of the equestrian sports. Riders need to combine technical skill for the dressage test with precision for show-jumping and physical stamina to compete on a cross-country course.

To qualify for the Grassroots championships, Abbie needed to finish in the top 10 per cent ofan ordinary affiliated competition, before 30 June in the preceding year. In doing so, she qualified for a regional final. Abbie, a former Burgess Hill School for Girls student, enjoyed fantastic success at the regionals, winning her classes at both Mattingley in Hampshire and Rackham in Sussex.

Abbie went on to take second place at the West Wiltshire Regional Final, finishing within the top 25 per cent and ultimately securing her place at Badminton.

Extraordinary dedication, determination and excellent time management were soon needed, as Abbie was off to Loughborough University in the East Midlands to read sports technology, but still needed to train eight-year-old Jack for the biggest competition of their lives.

Abbie explains: Once I went to University, at the beginning of October, Jack was turned away until the week after Christmas. I started bringing him back into work before going back to Loughborough in mid January.
For 11 weeks after that, I jumped on a train home from Uni at lunchtime on a Friday, getting home just in time to ride before the light faded at 5.30pm. Id then hack, compete, school or gallop him at the weekend before catching a 5.30am train back to Loughborough on the Monday morning, in time for my 9am lecture.

In the meantime my mum would lunge him three times a week and my Pony Club friend, Tillie Brown, would school him once a week to keep him ticking over and in an attempt to slim him down!
Finally, the competition arrived and Abbie and her mum left their home in Ditchling Common to travel to the Gloucestershire show ground, three hours drive away.

Hacking around the Badminton estate on the evening before the competition was a surreal and special experience. Reaching Badminton was wonderful in itself but the reality of it was far more incredible than I could ever have imagined.

Abbie completed her dressage test the next day, but was slightly disappointed with the mark, which left her midfield in the competition.
The following morning, with a keen interest in the championships myself, I joined Abbies team of supporters at Badminton, to watch her compete in the show-jumping and on the cross-country course.

The talented young rider and her handsome coloured cob jumped a lovely clear round in the show-jumping, which left them in a good position to do well in the competition overall.

I then joined a group of Abbies Pony Club friends and family at the coffin, an ominously named jump that required careful negotiation and total precision. The atmosphere was tense as we waited for her to approach the fence. We couldnt help but get caught in the moment, shouting and cheering for her, as she cleared the jump and galloped off into the distance, on to the next terrifying fence.

The commentators voice boomed out across the tannoy: Well, thats Abbie Lloyd clear over the coffin, much to the delight of her large team of supporters who are all loudly cheering her on.

Abbie completed the rest of the course mistake-free and in good time. Out of the 83 competitors, she had taken sixteenth place a fantastic achievement.

The atmosphere was amazing, everything ran like clockwork and was beautifully presented, she said. I was very lucky to have so many lovely supporters in my friends and family who came to watch and it certainly wouldn't have been the same without them all there. To finish sixteenth, just squeezing inside the top 20, was a great end to four brilliant days.
We had such a wonderful ride on the cross-country course. The feeling of riding around Badminton, past the house and through the lake was unbelievable and made all of the hard-work and early starts worthwhile. Theres just no other place like it!

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