Tina Cook openly admits she was “completely terrified” at the thought of riding Badminton as a 21-year-old.
Fast forward more than 20 years, though, and Cook looks like being among the leading title contenders following a dressage score of 43.3 aboard De Novo News.
The 12-time major championship medallist and 2009 European individual champion has never won a four-star event, but her desire is undimished.
“There is so much history at Badminton,” she said.
“I rode here when I was 21, many years ago, and I was completely terrified then.
“I’ve had some amazing rides here, and I have also fallen off a few times as well, but that is the respect Badminton needs. Only the best come here.”
Cook’s attention now switches to Saturday’s cross-country phase, with Italian designer Guiseppe della Chiesa having again set a chellenge to test the best.
“The course is a little bit kinder than last year, with not as many combinations, but you can’t get away from the fact it is still big,” she added. “It’s still Badminton. There is no room for error anywhere. “He’s a good cross-country horse, he went very well at the World Equestrian Games last year. He has got a lot of scope, and he is very honest and tries his best for me.
“He’s really, really smart. He has all the attributes of being a top horse.
“I didn’t start eventing him until he was well into his six-year-old year, and he has come on so quickly. I know there is more improvement in him.
“He was just a bit inattentive in his walk today. He noticed himself walking along on the screen in the arena, so I don’t why he was being so vain! But there was a lot to like about the test as well.
“Carl (Hester) has helped me a little bit in the past with dressage, Amy Stovold is helping me now and also Dane Rawlins, so I am having a lot of help in this phase, which is generally my weaker phase.”