Tag Archive: Badminton

  1. William Fox-Pitt wins the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

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    William Fox-Pitt ended a six-year wait for British success at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials by claiming a dramatic victory on the 15-year-old stallion Chilli Morning.

    In doing so,  Chilli Morning became the first stallion in history to win an elite four-star event.

    William Fox-Pitt (GBR) riding Chilli Morning

    William Fox-Pitt (GBR) riding Chilli Morning/ Kit Houghton

    It was 46-year-old Fox-Pitt’s 14th four-star crown of his stellar career, but a first Badminton triumph since 2004, while Oliver Townend and Flint Curtis were the last British combination to prevail in 2009.

    “I was a little lucky, so I am sorry I made everyone very, very tense watching that!”

    But while Fox-Pitt celebrated, there was heartbreak for New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, who followed his rival’s showjumping clear round by having three fences down, pushing him from first to sixth.

    William Fox-Pitt (GBR) riding Chilli Morning  winner the Badminton Horse Trials 2015 with the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy/ Kit Houghton

    William Fox-Pitt (GBR) riding Chilli Morning winner the Badminton Horse Trials 2015 with the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy/ Kit Houghton

    Nicholson has a record 35 Badminton completions to his name, but still no title, and there was also misery for Townend and Armada as they plummeted eight places to 11th after collecting 16 faults.

    Germany’s Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob finished second, 1.2 penalties behind Fox-Pitt’s final score of 39.0, with 2013 Badminton winner Jonathan Paget third on Clifton Lush, Mark Todd (Leonidas II) fourth and Bettina Hoy (Designer 10) fifth.

    “It is a massive relief,” Fox-Pitt told Derby House Post. “I can’t believe it.

    “You are so in the lap of the Gods when you are lying second going into showjumping. I knew I had to jump a clear round, and I thought I just can’t have another one pole off.

    “I was a little lucky, so I am sorry I made everyone very, very tense watching that!

    “It’s so exciting. I won here in 2004, and it has been a long wait, but what a horse.

    “I am so proud of him. I felt I let him down a little bit in the dressage, and today I think we made it up.

    “The fact he is the first stallion to win a four-star makes me feel quite emotional.

    “He had that victory coming, he has been knocking on the door. Nick Gauntlett produced him so beautifully, and I was very lucky to pick up the reins in 2012 when he was well and truly produced.

    “I did come here feeling he had a good chance, although I felt very angry with myself after dressage.

    “I felt he should have been streets ahead of the field here after dressage, and he wasn’t, and I thought I had made his life really difficult with no room for anything, and thank goodness it worked out.”

    Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2015

    Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2015

  2. Badminton: The most memorable cross-country moments

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    Well what an extraordinary and exciting finish there will be tomorrow at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. We knew it would be a close one but did anyone imagine this close – just one fence between the first five riders? And there are bags of potential for a rewrite of the history books. Can Andrew Nicholson finally break his Badminton duck after 31 years of competing here?

    Whether he wins or not (and providing both of his horses pass the horse inspection) he will further his record as the rider with the most completions which will go up to 35.

    Surely no-one will ever surpass that? Well, not in my lifetime.

    Pictured: William Fox-Pitt (GBR) riding Chilli Morning. Copyright Kit Houghton

    Maybe Ingrid Klimke will put her name in the record books as the first German rider to win the title – she has been second here and Michael Jung came so close in 2013 when all he had to do was jump the final showjumping fence – and then the pole rolled ever so slowly off the cups, handing the title to Jock Paget.

     Both Andrews ride Nereo and Oliver Townend’s third placed Armada, are by the thoroughbred Fines out of Berganza by the Hanoverian Golf I

    And what are the chances of two full brothers (equine not human) finishing first and second. Both Andrews ride Nereo and Oliver Townend’s third placed Armada, are by the thoroughbred Fines out of Berganza by the Hanoverian Golf I. Not only would it be a record for their breeder, former rider Ramon Beca, but they were both produced by Andrew who also rode their full siblings Fenicio, Homero, Oplitas and Silfio – that must be a record in itself.

    Full brothers competing at Badminton are not a new phenomenon – in 2009 two sets competed; Special Advocate and Special Attorney by Criminal Law out of a mare by Garnered both ridden by Dan Jocelyn and Bit of a Barney and Partly Pickled both by Blaze O’ Gold out of Gerfuffle by Rhodomantade. Both were ridden by Louise Skelton whose mother Jackie bred the pair. Sadly however neither of the pairs completed that year or at other events. This year Louise is riding another member of the same family. Mr Potts (by Old Leighlin) is out of Gerfuffle’s daughter Much of a Muddle (by Roma Diamond Skip) and is a half- sister to her former Badminton brothers.

    Or is it possible that a stallion could win Badminton for the first time. No stallion has ever won a major four-star event and few stallions even compete at the level. The last stallions to complete Badminton with any distinction were; Welton Apollo, eighth in 1989 with Leslie Law – and the pair did complete three Badmintons – and the British-bred Yarlands Summersong, also eighth in 1995 with French rider Marie Christine Duroy. Interestingly his sire Fleetwater Opposition had a runner here this year in Absolut Oppostion who gave Nana Dalton her first ride round.

    More recently the Trakehner stallion Windfall (who was produced to advanced level by Ingrid Klimke) ridden by American Darren Chiacchia won at three-star level including 12th place at the 2004 Olympic Games.

    But Badminton is not just about the winners and today produced so many other great results.

    Eye-catchers for this armchair rider in no particular order;

    • Pippa Funnell who produced a cracking round from Second Supreme and looked back to her best
    • Jeanette Brakewell who gave the mare Lets Dance a confident round
    • Izzy Taylor who rode a masterful copy-book clear with the mare Briarlands Matilda
    • British first-timer Ben Way whose clear round on Galley Light with just 6.8 time penalties moved the combination 36 places up the leaderboard
    • Tim Price and Ringwood Skyboy whose immaculate clear jumped them 18 places up to12th
    • Gemma Tattersall who laid the ghost of last year’s flag incident to rest with a clear round on Arctic Soul and moved up 21 places
    • Bettina Hoy who last completed here 12 years ago and at the age of 52 is back in the top 10.

    And a couple of the hard luck stories;

    • Christopher Burton’s 20 penalties added after a clear inside the time for crossing his tracks
    • Camilla Spiers one refusal in what was an otherwise cracking round from the pint sized Connemara cross Just a Jiff.

    All in all a cracking day for the sport and Badminton. And now everyone can start worrying about tomorrow morning’s final horse inspection that takes place at 08.30am.




  3. What brings you to Badminton?

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    The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials attracts thousands of spectators – it is known as one of the largest sporting events in the UK. Come rain or shine they turn up every year.

    So what is it exactly that brings them to this small Gloucestershire village, not only from all corners of the UK but increasingly from abroad as well?

    Extraordinarily a short and admittedly unscientific exercise for The Derby House Post has revealed one single reason. Most of those asked had been coming for years and all cited the term ‘tradition’ or ‘habit.’

    Not one of those polled would even dream of not coming – if you want ‘brand loyalty’ clearly this event has it in bucket loads – and it is passed down from generation to generation. Maybe it should do corporate training exercises in the field?

    Sarah and Jo from Monmouth have been coming together every year since they were 14 – they now have teenage daughters. What brings them each year? “The shopping, the horses, Mary King,” says Jo (in that order) as they pondered where to stop for lunch.

    “We used to bring the children on cross country day but we now prefer to come on our own on dressage Friday and we do a bit of everything. It’s always a good day out and we’ve never had a bad day whatever the weather.”

    Local visitor Abigail from Wickwar has been every year for the last 30 years. She first came as an eight-year-old with her parents who also come as well.

    “It’s a family tradition,” said Abigail.  “We all come for three days, whatever the weather. And it’s all lovely and just brilliant.”

    Long-time friends Denise and Clare, one from Monmouth and one from Maidenhead, began their Badminton visit on Wednesday and are here for the full five days – sometimes camping as well.

    “We wouldn’t miss it,” says Denise who first came as a 12-year-old.

    Gina and Sarah from East Sussex not only wouldn’t miss it but have already booked their B&B in Malmesbury for next year. They too come together every year for three days and this year the event has a bonus in that two of their friends daughters – Gemma Tattersall and Emily Llewellyn – are riding in the event.

    “It’s a Mum’s weekend away,” says Gina, as the pair left to venture on a shopping break from dressage. In common with the other visitors polled part of the attraction is the familiarity and ritual of the event.

    “We shop, do dressage and tomorrow will walk the cross country and watch two riders at every fence,” says Gina who enjoys the ambience of the site. “Everyone is so friendly and the event as whole is so well run.”

    So there you have it. If you want to create a successful event there are seemingly few rules: stick to the same timetable, make it family friendly and employ friendly staff with good organisational ability.


  4. Chartered surveyor Ben Way prepares for Badminton debut

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    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.”



  5. Is it a playground? No it’s the Badminton lorry park

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    Is it a playground – no it’s the Badminton lorry park?

    Well anyone could be forgiven for making the mistake. Yes there are a lot of large horseboxes in a small space but there are also a lot of small bikes and push-a-long plastic toys littering the paddock that doubles up as one of the lorry parks for the event.

    Maybe ‘twas ever thus but seemingly there are a lot of riders who nowadays clearly enjoy Badminton ‘en famille’: Nana Dalton, William Fox-Pitt, Tom Crisp, Paul Tapner, Sam Griffiths, Andrew Nicholson, Beanie Sturgis and Francis Whittington are several riders competing at this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials who have young children in tow. Local rider Nick Gauntlett was even spotted grabbing the moment of a buggy ride back to the stables as an opportunity to feed his 15-month old son Henry.

    Event riders are known to be a particularly stoic lot but none-the-less how do riders and their spouses cope with the demands of young children while one of them trying to focus on a career-defining, major international competition?

    “First of all we always try to park next to the Crisps who also have young children – in fact all those with children tend to be parked together,” says Sam Whittington, whose husband Francis has two rides this year as well as two children, Max aged six and two-year-old Amber. “They can then all play together in the lorry park – the stable yard is out of bounds – and bikes are an important items to bring along.”

    According to Max, however, one of the main reasons for coming to Badminton is to visit the toy stall – a trip done in the morning while Francis is left alone to get on with the horses.

    “Badminton is good for children as there is plenty to do and see,” says Sam who is also helping Max write a daily diary of the week to take back to school to show he has done something other than visit the toy store. Max has taken several days off as Badminton, unlike Burghley, does not fall during a school holiday.

    “At the moment we can’t leave them behind as even though they are both young they are aware that this is a big and important occasion for the whole family and we couldn’t leave them out,” says Sam. “And the school are also excited to hear about how Francis did.”

    Sam acknowledges however that managing and feeding an international sportsman and two young children single-handedly wouldn’t be easy. “I certainly couldn’t manage the lot without the support of the children’s grandparents,” says Sam who does admit that the confines of a horsebox – even a big one with a pop out side – for a week together can be wearing.

    “Thankfully its dry at the moment and they can get out and play but we have been to events – Osberton 2011 for example when Max was really small – that because of the rain and mud I haven’t been able to get out of the lorry. And we certainly appreciate the space when we get home.”

  6. Oliver Townend: FEI is “changing the goalposts”

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    Leading British rider Oliver Townend is concerned that world equestrian sport’s governing body are “changing the goalposts” during an ongoing debate about possible changes in eventing.

    The future competition format for eventing at Olympic Games and other major championships is currently being discussed, together with possible changes of cross-country penalties, covering areas like frangible pins and first refusal at a fence.

    Everybody thinks we need to make the sport safer, but I think they are looking at a lot of wrong directions, in my opinion.

    Yorkshireman Townend, who won Badminton and Burghley in 2009 and was Badminton runner-up last year, is keeping a close eye on developments.

    The world-ranked number five rider said: “I think the sport is in between things at the moment.

    “The FEI (Federation Equestre International) seem to be changing the goalposts.

    “Everybody thinks we need to make the sport safer, but I think they are looking at a lot of wrong directions, in my opinion.

    “I think the sport is constantly changing, and I don’t think particularly for the better with some of the FEI rules.

    “It just seems to be a little bit of a Mickey Mouse situation with a lot of the things they are coming out with, and I think it is taking it away from what the sport is actually meant to be.”

    Townend will launch his quest for a second Badminton title on Friday, when he enters the dressage arena aboard Armada.

  7. Badminton: Will it be 34th time lucky for Andrew Nicholson?

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    Thirteenth time lucky is a long enough wait – but 34th time lucky?

    It is remarkable to think that New Zealand superstar Andrew Nicholson has never won the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

    The five-time Burghley champion can also count Kentucky and Pau four-star titles among his collection, but while he has completed the demanding Badminton test of dressage, cross-country and showjumping a record 33 times, he has yet to lift the trophy.

    The former world number one, though, means business this time around, judging by a superb dressage score of 37.8 aboard Nereo. And it was also a relaxed Nicholson who spoke after a test that has put him in prime position over the weekend to end his long Badminton wait.

    I haven’t walked the course yet. It was far too windy yesterday, and it might have ruffled my hair up.

    Asked if he walked the cross-country course yet, the Wiltshire-based Kiwi replied: “No, not yet. It was far too windy yesterday, and it might have ruffled my hair up.”

    But there was also a steely gaze in Nicholson’s eyes, when asked if he felt this year might be his best chance of Badminton glory, adding: “Yes. I am very focused on it.”

    Nicholson is regarded as arguably the world’s finest cross-country rider, and he is relishing the challenge that Italian course designer Guiseppe della Chiesa has posed.

    “I was very pleased with the course last year,” he said. “I hope he (della Chiesa) hasn’t shied off from last year. I think the weather caught us all out last year.

    “Hopefully, it is his style. For sure, there will be enough to jump out there.”

    New Zealander Jock Paget marked his return to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials with a stylish dressage performance with his 2013 champion Clifton Promise.

    Paget was unable to defend the title last year due to a lengthy suspension imposed after Promise tested positive for the banned substance reserpine. Paget, though, consistently protested innocence, and he was cleared in August last year, clearing the way for him to resume his competitive career.

    “I was very happy with him,” Paget said after the dressage.

    “He’s such a professional now, he knows his job. He went in there and did his job for me. I thought it was a really good test.

    “I think it was one of the better tests he has done. Every foot was where I wanted it.

    “You do all the work, you train, train, train, and it is nice when you go in there and they do it for you.

    “I can’t complain at all preparation-wise. I’ve got here with two good horses.”

    And looking ahead to Saturday’s cross-country phase, Paget added: “I’ve walked the course once, and I really liked it. I think it is big, as it should be. The questions are fair. If you ride it right, the horses will understand the questions.  “This is four-star, and you have to get it all right, otherwise you get punished.”

  8. Bettina Hoy and Paul Tapner turn heads at the Badminton vet check

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    Well it had to happen. After weeks of the barometer being set fair the weather conditions totally changed for the first day of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and in true British style ‘it’ became the talking point.

    Well you couldn’t miss it. Strong winds and heavy driving rain showers did not make conditions easy for anyone involved in the organisation of the event; strategically placed flower stands, that must have taken hours to put together, were bowled over and destroyed in seconds, waste bins fell into a drunken heap, while anyone in a tented trade-stand had to contend with constant feeling that they and their products were about to be blown across The Park.

    Amazingly most of the horses were incredibly well-behaved – even four and five-year-olds having their first outing of the year in the Burghley Dubarry Young Event Horse. It was the humans that were struggling, at times just to stand up or make forward progress, and much time was spent chasing hats. And undoubtedly there will be more than a few horses that took part in the Grassroots Championships glad to get home to a good night’s sleep having spent most of their night away, wide-eyed and upright while the roof of their temporary stables rattled and flapped.

    At least it stayed dry for part one of the main event, the First Horse Inspection which is of course as much the First Rider Inspection.

    Paul Tapner, first down the runway and number one with Kilronan, set a high sartorial standard by anyone’s yardstick; red trousers, check jacket and a dapper bow tie set off to good effect with a natty pair of sunglasses, which possibly weren’t necessary but they did a job. Ben Hobday also sported a pair and similar look with a pale jacket and matching waistcoat.

    Charlotte Agnew (GBR) with Out of Africa Two at the first vet check

    Charlotte Agnew (GBR) with Out of Africa Two at the first vet check

    Black and white jackets were a popular choice for the girls; Nicola Wilsons a striking zig-zag, Pippa Funnell’s a large check and Nana Dalton’s a sixties style spots. Orange also featured in Jonelle Price’s sweater dress and Jeanette Brakewell’s jacket while both Aoife Clark and Ingrid Klimke, perhaps in view of the weather opted for trench coats.

    Nicola Wilson with Beltane Queen at the first vet check

    Nicola Wilson with Beltane Queen at the first vet check

    Louisa Milne Home’s tweed trouser suit, with ankle-skimming trousers was also an eye-catcher , while Bettina Hoy’s new brunette bob and fringed western style jacket certainly made for a double take.

    We were of course really there to see the horses all looking their best having been primped, plaited and polished all afternoon. For this writer eye-catchers in the paddock as it were; The Deputy (Jonelle Price NZL), Shannondale Titan (Bill Levett AUS), Nereo (Andrew Nicholson NZL) Tom Tom Go (Niklas Bschorer GER), Glengarnock (Paul Sims GBR), Beltane Queen (Nicola Wilson GBR) and Hasty Imp (Francis Whittington GBR).

    Sadly for British first timer Matthew Heath his inaugural competitive visit to Badminton came to an abrupt end when The Lion was eliminated. One can only imagine the huge down and disappointment that follows the previous excitement of arrival 24 hours earlier.

    On a more positive note the weather is now meant to calm down for the rest of the event. Good news, not only for the riders who have to ride a dressage test, but for all those who have spent 24 hours hanging onto tents or chasing rubbish bins and flower pots.

  9. Mark Todd: “Badminton XC is softer this year”

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    Four-time Badminton champion Mark Todd reserved a tongue-in-cheek comment for the judges after completing his dressage test at the Mitsubishi Motors Horse Trials with Leonidas II.

    Early marking on the opening morning appeared to be a touch on the harsh side, with no combination breaking the 40-mark until Todd’s fellow New Zealander posted a brilliant score of 37.8 aboard Nereo.

    Todd, who famously won his fourth Badminton title at the age of 55 four years ago, had to settle for a score of 45.8.

    “I think it was one of the best tests he has done,” Todd said. “The judges are a bit like the weather today – they are a bit down!”

    The judges are a bit like the weather today – they are a bit down

    Todd, who has a second ride on Friday aboard Oloa, is bidding for another Badminton crown that would leave him just behind all-time record winner Lucinda Green who has won the event X times.

    “This year, a lot of the best horses are drawn in the first quarter of the field, so it will be interesting to see what the later starters do tomorrow,” he added.

    “The atmosphere in the arena was very quiet today – there are not many people in the stands – but my horse was very relaxed.

    “In terms of the cross-country, Leonidas is a very good jumper, so hopefully I can have a good plan.

    “It’s Badminton, it has got to be a proper four-star course.

    “From what I have heard, he (course designer Giuseppe della Chiesa) has softened it off a little bit this year, which I think is a good thing. It was a little bit too intense in the middle stage last year.”

  10. Why Badminton is the most magnetic event of the season

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    It took me about five minutes to catch the Badminton bug. Rolling up as a “first-timer” in 2009, I had no real idea what to expect. I had heard of Badminton, obviously, I knew who Mark Todd was and I knew the traffic was usually horrendous on cross-country day, but that was about it.

    So to say my first Badminton experience surpassed all expectations would probably be an understatement. It was captivating, enthralling, gripping – even emotional at times – because that is what the world’s premier eventing competition can do for you.

    As a competitor, you have to be “in it to win it”, and likewise as a spectator you have to be there on those four magnificent days to enjoy the full Badminton experience. Believe me, you will not be disappointed – even when it rains.

    To make the most of your day out at Badminton, get there early.

    The first mistake I made was to completely misjudge the scale of the place. You are aware that the main arena and cross-country course is where it all happens, but as you drive in through the picturesque Badminton village – having passed the packed camping site on your left-hand side – Badminton’s enormity immediately becomes apparent.

    From the funfair to the shopping village – retail park, more like – the iconic, manually-operated scoreboard to the bars and eateries, from Radio Badminton and the huge media attendance to enormous crowds, this is no run-of-the-mill sporting event.

    A programme and Radio Badminton headset, meanwhile, are also essential early purchases.

    To make the most of your day out at Badminton, get there early. Not only do you beat the rush, you can also enjoy the calm before the storm by hitting the shops before the tills start making more noise than a bell-ringers’ convention. A programme and Radio Badminton headset, meanwhile, are also essential early purchases. Shop at your leisure, and stay in touch with the competition. Perfect!

    The area around the main scoreboard, with its drinks tents and coffee stalls is a great one just to hang out, hear the gossip and chew the fat. It is a real hive of activity, and a place where you can sometimes zone-in on the stories behind the scenes before, during and after the action.

    And then there is the main event – dressage Thursday and Friday, cross-country Saturday and showjumping Sunday – with many of the world’s top riders spearheading a maximum 85-strong entry that will include previous winners, veteran Badminton campaigners and relative four-star rookies. The combination of all three is an intoxicating one.

    Every single one of them will have a story to tell, whether it’s from the top-three podium on Sunday afternoon, or via the sheer exhilaration of just conquering a Badminton cross-country course, and each one will be worth a listen.

    To compete at Badminton is an achievement, to complete the challenge is even better, and to win it must be off the scale.

    Lucinda Prior-Palmer (Green) & Killaire at Badminton in 1979 © Kit Houghton

    Lucinda Prior-Palmer (Green) & Killaire at Badminton in 1979 © Kit Houghton

    For me, those final moments in the start box before horse and rider set off on the cross-country adventure rank among the most nerve-shredding in sport. What awaits us? Will we get around? But when the going gets tough, the tough get going: eventers possess courage by the bucket-load.

    It is an equine event like no other, a sporting spectacular that can hold its own in any company, and one when those privileged to be there can revel amid its unique atmosphere that soaks into the stunning back-drop of 17th Century Badminton House.

    If you have never been, trust me, you will not regret it. People go back again and again, such is the magnetism of four days’ world-class competition, memorable socialising and retail therapy that ticks every box.

    Quite simply, Badminton has got the lot, and long may it continue.


  11. Who will win this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials?

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    Elation, frustration, disappointment, nervousness and relief; these are just a few of the emotions that will be circulating a tension-filled stable yard at Badminton on Saturday.

    The big event is almost here but the bigger question is who will win?

    For me, a look at the entry list suggests an open and a close competition. There are many combinations that are capable of lifting the Mitsubishi Motors trophy but which of them can keep the lid on a dressage test, jump a cleverly timed clear round without too many near misses and stay focussed to produce a clear showjumping round in the main arena on Sunday?

    For me, a look at the entry list suggests an open and a close competition.

    Asides from the draw, weather and atmosphere all of which can affect performance, there are so many ways to pick up penalties in this sport; those two strides of canter in an extended trot in the dressage test, or a few extra metres to avoid a loose dog on the course, is all it takes to drop down the order.

    Certainly the (British-based) antipodean entry is a strong one and experience usually plays a big part at this level – although Jock Paget blew away that theory when he won on his debut in 2013.

    New Zealanders Mark Todd  the oldest rider this year – and Andrew Nicholson however have bucket loads of it. Sir Mark has also previously won the event but Andrew, with an incredible record 33 Badminton completions on his CV has yet to bag this one – so who would begrudge him this?

    And he has two chances although without his Burghley winner Avebury – he chipped a bone in his pastern – his main chance must rest with Nereo, the first of his two rides.

    Will a quieter Thursday morning dressage be in his favour? Although he won’t then have the advantage of a previous cross country round so maybe second ride Calico Joe can come up trumps for this controversial veteran of the sport.

    New Zealanders and husband and wife team Tim and Jonelle Price have both been formidable this last year

    Fellow New Zealanders and husband and wife team Tim and Jonelle Price have both been formidable this last year and Tim comes fresh from a confidence boosting second place in Lexington and the knowledge that his ride, Ringwood Sky Boy, 9th last year, is more than capable.

    From the Australian camp last year’s winner Sam Griffiths has two proven rides and Paul Tapner, the winner in 2010 also has a strong double entry although also the disadvantage of being this year’s trailblazer with Kilronan, fourth here last year. And don’t under-estimate Christopher Burton, a tidy rider who bagged the 2013 Adelaide four-star on his entry TS Jamaimo.

    From the British contingent William Fox-Pitt will probably be the favourite for many. He does however also have the handicap of just one ride and a stallion at that.

    From the British contingent William Fox-Pitt will probably be the favourite for many. He does however also have the handicap of just one ride and a stallion at that. Chilli Morning is undoubtedly an exceptional stallion, he has won William individual World and European bronze, it is however spring, naturally a distracting time and who could blame him for taking an exception to some of those upright brush fences? Ouch.

    On the other hand he can do a very tidy dressage and is a neat jumper. Will he become the first stallion to win a four-star?

    Oliver Townend has been a bit under the radar since his Badminton win in 2009 but since his second place here last year with Armada, his entry this year also, is back in roaring form and has been the one to be reckoned with this spring.

    Francis Whittington has two good entries as does Pippa Funnell and who wouldn’t love to see her back at the top of the big time.

    One who might displace them all however is German rider Ingrid Klimke. This year she has the ride on Horseware Hale Bob who gave Ingrid her first four-star win at Pau last year. An international dressage rider as well it will be no surprise to see Ingrid and Bob at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the first phase.

    Not only is it about time the ladies had a win but if she could pull this one off she will be the first ever German rider to win the title.

    For more information or to book tickets see the Badminton website

  12. Why Oliver Townend deserves more credit

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    He has represented Great Britain in major championships, he has won Badminton and Burghley in the same year on different horses and he is currently eventing’s world-ranked number four rider, but does Oliver Townend really get the credit he deserves?

    Ever since I first interviewed him in the lounge of his stunning Shropshire farmhouse more than five years ago, I have tended to think that Townend receives a raw deal.

    To my mind, he is the finest British eventer since William Fox-Pitt, with potential to become one of the all-time greats.

    To my mind, he is the finest British eventer since William Fox-Pitt, with potential to become one of the all-time greats.

    Townend’s drive and ferocious will-to-win underpin his exceptional talent, and I would have no hesitation mentioning him in the same breath as Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson and Michael Jung. He is that good.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am not manager of the Oliver Townend cheerleader troupe, just a chronicler and follower of a sport in this country that should feel lucky to have him.

    During our chat in September 2009, Townend told me: “I think there is a certain perception of me within eventing, which upsets me.”

    During our chat in September 2009, Townend told me: “I think there is a certain perception of me within eventing, which upsets me.

    “I’ve never really spoken about it before now, or had the opportunity to speak about it, but I made myself into a person that I really, really didn’t like or want to be.

    “I had to be tough. I knew exactly where I wanted to get to, and if anyone was going to get in the way, they were going to get squashed, trodden on or whatever it would have taken. I didn’t care because I was so, so desperate for whatever reason to prove that I could make a living out of eventing.

    “People used to tell me I should get a proper job, and not just a hobby, all that kind of rubbish. That’s where the drive started from. It’s a reaction to people saying to me ‘no you can’t, no you can’t, no you can’t’.”

    Much has happened since then, of course, with Townend riding at the 2009 European Championships and 2014 World Equestrian Games, making a bid for eventing’s ‘Holy Grail’ – the Rolex Grand Slam – that ended with a crashing fall from Ashdale Cruise Master and Townend being airlifted to hospital, while he continues to win with remarkable regularity.

     This season Townend has already posted more than 30 top three-finishes, including victories at the likes of Burnham Market and Ballindenisk.

    The current eventing season began less than two months ago, yet Townend has already posted more than 30 top three-finishes, including victories at the likes of Burnham Market and Ballindenisk. At Badminton next month Townend and Armada will aim to go one better than last year’s runners-up position.

    I detect, though, via the horse whisperers – those who talk behind their hand, rather than shout it loud in the open – that there are still people who want merely to accept Townend’s achievements, rather than acclaim them. Why is that?

    If he has the horse power, then to me it is a no-brainer that Townend goes to the European Championships at Blair Castle later this year and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Granted, equestrian port is not an exact science, but to win, you need winners, and Townend would be in my team every single time.

    Townend does not waste his words, but that is also one of his endearing qualities. He says what he thinks and he is not afraid to say it.

    A straight-talking Yorkshireman, Townend does not waste his words, but that is also one of his endearing qualities. He says what he thinks and he is not afraid to say it.

    Personally, I have always found him approachable and amenable, while he rarely – if ever – gives a poor interview. How refreshing to deal with a sportsman at the top of his game who will give an honest opinion, rather than hide behind banal cliches.

    Townend is his own man – always has been – and I can only hope that those who refuse to recognise his genius wake up and smell the coffee.

    Better still, go and share a cuppa with him. You might be pleasantly surprised.

  13. Top 10 events this season

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    With the start of the eventing season just round the corner, now is the time to put this year’s must see events in the diary. The following 10 events offer more than just horses – which means you can take a non horsey other half along too.

    Belton International Horse Trials April 17-19

    Kick off the season with this amazing event in the grounds of the historic Belton House, which will be open to visitors. Beside the ubiquitous trade stands – (the food here is particularly good)  – the event has a classic car show, a dog show and 10k trail run (all on Sunday) while Friday is billed as ‘ladies day’. Dress warm though. The ‘wind-chill’ factor here can be punishing.


    Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials May 7-10

    You have to go to Badminton just because it is the world’s best known three-day event and everyone who is anyone in eventing will be here. It’s not necessarily an event for the uninitiated – if  you don’t know your Oliver Townend from your Austin o’Connor and aren’t up for any shopping there’s not much for you here – but Badminton is located in a beautiful part of the country; Tetbury, Malmesbury, Painswick (location for A Casual Vacancy) and Bath are all within 20miles.


    Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials May 15-17

    Take a caravan and stay in the grounds of Chatsworth Estate. Caravan membership, includes access to a members enclosure and a 2-for-1 offer to visit the famous house and garden. You’ll have a lovely holiday. The renowned Chatsworth garden alone, with its sculpture, maze, greenhouses and speciality gardens, will while away a day. But don’t forget to watch some horses too.


    NAF Five Star Saumur complet May 21-24

    Saumur, situated on the banks of the Loire, offers the perfect weekend break less than a three-hour drive from the ferry port of Caen. Stay in the town; its pretty square is a great place for after event drinks and eats. Visit the famous chateau or take a guided tour of the Cadre Noir. And – the best bit – you can buy cases of delicious Loire wine to bring home.


    Tattersalls International Horse Trials and Country Fair May 27-31

    Just 11 miles from the cosmopolitan city of Dublin, Tattersalls is situated opposite Fairyhouse Racecourse. Even if the weather is atrocious, there’ll be a cilvilised (mud free) restaurant and bar in Tattersalls Country house. The event is the usual mix of horses, hounds and trade-stands but with wonderfully enthusiastic Irish commentary on cross-country day.


    Equi-trek Bramham International Horse Trials June 11-14

    It’s true, Bramham is a horsefest. As well as international eventing there is real showjumping, showing, a stallion parade, mounted games and a young event horse qualifier, so much to entertain. If you need a break from horses though, the former spa town of Harrogate is just 13 easy miles away, for one of Betty’s famous teas.


    The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials September 3-6

    Christmas shopping alert! Burghley’s shopping arcades and marquees are the best of all the events. You could happily spend the whole weekend there without setting eyes on a horse. Then there is the Park and ultimately the beautiful  town of Stamford to explore if any time is left. Buy a season ticket and enjoy breakfast in the member’s car park while enjoying the unique view of Burghley House – there is no other like it.


    FEI European Eventing Championships Blair Castle September 10-13

    Book a tipi or yurt for four days of glamping, Scottish hospitality and stunning scenery at Blair Castle, situated between Perth and Inverness. The Bruador Country Fair runs alongside the event that will witness the best event riders in Europe battling it out for the medals.


    Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials September 17-20

    This Oxfordshire event enjoys a stunning location at the eponymous palace and 2000 acre park – and the weather can be surprisingly kind at this time of year. Blenheim Palace is a huge visitor attraction and a day out on its own without seeing a horse and there is also good shopping, a food marquee and a member’s ringside restaurant.


    Mondial du Lion October 15-18

    One of the most civilised fixtures in the eventing calendar. The World Young Horse Championships take place just outside Le Lions D’Angers another easy drive from Caen. Stay at a local chateau or in the nearby town of Angers. On site there’s  mud free shopping, excellent champagne bars and a restaurant for an extremely civilised French lunch. Enjoy the autumnal scenery and artistic cross country fences whilst supping on a glass (or two) of vin chaud.