Warwickshire-based Ben Way is one of nine first-timers that have made it to the start list of this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Ben however is unique in that he is one of few riders at this level that has a full-time job. And while he has always hunted and done some point-to-pointing it is only seven years ago that he first rode in an affiliated event.
Ben, a graduate of the Royal Agricultural University, is a qualified chartered surveyor and works in the Cirencester office of estate and letting agents Butler Sherborn – he heads the equestrian property side of the business. He also has a round commute of over 100 miles, from home and the yard to the office and back each day.
In the lorry park it feels more like being back at Pony Club camp – we are all crammed in and it’s pretty chaotic with dogs and children everywhere.
Not only that but there are 20 horses in the yard that he runs with his girlfriend Sarah Parkes, who also events although the pair is helped by a full-time groom and Ben’s mother who rides out Ben’s Badminton partner Galley Light, a former racehorse from Ireland. Nevertheless Ben’s day starts at 5.30am. Not surprisingly, 12-year-old Galley has been top of the to-do list this year.
So how does it feel to be swapping the office to ride at the World’s biggest three-day event?
“It’s quite funny as I have been coming to Badminton for as long as I can remember but it was only last year that I walked the course thinking like a rider rather than just a spectator. And now we are here and walking the course for real, which is all quite surreal,” says Ben, who appears relatively cool, calm and collected for a Badminton rookie. He also seems unfazed by the fact that he is the only British amateur rider this year and is surrounded by professionals.
“Actually in the lorry park it feels more like being back at Pony Club camp – we are all crammed in and it’s pretty chaotic with dogs and children everywhere.”
“Being an amateur often works in my favour, as it takes the pressure off though of course my aim is to complete. But if it starts to go well than I could get competitive – although I have to be realistic.”
Ben has been given the time off work to compete and colleagues from the office will be at Badminton today to support Ben and Galley who ride their dressage test shortly after the lunch break.
So how does he feel about the cross country tomorrow?
“I’m looking forward to it. The Mirage Pond (fence 18abc) is a real test but Galley is a bold horse and also careful – he also loves his three-days and has been rather full of himself so far.”