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Allie Heninger

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About Allie Heninger

Allie, or the Autoimmune Equestrian, is 26 and resides in Utah with her husband, fiery little NightMare, Curly heart-pony, and the four cats that adopted her. Allie has been riding since she was six years old, and was a hunter/jumper kid transplanted into the amazing world of eventing. She’s a bit of an adult re-rider, as she took a few years off from dedicated and consistent riding while in college after her autoimmune disease diagnosis, but is now back at it with determination.

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area IX
Highest Level Competed Novice
Farm Name Pegasus Sport Horses
Trainer Ghislaine Homan-Taylor

Latest Articles Written

Sunday Links from EcoVet

Sharon White was recently reunited with former 5* partner Cooley On Show, who took to the Training track at VHC Eventing with longtime groom Rachael Livermore. Such a special moment for “Louie” and fam — we love seeing our old upper-level favorites still going strong in their schoolmaster eras.

U.S. Weekend Action

Flora Lea Spring H.T. (Medford, NJ) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer]

Spring Coconino Horse Trials (Flagstaff, AZ)[Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

USEA MDHT YEH/NEH Qualifier (Adamstown, MD) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Virginia Horse Center Eventing (Lexington, VA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Willow Draw Charity Show (Weatherford, TX) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Woodside Spring H.T. (Woodside, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

UK International Events

Bicton Arena International (1) (Devon) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

European Events

Equestrian Festival Baborówko (Poland) [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Scoring] [Live Stream – CMH]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Just Three Months Until the Start of the 20th Anniversary USEA American Eventing Championships

Rolex Introduces a New Series, Because Reasons

Get A Good Gallop: Perfecting Your Fitness and Form

Why Do Electrolytes Encourage Horses to Drink?

Sponsor Corner: Meet another Ecovet ambassador, Lila Gendal! 3* eventer Lila puts Ecovet to the test against the persistent bugs that thrive in the Florida heat. Check out what she has to say about Ecovet on [our website.]

Morning Viewing: This pony named Mouse barely has legs, and I’m barely holding it together.

Sunday Links from EcoVet

With the dizzying hype from the last two weeks of 5*s finally calming down, I don’t think we’re talking enough about how utterly impressive Caroline Pamukcu is and how casually she’s tearing through the leaderboards. Not only is this woman’s FEI record disgustingly clean, she’s had her eye on the top of the sport and she is seemingly ready to stop at nothing until she reaches it (see the first linked article below). This week, Caroline & Co. have jetted off to Europe as members of the USEF European Development Tour, where they will compete at several Nations Cup events across the UK along with team members Alyssa Phillips, Emily Hamel, Cassie Sanger, Molly Duda, and Jenny Caras.

Amidst the beautiful chaos of Badminton last weekend, Caroline and HSH Blake — her Olympic hopeful who hasn’t seen an international finish outside the top 5 since 2022 — swept into Tryon’s 4*-L, facing a handful of our nation’s best and brightest, and soared right out with a win on their dressage score. Thanks to EquiReel, you can watch every fence of Caroline and Blake’s winning cross country round here on Caroline’s Instagram.

Best of luck to each of our athletes gearing up for an incredible summer. Enjoy a fun highlight of their quarantine facilities here via Alyssa Phillips!

U.S. Weekend Action

Bouckaert Equestrian H.T. (Fairburn, GA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times]

Fair Hill International Recognized H.T. (Elkton, MD) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Hitching Post Farm H.T. (South Royalton, VT) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Hunt Club Farms H.T. (Berryville, VA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Otter Creek Spring H.T. (Wheeler, WI) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Spokane Sport Horse Spring H.T. (Spokane, WA) [Website] [Entries][Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Spring Gulch H.T. (Highlands Ranch, CO) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

The Vista Spring YEH/NEH Qualifier (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Scoring]

European International Events

LONGINES Whitsun Tournament Wiesbaden (Germany) [Website] [Times] [Scoring] [Live Stream]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Ringside Chat: With Robust Mentorship Behind Her, Pamukcu Aims For Paris

Mark Phillips: ‘Badminton is still the one to win’

Will Isabel Werth add to her record-breaking number of equestrian Olympic medals?

Research opens doors: Equine research on display at 13th Alltech-Hartpury Student Conference

And, if you fancy a cry today: When Horses Have To Leave

Sponsor Corner: Ecovet is 5* tested and approved! 5* eventer Caitlin Silliman uses Ecovet on her horses. She’s clearly flying high this summer 🚀 with 6 year old Nia!

Morning Viewing: I hope you didn’t miss our EN Kentucky rider roundup reels, because Bruce Davidson saying “I’m an ice cream connoisseur” is going to be set as my new ringtone. Catch up below, because this is vital, hard-hitting investigative journalism at its finest.

Sunday Links from EcoVet

It’s one more early morning for us yankees, but after yesterday’s adventures at Badminton House, we are all but sprinting to our screens to watch the finale of this year’s event. If you missed it, you can catch up on all the action as it happened live — if you close your eyes, you can almost smell it — here in Cheg’s Cross Country Live Blog. We don’t have to explain just how influential this weekend is for all these superstars (whether British, Kiwi, or otherwise) wanting to prove themselves to the selectors, but even we here at EN can’t agree on who could be in the forefront of their minds for the British trio to take on Paris in July, so try not to bite your nails too much as this monumental weekend comes to a close!

Our current top 3 stand as follows:

🇳🇿 1st – Tim Price & Vitali (NZL)
🇬🇧 2nd – William Fox-Pitt & Grafennacht (GBR)
🇮🇪 3rd – Lucy Latta & RCA Patron Saint (IRL)

Tune in for the first round over the sticks at 11.30 a.m. BST / 6.30 a.m. EST, with the top 20 contenders taking to the stadium at 2.55 p.m. BST / 9.55 a.m. EST. This will definitely be something you don’t want to miss, so get that £19.99 subscription to Badminton TV for access to the livestream from anywhere in the world — as well as nearly 100 hours of archive footage from prior events, peaks behind the scenes, course previews, and profiles so you don’t have to come down from the Badminton high. If you’re in Britain, you’ll need to turn to BBC2 to watch the finale!

MARS Badminton Horse Trials [Website] [Entries] [Timetable] [Tickets] [Radio Badminton] [Timing & Scoring] [Livestream] [Cross Country Course] [EN’s Coverage]
U.S. Weekend Action

Galway Downs Spring H.T. (Temecula, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Majestic Oaks Ocala H.T. (Reddick, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Unionville May H.T. (Coatesville, PA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Queeny Park H.T. (St. Louis, MO) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

River Glen Spring H.T. (New Market, TN) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Tryon International Three-Day Event (Mill Spring, NC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Winona Horse Trials (Hanoverton, OH) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

European International Events

International Marbach Eventing (GER) [Website] [Timetable] [Entries] [Scoring] [Live Stream]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

I know it’s not the one we’re all chomping at the bit for, but: USEF Announces Dressage Team Short List For Paris Olympics

An equestrian brand featured in the muggle world: The Founding Story of Kerrits and Navigating the Modern Retail Landscape

Don’t worry, there’s just something in my eye: Bubby Upton on her emotional dressage finish

Would you jump off here? A look at the BE90 grassroots championships cross-country course at Badminton

What did you think of yesterday’s course at Badminton? Listen in to the course designer’s thoughts

Sponsor Corner: Have you noticed your Ecovet fly spray has changed in color? This is due to natural color variations in the food-grade fatty acids. The formula is still the same with the same effectiveness that you know and love, just with a color variation. [Buy your next bottle of Ecovet here]

Morning Viewing: Catch up on some of the leading rider reactions after Badminton cross country here!

Form Guide: Meet the Horses and Riders in the 2024 MARS Badminton Field

We are right in the thick of 5* season and couldn’t be more excited to get the Badminton party started. We’ve been working on our Form Guide for the past few weeks and now are pleased to present your guide to the field! Find out the back story on your favorite pair, what their general performance stats are like, and much more. You can use the list below to jump straight to your preferred combination, or you can also follow along with the guide in drawn order of running as you watch this weekend.

Want even more facts and figures about the field? Don’t miss EquiRating’s guide to the competitors and horses — and the stats on the line — here.

Speaking of, you can watch live online all week long thanks to Badminton TV’s streaming service, which you can subscribe to for just about $25 here.

Riders! We need a bit of help. We didn’t quite manage to collect all the grooms’ information for this Form Guide, so we would love if you’d fill out this form to help us out. We’ll update this Form Guide as we obtain groom names — we don’t want to leave their very important role unmentioned!

EN’s coverage of MARS Badminton Horse Trials is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, your go-to source for science-backed nutritional support across all types of horses, disciplines, and needs. Click here to learn more about what KPP can do for your horse — thank you for supporting our wonderful sponsors!

MARS Badminton Horse Trials: Website | Box Office | Entries | Timetable | Course Preview | Live Stream | Ultimate GuideEN’s Coverage

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Want to jump straight to your favorite horse and rider? Click the links below to jump to their section (the combinations are listed below in alphabetical order by country and last name; entries categorized by draw order):

Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB (AUS)
William Levett and Huberthus AC (AUS)

Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit (CAN)

Luc Château and Viens du Mont (FRA)
Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois (FRA)
Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour (FRA)
Gaspard Maksud and Kan-Do 2 (FRA)
Arthur Marx and Church’Ile (FRA)

Georgia Bartlett and Spano de Nazca (GBR)
Helen Bates and Carpe Diem (GBR)
Rosie Bradley-Hole and Romantic (GBR)
Alexander Bragg and Quindiva (GBR)
Rosalind Canter and Izilot DHI (GBR)
Alice Casburn and Topspin (GBR)
Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Heraldik Girl (GBR)
Laura Collett and Hester (GBR)
Felicity Collins and RSH Contend OR (GBR)
Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory (GBR)
David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed (GBR)
William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht (GBR)
Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope (GBR)
Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick (GBR)
Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google (GBR)
Louise Harwood and Native Spirit (GBR)
Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy (GBR)
Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift (GBR)
Tom Jackson and Farndon (GBR)
Richard Jones and Alfies Clover (GBR)
Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR)
Gubby Leech and Royal Harvest (GBR)
Helen Martin and Andreas (GBR)
Tom McEwen and CHF Cooliser (GBR) Withdrawn before Horse Inspection
Harry Meade and Away Cruising (GBR)
Harry Meade and Cavalier Crystal (GBR)
Harry Meade and Red Kite (GBR)
Selina Milnes and Gelmer (GBR)
Harry Mutch and HD Bronze (GBR)
Wills Oakden and A Class Cooley (GBR)
Wills Oakden and Arklow Puissance (GBR)
Will Rawlin and Ballycoog Breaker Boy (GBR)
Holly Richardson and Bally Louis (GBR)
Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do (GBR)
Tom Rowland and Dreamliner (GBR)
Tom Rowland and KND Steel Pulse (GBR)
Libby Seed and Heartbreaker Star Quality (GBR)
Gemma Stevens and Chilli Knight (GBR)
Emma Thomas and Icarus (GBR)
Zara Tindall and Class Affair (GBR)
Bubby Upton and Cola III (GBR)
Max Warburton and Monbeg Exclusive (GBR)
Francis Whittington and DHI Purple Rain (GBR)
India Wishart and Diamond Sundance (GBR)

Daragh Byrne and Kilcannon Ramiro (IRL)
Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson (IRL)
Georgie Goss and Feloupe (IRL)
Lucy Latta and RCA Patron Saint (IRL)
Sam Watson and SAP Talisman (IRL)

Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte (NZL)
Lauren Innes and Global Fision M (NZL)
Caroline Powell and CBI Aldo (NZL)
Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier (NZL)
Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera (NZL)
Tim Price and Vitali (NZL)

Felix Vogg and Cartania (SUI)

Tiana Coudray and Cancaras Girl (USA)
Cosby Green and Copper Beach (USA)
Alexandra Knowles and Morswood (USA)
Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF (USA)
Meghan O’Donaghue and Palm Crescent (USA)
Grace Taylor and Game Changer (USA)

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1: Tom Jackson and Farndon (GBR)

Badminton will be the third 5* event Tom Jackson and Farndon will contest together. Previously completing Luhmühlen, where they finished in 6th on their dressage score, and at Pau, where they finished 20th after a frangible pin, this duo will be out to solidify their competitiveness at the level. Since starting their FEI partnership together in 2021 at the 4* level, we’ve seen their dressage scores hover around the mid 30s, although they have been known to score down into the mid 20s, which they did when they won the 4*S at Little Downham in September. Outside of a period of what seems to be bad luck, where they picked up a 20 on cross country at three back to back events in 2022, their cross country record is otherwise quite clear.

Tom and Farndon will be an interesting duo to watch! Will they pull out an uber-competitive dressage score, as we’ve seen them do before? If so, these two could potentially see another top ten 5* finish.

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2: Caroline Powell and CBI Aldo (NZL)

Double-Olympian Caroline is one of several riders bringing multiple horses to Badminton, and this will be a 5* debut for the second of her two rides, CBI Aldo. Bought from the Monart Sale in Ireland back in 2018, 9 year old ‘Aldo’ was 8th in the 6 year old Young Horse Championships at Le Lions d’Angers back in 2021, and has maintained similarly impressive form in the years since. With a first phase score that averages towards the lower end of the thirties, and a pretty impressive cross country record to go with it, this could be one of the most impressive debutants this year.

Although not guaranteed to go clear on the final day, he has shown himself capable of leaving them all standing: in his three outings thus far this season, he has managed 2 double clears, and only faulted three times in the show jumping last year. Top 25 in both the CCI4*S at Bramham and the CCI4*L at Blenheim Palace last year, he has proved himself more than capable of tackling a 5*, and with Caroline – who won Burghley back in 2010 with the legendary Lenamore – as his pilot, there is nothing to stop him landing in the top 25 on the final day here, too. Certainly one to watch for the future, and perhaps one for Caroline to aim at LA 2028…?

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4: Harry Meade and Cavalier Crystal (GBR)

Harry’s making history with three rides at Badminton this year, with those riders lucky enough to have a trio of top-level horses in their string not having to make the difficult decision of who has to stay at home, as has been the case previously when entries were limited to two. He goes out first with Cavalier Crystal, who made her CCI5* debut in fine form last year at Burghley with a third place finish, adding just 5.2 cross country time penalties to her dressage score of 32.2, a superb spring board for another excellent result at the top level as she embarks upon her first Badminton. She’s a dependable finisher having completed in all 21 of her FEI runs, and her cross country jumping record is impressive to say the least – there’s just one 20 on her card, which came in the Young Event Horse Championships in 2017; EquiRatings have her down as one of the most reliable cross country jumpers in the field. Time penalties are more of a mixed bag — the mare can be quick, but sometimes Harry takes his time with her, opting for educational rounds when that’s what’s best, although as we saw at Burghley, when they’re in it to win it they’re a speedy pair across some of the toughest courses out there.

The final phase is another chance for Cavalier Crystal to show off her careful jumping, leaving the colored poles up far more often than not, although an uncharacteristic 4 penalties in their last run at Thoresby broke her streak of clear rounds that had been running since 2021. Hopefully that was just a season-opener blip and she’ll be right back on form and channeling her Burghley success as she takes on Badminton.

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5: Tom Rowland and Dreamliner (GBR)

It really feels like it’s all about to happen for Tom, who diligently put in the work and got himself plenty of mileage at the five-star level before getting the ride on the Chamberlayne family’s Dreamliner, who was previously piloted by Oliver Townend, Padraig McCarthy, Jonty Evans, and Emily Young-Jamieson. The horse has always been a talent, but perhaps one that had gone under the radar, and much the same can be said of Tom. The two together, though, have clicked in a way that suggest they’re both about to reach new heights and that, maybe, all roads led to them coming together.

That might be quite a sentimental way of looking at it, but don’t take our word for it – you’ll be able to see the fun they have together, and the pride they take in their job, for yourself across the phases. We’ll be looking for a first-phase mark of 32 or thereabouts, but really, all focus will be on Saturday and their biggest challenge as a partnership yet. We’d expect a handful of time penalties to go with their clear (the gelding went clear inside the time in his sole five-star at Luhmühlen with Oliver, although that’s a different type of track), although a debut five-star as a team can sometimes throw some curveballs as horse and rider really get to know one another at a truly nuanced level.

On Sunday, we’re placing out bets on a clear round – they’ve been putting a lot of work in on this phase and it’s paying off. They’ve had four consecutive FEI clears. In any case, tune in to watch a pair at a turning point, and to back the very committed family who bred and own this horse, too.

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6: Wills Oakden and Arklow Puissance (GBR)

Though Arklow Puissance’s five-star debut here last year didn’t quite go to plan, with an elimination for a rider fall on cross-country, the former Oliver Townend ride returned to the top level at Burghley in September and proved exactly what he’s made of, taking eighth place after a quick and decisive cross-country round.

That’s the phase in which he really excels, and because the first phase still tends towards the upper-30s, and sometimes the low-40s, he really needs a tough cross-country challenge to allow for some serious climbing room. That suits Wills, too – the Scottish-based rider has trained with the likes of Ian Stark and Andrew Nicholson, and it’s easy to see their influence in his measured, bold, relaxed way of throwing down remarkable cross-country rounds.

We might not see another top ten finish for this horse this week, simply because he might not be able to climb as much as he did at Burghley if he starts in the high 30s, but top twenty seems inevitable and a super cross-country round almost guaranteed. Tune in to both of Wills’ rides for a bit of a masterclass in how to do it.

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7: Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF (USA)

Tsetserleg certainly needs little introduction to the everyday eventing fan: he’s been partnered with Boyd Martin since the 2016 season, and together this pair has traveled the world. Most notably, Boyd and “Thomas” won individual and team gold at the 2019 Pan American Games, traveled to Tokyo for the postponed 2020 Olympics, earned team silver at the 2022 FEI World Championships in Italy, and have finished as well as fourth place at this level (Kentucky – 2022).

Boyd teetered on the fence of taking Thomas to Kentucky versus Badminton, and with the extra “bye week” in between the two events could well send either Thomas or stablemate On Cue on a plane to England if he happens to encounter early trouble this weekend. At 17, Thomas is well-versed in the task at hand and is another horse that stands to compete for the top of the podium in Kentucky.

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8: Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope (GBR)

Dear Hope is such a stalwart campaigner at the big ones – so much so, in fact, that his last five consecutive FEI runs are all at the CCI5* level. He’s seventeen now and knows his job so well that he doesn’t need lots of CCI4*-S runs to get him ready to pop round a major; he can prep with a national run or two and then come out swinging.

We last saw him at Burghley, where he finished sixth, and at Badminton last year, he was tenth. The year before, he did the Kentucky and Burghley double, finishing 14th and 16th, respectively, and the year before that, he sailed around the pop-up Bicton five-star (wasn’t the pandemic a weird time?) for sixth place. He’s also jumped clear around Badminton in 2019 and Burghley in 2018, giving him an absolutely spotless record at five-star. What a boy!

He’s a funny sort on the flat; sometimes, he really comes out and gets it, and pops an easy sub-30 on the board, and sometimes, he’s just a touch awkward and can go mid-30s. The high-20s are definitely more frequent though, as Pippa knows him like the back of her hand these days, and rides him in a hugely sympathetic way in this phase. He’s prone to a rail or two on Sunday, and he wouldn’t necessarily be the fastest cross-country horse in the world, but he’s such a solid citizen that another top ten is absolutely doable for him. He’s just fun, you know? And we love to see Pippa having a jolly time with a horse she loves.

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11: Max Warburton and Monbeg Exclusive (GBR)

Rookie alert! Badminton will be Max Warburton and Monbeg Exclusive’s first crack at th 5* level. Max and Monbeg Exclusive had a hit or miss 2023 season, ranging in placings from 5th to 38th. At just 25 years old, Max has an impressive FEI record with more than 30 4* attempts under his belt. Max was part of the Young Rider Programme with the Wesko Equestrian Foundation, which aims to support young eventers as they transition from amateurs to professionals, but now runs his own yard.

At 13 years old, Monbeg Exclusive, barn name “Exclusive,” is really stepping into his prime. Capable of dressage scores in the high 20s, Exclusive is more likely to earn scores in the low-30s for the first phase of competition. The bay Irish Sport Horse tends to be bold on the cross country course with only one obstacle fault on his record with Max in the saddle, but he does tend to cross the finish line with some time faults. As long as Max puts the pedal to the metal and keeps the rails up in show jumping, this pair could have a very successful first 5* event.

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12: Sam Watson and SAP Talisman (IRL)

It’s been nine years since Irishman Sam last competed at Badminton, and last year, he returned to Burghley after a break of eleven years – which feels somehow totally incorrect, because we’re so used to having him around all the time that it really does feel like he’s been on the roster every year. That’s partly because he’s a steadfast member of the Irish team, and has competed at the 2022, 2018, 2014, and 2010 World Championships, the Tokyo Olympics, and six senior European Championships, but it’s also because, as co-founder of EquiRatings, we’re used to seeing him in a shirt and tie at whatever majors he’s not competing in, and we hear his voice all the time, too, on the Eventing Podcast. And so, actually, the return feels inevitable now that he’s got a real ‘Big B’ horse in his yard again in blood-type – and perennial galloper – SAP Talisman.

Talisman finished thirteenth at Burghley last year after adding just 0.4 time penalties – a solitary second – across the country, which shows you how good and quick he is in this phase. Blink and you’ll miss them, but try not to, because they’re such a fun showcase of ‘old school’ cross-country. This is a horse who’s been produced to have a fifth leg, and Sam trusts him to make the calls when things don’t quite go to plan, with super results. That makes him an excellent climber – necessary, because he’s still a high-30s sort of horse and the final phase tends to be tricky, too. He had four down at Burghley, but was clear in last week’s CCI4*-S at Ballindenisk, so we suspect that Sam has been a busy boy over the winter. This might not be your winner but it could be your Glentrool Trophy pair, and there’s a very good chance they’ll be the fastest, most decisive round of the day on Saturday. And that’s what we’re all here for, right?

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13: Felix Vogg and Cartania (SUI)

Swiss Olympian Felix returns to Badminton for a second consecutive year with Cartania, who made her five-star debut here last year and finished a very respectable fifteenth place – proving that she’s tough, gritty, and able to cope with difficult conditions.
Those conditions, we hope, will be rather improved this year, despite a tricky spring and going that’s probably not fast or firm, and so it’ll be great fun to see how she’s developed from her experience.

Felix, who’s trained extensively with Michael Jung, has been a mainstay of the Swiss team for many years, and is a five-star victor in his own right, having won Luhmühlen in 2022 with Colero – the first Swiss five-star winner since 1951, and on his 31st birthday, too. All that to say that he’s excellent under pressure, which he proved last year: Cartania’s final FEI prep run at Oudskarpel CCI4*-S saw the pair technically eliminated, but they still powered on to put in that super performance here. After that, they went to Strzegom CCI3*-S in September, but retired on course.

This season, they’ve been seventh in Montelibretti’s Nations Cup CCIO4*-S and jumped a steady clear around Strzegom’s CCI4*-S, so they come in on jollier form. They should start in the low-30s, and while Cartania’s not the fastest horse in the field, she’s a stayer, so keep an eye on them on Saturday. On Sunday, they’re prone to a rail, and had three at Badminton last year – but that was likely influenced by Saturday’s extraordinary exertions. They could fight for a top ten placing, if all goes well for them.

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14: India Wishart and Diamond Sundance (GBR)

British up-and-comer and Wesko Foundation beneficiary India and eighteen-year-old Diamond Sundance alike make their Badminton debut this week, though it’s not a first five-star for the pair – they finished 27th at Pau last year, and the gelding also tackled the French five-star in 2020 with owner Rosa Onslow, finishing 30th.

This is a huge milestone for India, who’s previously worked for Padraig and Lucy McCarthy and is now based with Pippa Funnell at The Billy Stud. She’s been working hard to make her mark on Senior competition after a successful young rider career, which saw her finish the best of the Brits at the 2016 Young Rider Europeans with former ride The Masters Harry, and she was a prolific Student Rider, too, competing at the World Finals while completing her Geography degree at Birmingham.

A mid-30s starting point is a reasonable enough aim for this pair, who managed just that at Pau and have also delivered scores either side of that at four-star. Really, though, this is all about Saturday and the valuable experience it’ll provide to India as she develops her career. This pair hasn’t had a single international cross-country jumping penalty since teaming up in mid-2022 – that’s ten consecutive FEI clears. While they didn’t run cross country at their intended prep at Thoresby, which means they’ve not run an FEI event since Pau last year, they do have good, steady runs at Tweseldown OI and Burnham Market Advanced under their belt this spring to set them up.

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15: Zara Tindall and Class Affair (GBR)

While this will be Zara Tindall and Class Affair’s sixth 5* event, it will be their first time at Badminton as a duo. We can see anticipate an impressive dressage, with the pair typically scoring in the high 20s or low 30s, and only occasionally have a rail on the last day, some inconsistencies cross country has resulted in early retirements at the Burghley 5* in 2022 and 2023, as well as an elimination at Burghley in 2019. However, we’ve seen this pair finish in 15th at Kentucky 5* in 2023 after a clear cross country, and they have an impressive 4* record, with three top ten results in 2023, including a 3rd place finish in the 4* at Bramham.

As they turn to their Badminton debut as a partnership, they’ll be looking to carry another clear cross country round into the 5* level, which could leave them competitive towards the top of the field!

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16: Bubby Upton and Cola III (GBR)

It is hard to believe that at 25, Bubby already has six 5* starts already under her belt. Oh, and a degree, a cupboard full of Pony, Junior and Young Rider silverware and a couple of U-25 National Championships titles to boot. Not to mention that in August last year, she didn’t know if she would ever walk again – let alone ride, after a freak accident on a young horse at home. Yet here she is, lining up for her third Badminton, with Cola III, a horse only intended to take her through Young Riders. Continually defying the odds, the pair were 12th at their first 5* back in 2021 at Pau, and although a surprise run out at their first Badminton in 2022 left them way down the leaderboard, they redeemed themselves in fine style last year, finishing up in 8th place. They were also 14th at Burghley in 2022, and may well have bettered that result in 2023, had it not been for Bubby’s fall.

Their cross country record is somewhat exemplary: prior to that annoying blip at Badminton, their last cross country jumping faults were waaaaay back in 2018, and Cola is increasingly reliable in the first phase, too: they were 2nd in the CCI4*-S in Kronenberg this spring, adding nothing to a dressage score of 25.8. There is every chance that these two could finish in the top 10 once again, and there will barely be a dry eye in the house if that is so, after all that Bubby has been through.

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18: Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do (GBR)

At first, the international record of Kylie and ‘Gorgeous George’ might look like a bit of a mixed bag, but actually, this pair are at their very best at the five-star level: they’ve been eleventh and fifth at Pau, and sixth at Luhmühlen. Their other five-star start was their sole prior crack at Badminton back in 2022, when they cracked the 30-barrier on the flat and then looked exceptional across the country until the gelding lost both front shoes and Kylie opted to pull him up at the tough Vicarage ditch line rather than risking an injury, a run-out, or a loss of confidence.

Sometimes, things are just a bit unlucky, and that was one of them – but if George’s run around Eric Winter’s track to that point is anything to go by (which, obviously, it is), then the pair are well up for putting on a jolly good show this week.
They’ve gone sub-30 in two of their four five-star tests so far, but even if they don’t, we shouldn’t see them go higher than a 32 – their 36.4 at Thoresby in March, after which they withdrew from the competition, feels like a dismissible outlier.

If you’re trying to get a non-horsey parent, partner, or friend to take an interest in what you’re obsessively following this week, SRS Kan Do’s ownership is always good for getting people to pay attention for a moment: he’s owned by the actor Michael C Fox and his family, and Michael himself evented him to BE100 before his career took root and he was unceremoniously banished from participating in any unnecessary high-risk activities. You can catch the fruits of that trade off in Downton Abbey, in which Michael plays footman Andy, and you can also give Michael’s music a listen wherever you get your tunes – he’s in an Americana-inspired two-piece called Michael & Michelle with fellow Downton actor Michelle Dockery (or Lady Mary, for the fans).

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19: Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB (AUS)

‘Loopy Louis’, as he’s fondly known at home, makes his fourth five-star start at Badminton, having finished eleventh on his debut at the level at the pop-up Bicton fixture in 2021, 25th with a quick clear at Badminton in 2022, and starting, but not finishing due to a horse fall, Burghley later that year.

British-based Aussie Sammi sat most of the 2023 season out as she was pregnant with daughter Milly, and in her absence, New Zealand’s James Avery took the reins with Louis – a transition that was no doubt helped by the fact that his fiancé, Holly Woodhead, used to pilot the gelding herself. When Sammi returned to the saddle in time for the CCI4*-L at Blenheim at the tail end of last season, it was evident that she was returning absolutely full of zeal for the sport she loves. She and Louis took eighth place, finishing on their dressage score of 34.4 – one of the gelding’s best ever scores, as he often finds the first phase a touch overwhelming.

While they won’t necessarily be vying for a win here, a repeat of the razor-sharp focus of that Blenheim performance would make them strong contenders for a top-twenty finish. Either way, they’re a fun pair to cheer on, particularly inspiration Sammi, who battled through a breast cancer diagnosis, and subsequent chemotherapy and major surgery, in 2018 and never once let the bad hand she’d been dealt take away her warmth and joy in what she does.

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20: Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory (GBR)

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and in a roundabout sort of way, poor Tom learned that at Badminton last year. In the midst of a gruelling day of cross-country with tough conditions that saw lots of horses tiring and pulled up on course, it was a balm for the soul to watch Tom and his tiny homebred, Lori, skipping around the course and skimming over the top of that tricky ground. It was almost as though the further the little mare went, the easier she found it, and by the time she got to the Lake, which was practically on the home stretch, everyone in the crowds was willing the pair to try to catch that monstrously difficult optimum time. But then – horror of horrors – after a big, bold jump into the drink, Lori just about went into orbit over the huge corner in the water and Tom, who was suffering from a hernia that he hadn’t got round to having surgery on just yet – couldn’t quite use his core strength in the way he ordinarily can. Off he popped, and there the dream ended – but rather than feeling sorry for himself, he decided to make everyone’s ticket purchase worth it, and, face down in the mud, started a comedy swimming impression as his feisty little mare grinned at her fans and cantered happily around the edge of the lake.

This year, we hope, he’ll stay on, and his newfound squillions of fans will be hoping for much the same. There’s so much to cheer for here, beyond that brilliant, silly sense of humour – Tom’s a bit of a cool character, as is his entire family, who all chip in at events. He’s a firefighter in his free time, and built his family home by hand by himself; his wife, Sophie, evented Lori’s dam to Advanced and started the little mare’s career; his in-laws own the mare, who’s named Liberty and Glory because she was born on the fourth of July; his kids are called Harry, Hermione, and Voldemort (just kidding, it’s Hugo, and he hated that joke when I said it to him when he was about eight so I’m sure he won’t be thrilled about it now, either); and, of course, that gutsy, gritty, generally slightly rage-y little mare is just about the coolest thing on legs and jumps for fun. Don’t worry too much about watching their dressage test; tune in for the next two phases and have the time of your life cheering them along as they climb to the top ten, as they have at Burghley and Pau.

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21: David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed (GBR)

We’ll just float this idea gently here now, but hear us out: we reckon, or at least I, Tilly Berendt, writer of this specific entry in this form guide, I reckon, wholeheartedly, that this might be David’s year. Lord knows he and Galileo Nieuwmoed have the form: they’ve been sixth here in 2022, fourth at Pau the same year, eighth at Kentucky last spring, and second – oh man, and what a close second, by less than a penalty – at Burghley in September. Olympic year Badmintons are strange and nebulous and wonderful things where people and horses become superstars because the horses that do 21s in the first phase are generally waiting for the summer to shine, and while David and Galileo have proven that they are absolutely, totally capable of making it happen in any company, this little factor can only help.

They’ll start the week on a low-to-mid-30s score, although at Pau in 2021, they did break the 30 barrier. But no matter – come cross-country day, they’ll make up some serious ground on the leaderboard, because if you were to crunch the numbers, you might just find that they’re one of, if not THE, most reliable and quick cross-country partnerships in the line-up. In 28 FEI runs together, they’ve only ever had one round marred by a cross-country jumping penalty – and cumulatively, they’ve racked up just 35.6 time penalties across their entire career. To put that in terms that might knock your socks off: they’ve been clear inside the time 18 out of 28 times, and 8.8 time penalties is the most they’ve ever added in a run. And that 8.8 is a serious, serious outlier.

Their final day performance will be the one moment we all bite our nails a bit. To be totally fair to them, they’ve put in some serious work and it’s showing – they’ve had six FEI clears in a row and look great in this phase. But in 2022, they led Pau after cross-country and lost the win when tipping the final rail. We don’t see David letting that happen again – and if he can pull off the win he deserves, he’ll likely be one of the most popular winners ever. He’s probably the nicest man in eventing, he balances his riding with helping with the family ice cream business in rural Wiltshire, and he calls his horse Nobby at home, because “he’s such a nob!” But really, they’re the best of pals, even if Nobby likes to chew people recreationally and even if, as lore goes, David originally turned down the ride because he didn’t fancy him as a top horse.

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22: Georgie Goss and Feloupe (IRL)

Welcome back, Georgie: the last time we saw her at Badminton, it was pre-pandemic, and she had a different surname (Spence) and a different nationality (British). Now, she’s a married mama with an adopted flag and an exciting five-star debutant in Feloupe.

Feloupe, who was produced to three-star and the Seven-Year-Old World Championships in 2019 by Australia’s Ben Leahy, has been a quiet talent with some undeniable results as she’s climbed into the top levels. She’s a naturally efficient mare, and smart on the flat, too, often slipping down into the high-20s at four-star. Showjumping remains a work in progress – she’s not jumped a clear in an FEI competition since mid-2022, and generally averages two rails – and, as with any debutant, there’s a question mark over whether she’ll pin down the clear across the country. But to her credit, she’s not had a 20 since 2022, when she stepped up to CCI4*-L at Bramham, and this year, she’s looking seriously game and focused. A fun horse to follow as she prepares to make her long-awaited step into the spotlight – and it’s always fun to watch Georgie, who first rode here at 19 and at 20, piloted two horses around inside the time.

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24: Meghan O’Donaghue and Palm Crescent (USA)

Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent’s 2024 season is off to a great start, with a long awaited and well-deserved podium finish at the Carolina International CCI4*-S at the Carolina Horse Park in March. Meghan and “Palmer,” owned by the rider and William Duhring, have been together for many years, as she got the ride on the big bay off-the-track Thoroughbred in 2015 when he was just nine years old. Nearly a decade later, this pair is still going strong, although Meghan knows time is not on their side. “You know, he’s 18. And you sit back and you’re like, ‘Man, I wish I had like, five more years. I’m just lucky to be here and have this event with him, and whatever happens is icing on the cake,” she said at Carolina International.

Like many Thoroughbreds, dressage isn’t Palmer’s best phase, but he pulls respectable scores in the low to mid-30s, with the occasional sub-30. However, don’t count out Meghan and Palmer just yet, as they have a good shot at the top ten, as long as they put the pedal to the metal and go for speed on Saturday. Show jumping tends to be Palmer’s best phase. He has the occasional rail or two, but tends to be near bang on the time, showing strength where many rides suffer. Realistically, look for these two in the high end of the middle of the pack, although I hope to see them with a well-deserved top ten finish.

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25: Alice Casburn and Topspin (GBR)

Few riders channel the ineffable spirit of the pony novel heroine quite as convincingly as Alice Casburn, who, at just nineteen years old, made her five-star debut at Pau in 2021, finishing in the top twenty. Now, she’s in her 22nd year, and she’s not slowed down a jot: since that top-level debut, she’s taken a top-twenty place at Badminton in 2022, fifth place at Burghley the same year (with a bronze medal at the Young Rider Europeans in between the two, for good measure!), another top twenty at Badminton last year, despite a very rare 20 penalties, and seventh place at Burghley to round her 2023 season out.

Even better? All of this has come with the excellent Topspin, who still lives at home in the stable he was born in. Alice’s mother, Caroline, competed his grandmother to Advanced, and while he was initially deemed too sharp for petite Alice to take on in her early teens, she eventually convinced mum to let her have a go. And what a shout that was!

This pair’s first phase remains their sole weakness; they’ll start the week with a mid-to-low-30s score, but don’t write them off for that. They’ve previously won the Glentrool Trophy for the biggest climb up the leaderboard at Badminton, because they’re so quick and reliable across the country – and even a very rare 20 in their final prep at Burnham Market doesn’t cast doubt over this. If anything, it’ll serve to have them even more on the ball for the big week to come. And on Sunday? They’ve competed in Puissance classes previously, so you better believe they can jump. In 28 FEI starts, they’ve only knocked a cumulative five rails. That’s 24 clear rounds – although they’ve yet to jump a clear at Badminton.

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26: Rosie Bradley-Hole and Romantic (GBR)

This will be Romantic’s first crack at the 5* level, though Rosie was previously here on True Blue II in 2022. ‘Romy’ and Rosie were 3rd in the CCI4*-L at Blair Castle last August, the fitness test of all fitness tests, so the distance shouldn’t bother them this weekend. Ably assisted by freelance groom Lee Honeysett, Rosie describes the Cevin Z mare as ‘a gorgeous mare with the biggest heart!’

Despite their success at the end of last season, it seemed as though Rosie might actually lose the ride, when Romy’s previous owners decided to sell her. Luckily, Sarah Wild stepped in to save the day, allowing the partnership to continue their successful trajectory through the levels.

Previously campaigned by Izzy Taylor, Rosie took over the reins in 2021 when she was just beginning her 3* career. A tidy show jumper – she rarely taps more than a rail – we can expect to see a dressage mark in the mid to high 30’s, though her jumping ability may well see her climb back up the leader board after cross country. Other than an uncharacteristic 20 at Bramham last June, Romy’s FEI cross country is almost flawless: a fall in the 3* at Blair in 2021 was the last time she faulted before that, and indeed, the first time she had ever faulted cross country to that point in her career. She might add a few time penalties, but a double jumping clear will still see this mare finish her first 5* in fine style.

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27: William Levett and Huberthus AC (AUS)

It’ll be a third five-star start for Huberthus, and 61-year-old jockey Bill will be hoping that the third time really will be the charm: he debuted the gelding at the level here last year, but retired on course in those tough conditions, and then rerouted to Luhmühlen, but was eliminated for accumulated refusals. Their 2023 season closed out with a trip around Hartpury’s CCI4*-S in August, which they completed, albeit with a 20.

That trio of results might not put them among the most fancied in the field, but their 2024 season has been looking much sunnier so far: they started the year in Italy, contesting Montelibretti’s Prosecco Tour and securing a second-place finish in the CCI3*-S before logging a steady clear around the CCI4*-S a couple of weeks later. Then, they joined the masses at Kronenberg in the Netherlands a week after that, finishing with another steady clear.

Hugely experienced Bill, who first rode ‘round Badminton in 2000, won’t be coming here to try to nab a top placing with the twelve-year-old, but he does rate the gelding, and so this will all be a great education for him as he consolidates all he learned in his debut five-star season last year. Expect a mid-to-low 30s dressage and, if he gets there – which we reckon he will this time, even if steadily – a clear on Sunday, too, to put a bit of a climbing effort in at the final stage.

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28: Gaspard Maksud and Kan-Do 2 (FRA)

We’ll admit we were a touch surprised to see Kan-Do 2 line up for his first five-star at Pau last season, just a few weeks after completing his first-ever CCI4*-L and picking up 20 penalties in the process. But gutsy pilot Gaspard, who’s been based in the UK for nearly fifteen years now, got the job done as the last rider on course, working through some pretty green moments and just activating a MIM clip in the process. Kan-Do will have learned a lot from the experience, in which he showed that he’s got no shortage of heart, and now it’ll be fun to see how he’s progressed as he takes on his Badminton debut.

His prep has looked good: he ran in the secondary CCI4*-S at Thoresby, finishing sixth, though the actual numbers of that outing don’t predict a competitive finish at Badminton, necessarily. He put a low-40s score on the board, was quick and clear across the country, and had three rails down showjumping. Still, this run is about experience and education, for both horse and rider – Gaspard, who finished sixth at the 2022 World Championships with Zaragoza, was making his own five-star debut at Pau last year, too, and this will be his first Badminton. Paris is the primary goal for this year with Zaragoza, and all the mileage he can get in the meantime is a fantastic bonus.

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29: Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson (IRL)

What a little hero this diminutive horse was at last year’s FEI European Championships, where the conditions were probably the most draining for horses as we saw at any event throughout the year. All day long, we saw the sport’s greats nursed home, racking up double or quadruple handfuls of time penalties as their riders took their feet off the gas, and when they crossed the finish, they pretty much all looked well out of puff. Except this chap, who was our pathfinder that day, and who merrily skimmed over the top of the gluey mud with his floaty little pony hooves, adding just 2.4 time penalties and climbing a whopping 49 places in doing so.

Sarah herself is a seriously speedy and gutsy cross-country rider – as anyone who ever saw her break the sound barrier with Horseware Stellor Rebound can confirm – with heaps of experience over the world’s biggest tracks. And although Grantstown Jackson picked up a 20 in his five-star debut at Pau last year, Sarah will, no doubt, have used that as a helpful learning moment. Certainly, in his four-star runs at Kronenberg and Ballindenisk this spring, the little gelding has looked back on super form.

Expect a high-30s or even a 40 to start, and a rail on Sunday – but if all goes as expected Saturday, this duo is a great contender for the Glentrool Trophy for the highest climber of the weekend.

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30: Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit (CAN)

After Jennie Brannigan and Mia Farley put in beautiful performances aboard Thoroughbreds at the Defender Kentucky Three Day Event, there’s a big upswell of love and enthusiasm for this classic underdog of eventing. Wabbit is one of only two Thoroughbreds being championed at Badminton this year, the other being Meghan O’Donoghue’s Palm Crescent. Jessica Phoenix has campaigned Wabbit for the entirety of his FEI career, working hard to move him up through the levels since 2018.

Badminton marks Wabbit’s fifth attempt at the 5* level, with four completions under his belt. Like most Thoroughbreds, dressage isn’t his strongest phase, with scores usually in the mid to upper 30s, but that being said, Badminton is most definitely not a dressage competition. This rascally (wascawwy?) Wabbit certainly knows how to hunt the fences, with not a single single cross country jumping fault on his FEI record. Show jumping can be a bit hit or miss, although the gray gelding is starting 2024 strong with just one rail in the final phase. If he can pull off a repeat of his 2023 Burghley performance, look for this courageous Thoroughbred to finish the event just outside the top ten.

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32: Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour (FRA)

Florian’s a high-flying amateur – he works as a farrier – and this will be his fifth five-star start with the sweet Blue Bird de Beaufour, who he’s produced throughout his international career. They debuted at Pau in 2021, picking up an 11 for a MIM activation but otherwise jumping clear, but were pulled up on course the following year when the horse began to tire. Last year, they headed to Luhmühlen, where they jumped a slow clear for 26th place, and then, in October, they returned to Pau, where they cracked the top twenty for the first time.
Badminton’s a very different test to Pau, but actually, these two have British form, too: they spent some time in the UK in 2022, training and competing, and while doing so, they jumped clear around Bramham’s CCI4*-L, which is arguably the biggest and toughest course of the level in the world.

Blue Bird isn’t a wildly fast horse at five-star, although in his early efforts at four-star he looked a rather quick type, but he is reliable – he’s never had a 20 or a horse or rider fall at an international. We’ll be looking at a mid-to-high 30s first-phase score and probably three rails down on Sunday, so don’t expect to see a placing here – instead, cheer this pair on for the fun they have together, because that’s what it’s all about, really.

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33: Will Rawlin and Ballycoog Breaker Boy (GBR)

Will Rawlin has had Ballycoog Breaker Boy in the stables since he was a 4 year old, buying him from GHF Equestrian and bringing him over from Ireland. With eight years in partnership, developing all the way to the 5* level, these two have years of experience getting to know one another. So while this might be their first 5* together, they have years of success to set them up well. These two typically deliver quite a nice dressage test, and see scores usually from the upper 20s to lower 30s. Even more impressive, this duo has yet to see a cross country jump penalty on their record. However, a rail on the last day isn’t out of the question.

With a recent win in the 3* at Charlbury in 2023, and a top 20 finish at the Nations Cup in Arville, Will and Ballycoog Breaker Boy seem to be in a good position to impress going into their first 5*.

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34: William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht (GBR)

Long Tall William has been a bit of a tease recently, slyly hinting that this Badminton might be his last, and perhaps a retirement is on the cards. We hope not, because it would be deeply, unspeakably odd not having this lanky legend on the line-up at the big ones, but equally, he’s the most successful five-star rider of all time (he’s won fourteen of the things! One-four!!!) and probably does deserve a bit of a breather after all he’s done for the sport, really. So, with that in mind, cheer him on extra loudly, because there’s a slim chance we might not get to do it here again – unless, of course, sweet Lillie, the first mare he’s ever ridden at Badminton, goes so well that she convinces him to stick around for a few more years yet.

And, let’s be honest, she could very likely do just that. She finished second at Maryland in the autumn, and fourteenth at Badminton in the spring, and in those two career five-star runs, she’s proven that she’s game and gutsy and really tough, despite spending had the 2022 season on the sidelines.

She’s been a mid-20s scorer at five-star, so we’d be betting on a safe top five position after the first phase, and she was third quickest in the field at Maryland last year, so she’s definitely speedier than all those planned steady short-formats on her record would suggest. She’s only had cross-country jumping penalties once in her career, and that was pre-time-off. She should come into Sunday in a very good spot indeed – and then we start praying, because the final phase is a bit of a weak spot for her. She had a rail down at Maryland, and three down at Badminton – though that was after a particularly gruelling cross-country day. If William’s going to retire, though, it would be nice for him to do it on a high – although that high might make him rethink the whole idea.

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35: Tiana Coudray and Cancaras Girl (USA)

It’s a warm welcome back to Badminton for Tiana Coudray, who last competed here a decade ago with her Olympic partner, Ringwood Magister. This time, her partner is the teeny-weeny, but packed with presence, Cancaras Girl, who made her own five-star debut at Burghley last season, though did not finish.

It might not be the illustrious start the pair had hoped for for the mare’s top-level debut, but hopefully, it’ll have been a foundational one that will see her buoyed to greater success this week. Certainly, the mare is capable: she was ninth in Bramham’s achingly huge and tough CCI4*-L in 2022, and Tiana’s an enormously capable jockey, too. Beyond competing at the 2012 Olympics, the longtime British-based American was previously a three-time USEA Young Rider of the Year, a gold and silver medallist at the 2004 and 2008 NAYRC, and she’s a stellar producer of young horses, too.

‘Nana’, who was a spontaneous Facebook purchase and didn’t even until she was seven, would be just as happy in a rocking chair working on a knitting project (figuratively speaking, of course, because knitting needles are pretty tricky to wield when you have hooves) as she is eating up mammoth tracks. On paper, a few educational days in the office probably don’t have her down as a statistical contender, but actually, if she can throw down a 32 as she did at Burghley and then nail the quick clear she did at Bramham, she’s probably only due one rail on Sunday and could, all in all, deliver a very respectable final placing. Is that a lot of ‘ifs’? Sure! But sometimes, ifs are the little bit of jet propulsion we all need to take off over the biggest fences.

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36: Helen Martin and Andreas (GBR)

Helen’s brought ‘Alfie’ up through the levels from 1* and last year made the teams’ dream come true when they made it to Badminton for their CCI5* debut. Unfortunately, after impressing in the dressage, they had an unlucky fall out on cross country, but they’ve bounced back and are looking forward to giving it another go. Despite his eighteen years, Alfie is relatively low mileage having had breaks in his career due to a series of injuries. But with sound management at home and a supportive co-owner, the patient approach has paid off. Their biggest result came in the 4*-L at Kronenberg in 2022, where they finished on their dressage of 36.7 to take the win. For sure, a clear cross country round is well within this pair’s grasp based on their form, and there’s every chance that Alfie will leave the poles up on the final day.

Going into a competition like Badminton, having a dependable partner like Alfie has got to be a huge confidence boost, and with a whole team of cheerleaders behind them, plus the experience they gained last year, this pair are set up to achieve the 5* finish they’ve been working for. It’s a special event for the team, being based so close that Alfie can smell the cross country turf, and it would be cool to see them complete this time around. One thing’s for sure, he’ll be putting his best foot forward having been shod by Helen’s farrier husband, who’s shoeing seven of the Badminton entries and hoping for a win of his own – the Farriers’ Prize, which he judged last year.

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37: Georgia Bartlett and Spano de Nazca (GBR)

At just 23 years old, Georgia will be one of the youngest riders to leave the start box at Badminton this year, but remarkably, this will be her second time at the event. She and her long term partner ‘Nono’ made their debut here last year, although they came home early after opting to retire on the cross country, despite a promising dressage of 31.2. Still, the experience clearly did not phase them, rounding out their season with an 11th place finish in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim in September.

Georgia, who was part of the silver medal winning team at both the 2018 and 2019 Junior European Championships, has come up through the levels with Nono, and describes him as her ‘best friend.’ 6th in the Open Intermediate at Kelsall Hill in April, they also had a successful skip around the CCI4*-S in Kronenberg earlier this Spring too, lowering just two coloured poles.

Capable of a smart dressage test, with marks usually hovering around the low 30’s, Georgia – who trains with Caroline Moore – will no doubt be hoping to post a similar first phase score to last year. Nono has also proven himself to be a careful showjumper, rarely lowering more than a pole or two, so providing all goes according to plan on the cross country, there is no reason why these two shouldn’t finish their weekend in a very respectable position indeed, and lay to rest the ghosts of last year.

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38: Cosby Green and Copper Beach (USA)

This will be the second time at 5* for Cosby Green, Team USA’s hottest young star. Based with Team Price at Chedington since March last year, Cosby and Copper Beach tackled their first 5* together last Autumn at Pau. That was an impressive start to Cosby’s 5* career; they finished the week in 16th place . ‘Sean’ is no stranger to the level, having competed at the level with previous jockey Buck Davidson. Still, he and Cosby have forged quite the partnership since she took the reins back in 2020 and have enjoyed several successful runs together since they arrived on European soil. Along with that top 20 result at Pau, they were also top 20 in the CCI4*S at Mallow and top 10 in the CCI4*S at Little Downham. Cosby was the ‘Best placed Rookie’ at Boekelo last October too, with another promising ride of hers, JOS UFO De Quidam, so one might say that she has learned a lot during her time with Tim and Jonelle.

Cosby’s only gripe with the UK is the weather – admittedly it has been almost none stop rain since she arrived here – so her main hope for Badminton week is that the sun shines, something we will all be joining her on. Of the things that she can control though, she says “my aim is to put in three solid phases that reflect all the progress we’ve made over the winter. Sean is going better than ever, so I really want to give him the ride he deserves. I also want to enjoy the weekend, and have fun with my best friend!” Cheers to that, Cosby!

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39: Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google (GBR)

Best Christmas present ever, Google made her CCI5* debut at Burghley in 2022 and contested both of the British top-level events last season. At last year’s notoriously tricky Badminton, she hunted her way ‘round the cross country, and despite a couple of green errors she really showed her mettle when the going got tough, finishing up in 29th place and highest placed British Badminton first-timer. They went on to Burghley in the fall and finished just outside the top-20, again having an educational 20 out on course. But 5* experience adds up and Kristina will be coming out this time around in the hunt for the clear cross country round that’s eluded them thus far. We can expect them to be in the low-30s after the first phase, and despite having her own style when it comes to galloping across the country — “She’s a bit of a truffle-snuffler,” Kristina says — this pair are a real team, and having been together since 2017 Kristina’s used to Google’s quirks. She’s generally a clean jumper on the final day, as she showed at Burghley last season, although the odd pole falls occasionally, as it did at Badminton last season.

Kristina fell in love with Google the moment she sat on her and she’s a popular lass at home, happily fluttering her eyelashes to procure a Polo from passers by. Kristina is understandably very excited about her partnership with her mare and we’re excited to, hopefully, see their undeniable potential realized in a successful trip round Badminton.

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40: Harry Meade and Away Cruising (GBR)

World No. 5 Harry Meade brings forward his lovely gray ‘Spot’ for the gelding’s ninth CCI5* start. Produced by Harry from a five-year-old, this stalwart top-level campaigner is making his fifth trip to Badminton, and with three Burghley completions and a Luhmuhlen under his cinch, he’s amongst the most experienced in the field. His best 5* performance came at Burghley in 2018 when he finished 6th. He was 16th at Badminton last year after a gutsy performance across the country in what can only be described as testing conditions, and with a 29 in the dressage they were in a good position coming into the final phase, but a disappointing show jumping round with three poles and two time penalties dropped them down the order. Spot thought he’d won though, taking stablemate Cavalier Crystal’s place in the prize giving and lapping it all up like a champ.

A truly remarkable cross country horse, it was a surprise to everyone when he had what was, really, an unlucky 20 at Burghley last year, and there’s no doubt that Harry will be leaving the start box gunning for the clear round that’s for sure well within this gelding’s reach; EquiRatings have him down as being amongst the most reliable cross country jumpers in the field and you have to go as far back as 2017 to find another 20 on his record. There’s a definite feeling that this horse hasn’t quite realized his potential at 5* yet, and it would be very cool to see this 17-year-old at the prize giving in his own right after such a successful top-level career.

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41: Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy (GBR)

Great Britain’s Nicky Hill has had a longtime partnership with MGH Bingo Boy, having taken over the ride on the 16-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding in 2016 from fellow British rider Megan Cummings. Just a year later, Nicky and Bingo Boy were selected to represent Team Great Britain in the European Championship in Belgium where they finished ninth and won team silver. According to a 2023 article, “He’s my pet, he’s an absolute spoilt brat and I absolutely adore him so it’s lovely to have him back at this level,” she said. “He went a bit nervous, he’s not seen a lot of crowds for a while and he does get a bit excited by it so he was fine.”

The last time the pair tackled Badminton, they unfortunately had to withdraw prior to the show jumping phase. After a rocky 2021/2022, they bounced back in 2023 with a strong showing, including placing 5th at the Chatsworth 4*-S. Now, they’re once again set to tackle the bulky course at Badminton. Look for this pair to start off the week with a low-30s dressage score, followed by a handful of time faults on cross country, and a possible rail or two in the show jumping phase for a top 20 finish.

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42: Louise Harwood and Native Spirit (GBR)

Native Spirit is a seasoned event horse, having traveled all over Britain, and competed at events like Blenheim, Bramham, and Burghley. However, this will be Native Spirit’s first crack at the fourth ‘B’ event– Badminton. Louise took over the ride on Native Spirit from fellow British rider James Robinson in 2021. From there on, “Native” and Louise have stuck to the advanced levels of eventing, with a few 3*s sprinkled in between. Louise is herself a very experienced rider with 22 5* completions under her belt, per her Instagram, as well as winning the Laurence Rook Trophy at Badminton.

While Native and Louise have been pulling solid dressage scores in the low 30s, with the occasional sub-30 score, cross country seems to be a tricky phase for them with a scattering of obstacle faults sprinkled throughout Native Spirit’s record. However, show jumping is where they really shine, hardly ever pulling down rails, and typically crossing the finishing line with barely any time faults, if any at all. Unfortunately, that English rain probably hasn’t helped them prepare for Badminton, as the 5* will be their first FEI outing of the year. They were able to complete three National level events prior to Badminton– Thoresby Park International Spring Eventing Carnival, Oasby, and Kelsall Hall International most recently, where they placed second. If they can repeat their Kelsall Hall performance, where they achieved their lowest dressage score yet and had no obstacle faults on cross country, they’ll be well-set for Badminton.

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44: Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Heraldik Girl (GBR)

Kirsty’s one rider who’ll be delighted that Kentucky and Badminton have a week between them this year, which is just about enough time to shake off the jetlag after a busy with Classic VI stateside. Because really, who wants to be worrying about timezones and sleep patterns when you’ve got the Vicarage Vee to think about?

Kirsty, who was Badminton pathfinder a couple of years ago with Classic, returns this year with diminutive, sparky Opposition Heraldik Girl for the homebred mare’s sophomore five-star, and just her seventeenth-ever FEI run. She debuted at Pau last year, though didn’t complete – she had a horse fall at the first water. This spring, though, they’ve looked on very good form again at Kronenberg’s CCI4*-S, where they finished in twentieth place after a steady clear round, with one of their best tests – a 32.2 – and a classy clear showjumping round.
For the twelve-year-old, this won’t be a bid for competitive glory – instead, Kirsty will be intending to develop pint-sized Rocket’s education with an eye on the seasons to come. We suspect that patient development will be worth it; once Rocket gets the hang of a level, she tends to be quick, canny, and on the ball, and she’s a very good showjumper, to boot.

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45: Arthur Marx and Church’Ile (FRA)

It’s a fourth five-star, and second Badminton, for young Frenchman Arthur, who distracted us all in the mixed zone last year when he turned up with fresh stitches along his cheekbone, looking for all the world as though he was being played by the late, great French actor Gaspard Ulliel in a biopic about himself. We’d watch it, is all we’re saying.

Anyway, Arthur’s journey of education at the top level has had a few bumps in the road so far, all of which are no doubt going to be used to throw down an excellent performance consolidating all that new knowledge at some point. He and homebred Church’Ile finished just outside the top twenty in their debut at Pau in 2022, despite picking up 20 penalties on course, but they failed to complete Badminton last spring, when Arthur was unseated in those tough conditions, or Pau last fall, where he was pulled up in wild circumstances. The pair were looking at their best on cross-country, with an exuberant home crowd cheering them on, when Arthur’s right stirrup broke about two-thirds of the way home. He and his horse gamely continued on, channelling vintage Mark Todd and looking excellent, but were stopped, much to absolutely everyone’s dismay.

Their return to Badminton, we hope, will be a redemption song for them in the phase that is, historically, their best. They’ve got 13 clears inside the time out of 24 FEI starts, and while their first and final phases aren’t super competitive, they’ve got what it takes to give us a great show on the biggest day. Allez, Arthur!

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46: Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera (NZL)

Is Grappa Nera, or “Grape”, the forgotten hero of this year’s Badminton line-up? Perhaps – after all, she’s a five-star winner in her own right, having taken top honours at Pau in 2022. But after that, she had a year out, and for a horse who’d only just taken her turn in the spotlight, it’s tough in those circumstances to retain the fast-moving attention of the wider eventing fanbase. Now, though, she’s back, and ready to reclaim her supremacy.

Well, maybe. Her form since her return to FEI eventing in October is slightly chequered; she rain in the CCI3*-S at Bicton that month, but was retired in the dressage, and this season, she picked up a rare 20 on course at Thoresby’s CC4*-S. She’s had three decent, steady runs in OI classes, and Jonelle’s no slouch – she wouldn’t put a horse forward for Badminton that she didn’t think would benefit from the experience in some way. Whether that’s because she can fight for a competitive result or because the mare, who’s still only thirteen, will develop in her education from it, or both, remains to be seen.

This will actually be a third five-star start for Grape: she made her debut at the Covid Kentucky in 2021, jumping a reasonably quick clear for a top-thirty finish (there were a whopping 63 in it that year), so we know she’s got the staying power. Her first-phase performances can work against her, though – when she won Pau, she began her week on a very good 30.1, which was one of her best scores at any level, but Kentucky saw her start on a mid-30s mark and she’s not an infrequent visitor to the high-30s and low-40s. We’ve seen her put 40s scores on the board twice this season at Intermediate – but she’s definitely a mare who rises to an occasion. She’s a reliable enough showjumper, and spent the winter at the Spanish Sunshine Tour jumping CSI4* 1.35m classes. In short, this is a fascinating question mark of a horse, who’ll either be quite competitive this week or finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, hopefully having learned plenty so she can return to the five-star level next time and make a major impact again.

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47: Richard Jones and Alfies Clover (GBR)

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises on last year’s cross-country day at Badminton was the moment when Richard Jones pulled up a very well-looking Alfies Clover. When it was clear how bad the conditions were, many of us in the mixed zone uttered the same thought: “this is going to be Richard’s year.” He and Alfie are so, so reliable and tough in this phase that it seemed like a sure thing – but then Richard proved what an admirable horseman he is by feeling a tiny nudge of tiredness in his horse that none of us could see, and although he will have known he had the chance to climb to a great spot on the leaderboard, he opted to put his horse first. If that’s not enough to make you a superfan, I don’t know what is.

Consider this, though: the man’s also a comeback king. In 2017, he managed to lose a finger at Bramham (yes, really), when his wedding ring got caught on his lorry as he stepped out of the living area. A year prior, though, he’d had a foot completely rebuilt, so, he figured he could probably get himself back in riding condition in time for Burghley a couple of months later. That was Alfie’s first five-star, and Richard himself hadn’t ridden round one in three years. They finished just outside the top twenty, despite the fact that Richard couldn’t really grip with his left hand at all – not to mention the pain.

Since then, they’ve kept all their body parts attached and have continued to establish themselves. They’ve twice been seventh at Burghley, have been tenth at Badminton, and consistently place in the super-tough, huge, and very terrain-y CCI4*-L at Bramham, putting any and all pre-pandemic learning curve 20s behind them. They’re pure old-school eventing, and in a year like this without the London 52s and the Lordships Graffalos, a door is definitely open for a pair like them to take a serious placing. It would be fitting for old-school cross-country prowess to be showcased in a big anniversary year for the event.

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48: Luc Château and Viens du Mont (FRA)

Luc’s probably targeting Paris as an outside chance with his other top ride, Bastia de l’Ebat, but Badminton mount Viens du Mont has plenty going for him, too. He finished eleventh here last year on his first trip to Gloucestershire, overcoming those achingly tough conditions to romp home as fourth fastest of the day on cross country.

That’s pretty typical for this cool, game horse – in 22 FEI starts, he’s finished inside the time 14 times, and he’s only ever picked up cross-country jumping penalties once, at Burghley last year, making him one of the most reliable second-phase horses in this line-up and a serious dark horse to keep your eye on.

Okay, so the first phase won’t impress you much, Shania – we’ll be looking at a high-30s score, although at that off-color Burghley, he put a low-40s mark on the board. His showjumping performances can also vary pretty wildly, with three rails as common as none on his record. But if this ends up being another vintage cross-country year, and bearing in mind many of the serious low-scorers are sitting this one out in preparation for Paris, we could see Luc having another very interesting week. Maybe this is the moment he’ll crack the Badminton top ten with this horse, who’s already managed the feat at Pau.

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49: Francis Whittington and DHI Purple Rain (GBR)

‘Prince’ has been produced by Francis from a five-year-old and is distinctive in his flashy, extravagant action. He’s a rangy horse who’s striking to look at but sometimes lets his anxious nature get the better of him. He stepped up to the CCI5* level at the pop-up event at Bicton in 2021, finishing 14th — had it not been for the four poles added on the final day, he would have been top 10. His dressage scores tend to be a reflection of his character, rather than his obvious talent. At Badminton last year he posted a 41 in the first phase, with Francis having to use all of his experience in the Main Arena atmosphere. At Burghley in the fall, he was able to keep it to 34.9. His cross country jumping record is notably clean — from 28 FEI starts, he’s got one 20 on his card and he’s been retired on course twice – once due to a tack malfunction and once, at Burghley in 2022, when Prince seemed to tire, activating a frangible device and Francis made the sensible call to walk home.

He was particularly impressive at Badminton last season; on a day when many horses found the ground incredibly difficult, Prince ate it up and seemed to thrive in the demanding conditions. He’s not the quickest across the country, in part due to his bouncy way of going, and the anxiety tends to return in the final phase — he rolled two poles at both Badminton and Burghley last season — but Francis really rides this horse sympathetically and they’re well worth a watch for the display of horsemanship that will be on show.

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51: Lucy Latta and RCA Patron Saint (IRL)

This will be the first trip to Badminton for both Lucy and ‘Paddy,’ although there is no doubt her cousin Esib Power will have given her plenty of advice. Lucy has actually been based with Esib in County Meath for the last month in order to prepare for her 5* debut; she and Paddy are usually based at the family home in Wexford. Paddy is currently Lucy’s only ride – she juggles eventing with a full time job as brand manager for White Claw drinks (alcoholic sparkling water, in case you were wondering). Nonetheless, she and Paddy have achieved some impressive results over their competitive career, including 4th place in the CCI4*L at Blair Castle last year. They won’t be breaking any records in the first phase, with scores averaging mid to high 30’s, but having jumped clear around courses like Blair and Blenheim Palace, there is nothing to stop them having a very good day on Saturday, and making an impressive start to their 5* careers.

Lucy is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead, but remains positive and confident about their chances: “We have had a great preparation this Spring, so I am excited for the week ahead!” No doubt Paddy is preparing for the task ahead in his own unique style, too – according to Lucy, the 13 year old gelding, who is by legendary sire Grafenstolz, loves nothing more than a good nap, which, let’s face it, is the best way to prepare for most things in life.

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52: Emma Thomas and Icarus (GBR)

A five-star debut at Burghley is always a bold choice, and when a younger rider makes it, we’ll admit that many of us in the media zone clench our bumcheeks a bit and just pray they’ll make smart decisions and come home safe and sound. So that’s what we all did when Wesko Foundation graduate Emma Thomas and her keen little Icarus left the startbox at the Lincolnshire fixture last September – and why we were so over-the-moon thrilled when they returned clear and with a very respectable 21.6 time penalties, having given a display of bold, brave, decisive cross-country riding. They went on to jump a super clear on Sunday, finishing eighteenth, which is a pretty phenomenal way to begin one’s five-star career, frankly.

Now, 24-year-old Emma and her eleven-year-old Dutch gelding will tackle their first Badminton, no doubt ready to channel the horse and rider who first made a young Emma want to try eventing – the bouncy ball Opposition Buzz and the remarkable Nicola Wilson. Vet school grad Emma has already proven she can overcome her horse’s somewhat chequered cross-country record, and we look forward to seeing that trend continue. They’ll start in the high-30s or low-40s, and probably add a rail or two on Sunday, but this is another educational and foundational stepping stone for both horse and rider.

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53: Rosalind Canter and Izilot DHI (GBR)

Horses don’t come much weirder, or much more talented, than lanky ‘Isaac’. Reigning Badminton champion – and European Champion – Ros might not be bringing last year’s winner, Lordships Graffalo, out to play at the Big B this spring, but she’s still very sufficiently equipped to try to defend her crown.

Let’s try to break down the duality of Isaac, shall we? In his 21 FEI runs so far, he’s logged fourteen top-ten finishes, with nine (!) of those being wins. He’s picked up four of those wins at four-star, taking short-format titles at Bramham and Burgham in 2022, and at Blair Castle in 2023, before tackling the CCI4*-L at Blenheim and winning that, too. Then, he made his five-star debut at Pau in October – and also won that.

But he’s not a simple horse. He can be sharp and very spooky, which has sometimes cost him big-time – he was the dressage leader at Bramham’s CCI4*-L last summer, but had a runout in the first few fences when he took offence to the colourful ice cream cone decorations on the fence. Generally, the penalties on his record come from similar situations – and in a bid to ‘break the habit’ of spookiness, Ros has dialed right back on his schooling this winter. Now, she spends most of her time hacking Isaac, and if she’s going to school him on the flat, she’ll box him to a different venue to do it, so he’s always working in new environments. This year, she tells EN, he’s feeling better than ever as a result – and as we’ve seen this chap go sub-20 at four-star, he could well be our first-phase leader. The major question mark, really, lands on the atmosphere – will he rise to the occasion or lose his nerve when faced with the unique Badminton buzz?

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54: Felicity Collins and RSH Contend OR (GBR)

This will be a sixth five-star, and third Badminton, for twenty-six year old Felicity and her longtime partner, Mickey. Their best placing here came on their debut at the event in 2022, when they finished 21st after adding just 15.2 time penalties to their first-phase score of 32.7, but they’ve also cracked the top ten at five-star at the Bicton pop-up in 2021.

This is a duo well worth following, because they’re very capable of a serious result. They’ll start the week on a score around 33, and they’re very quick across the country. They’ve got a point to prove after a late, frustrating rider fall at that hugely influential ditch and brush question that none of the horses read very well last year – and once they’re home clear on Saturday, they can really start laughing. They’ve had one rail since 2021 and are one of the most reliable competitors in the field in this phase.

Felicity’s got eventing in her blood: her late mother Vicky, who our community sadly lost at the start of this year after a long battle with illness, was a five-star rider, breeder, producer and trainer in her own right, and she and Felicity were business partners at their Sussex yard. This will be Felicity’s first five-star helming the ship solo, but she won’t be alone – the entirety of the British eventing family will be firmly behind her, and she’ll have her fiancé, Jonny Burfiend, a bonafide horse show boyfriend of the best sort, to lean on, too. And as for Vicky? Felicity will be able to find her in those moments when she herself has to dig deep and rise up, because that’s when she’s most her mother’s daughter.

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55: Tom McEwen and CHF Cooliser (GBR) Withdrawn before Horse Inspection

We’re delighted to see the return of CHF Cooliser, known at home as “Eliza” or “Queen Elizabeth” because of her royal behaviour, who, before this year, was last seen at an FEI event at Burghley in 2022. She finished twelfth there, despite picking up 11 penalties for a MIM activation, and earlier that year, she was in the top thirty at Badminton. In 2021, when she made her five-star debut at Pau, she finished second.

This year, after her year’s sabbatical, she returned to international competition at Kronenberg, jumping tidily, but slowly, around the CCI4*-S for 39th place. It’s hard to make many predictions about her performance after this amount of time off; no doubt, Tom will have been working just as hard on the marginal gains as on the foundations of soundness in her quiet period, and so we could well see her look a bit more consistent in the first phase, where she’s delivered mid-20s and mid-30s scores at five-star, and in the showjumping, where she’s a bit of a one-or-none horse. She’s always been exceptional across the country, and that 11 penalties at Burghley is her only FEI cross-country jumping fault. She’s quick, though not the quickest in this field, and it’ll be interesting to see how Tom runs her in the circumstances.

This could well be a serious dark horse, or this run could be a fairly forgettable reintroduction to the top that serves to set her up for a very competitive Burghley or Pau instead. Stay tuned.

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56: Grace Taylor and Game Changer (USA)

Originally, we’d planned to see Grace — daughter of British team selector Nigel Taylor and US Olympian Ann Sutton — make the trip to Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, but at the eleventh hour, she opted to stay on home soil and tackle her first Badminton. We saw her make her debut at the level last season at Burghley, where she had a week of mixed fortunes: in the first phase, she and Game Changer pulled out the best test of their lives, scoring a 28.9 to go into cross-country in seventh place. On cross-country, they were also excellent, jumping a steady clear for 17.6 time faults — but on Sunday morning, Grace withdrew before the final horse inspection, which was a disappointing end to such a promising start.

This week, it’s all about redemption — and while this pair might fly slightly under the radar, they’ll be great fun to watch as they meet the hallowed turf of Badminton. If they can start on the same sort of score as at Burghley, brilliant — generally, they’re much more of a mid-30s pair, but that test proved that both are excellent at stepping up to the plate when it really counts. Saturday will be a good and fitting challenge for them, and one they’ve proven they’re very ready for, with last year’s Burghley clear and a top-ten finish at Bramham CCI4*-L, too. This time, we look forward to seeing them in the ring on Sunday, where they may take a rail or two, but the taste of that first five-star completion will be no less sweet.

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57: Harry Mutch and HD Bronze (GBR)

This is certainly not the first rodeo (or 5*, whatever) for Harry and his long term partner HD Bronze: they completed here back in 2019 – their debut at the level – were top 20 at the pop-up 5* at Bicton, and have started at Burghley several times, too. Now 18, the Limmerick gelding, was withdrawn at the eleventh hour last year, having developed an annoying niggle, seemingly overnight. He went on to have a successful season, finishing top 10 in the CCI4*L at both Bramham and Burgham, although they did retire on course at Burghley in September.
Wesko alumni Harry, who is based in the wilds of Northumberland, has placed extra emphasis on ‘Fernando’s’ fitness, conscious of his age, and keen to avoid any further ‘niggles.’

Describing him as ‘sensitive but tricky,’ Harry has worked closely with mentor Pippa Funnell to improve his dressage, basing with her for several weeks at a time over the years. His ability cross country makes up for whatever he might lack in the first phase – ‘he is a cross country machine,’ says Harry, and he certainly proved that at Bramham last summer, over one of the hardest 4*L tracks out there. His show jumping is consistent too, with rarely a pole or two falling on the final day. While these two might not break any records, it would be lovely to see them have a happy return to the level after a few issues at their last two Burghley runs and the last minute withdrawal here last year. Fingers crossed that Fernando gets one last hurrah!

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59: Gubby Leech and Royal Harvest (GBR)

Royal Harvest came to Gubby’s yard for six weeks as a very naughty four-year-old… and never left. Now attempting his first 5*, ‘Bassett’ has clearly turned his life around, posting some impressive results over the years. Gubby describes him as ‘the most lovely horse, very intelligent, and very opinionated!’ With an incredible jumping ability, he is also ‘very capable on the flat, but also very sharp, and thinks he knows what is being asked of him before it is asked,’ hence a first phase score that can range from low to mid 30’s. As a result, these two won’t be near the top spot after dressage, but this is one speedy character: last year they were 5th in the CCI4*-S at Hartpury after finishing on their dressage score, having done the same thing to finish 9th in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim a year earlier.

‘A fantastic jump’ accompanies that speed – over the last two years, Bassett has knocked just two rails and if he can keep those knees up on the final day at Badminton, he could well climb up the leaderboard. Gubby describes the cross country as akin to ‘getting behind the steering wheel of a Ferrari and pressing “sport” mode,’ and as we all know, a speedy cross country round stands you in very good stead at Badminton. Fingers crossed Bassett and his wonky right ear have a successful debut at the level, and that he doesn’t pre-empt Gubby too much!

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60: Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte (NZL)

Cooley Lafitte – or ‘Henry’ – was sent to Kiwi Olympian as somewhat of a last resort: his owners felt that he had talent, but were struggling to eke it out of him. Even in his early days with Jesse he didn’t display too much enthusiasm for the sport and was nearly sent on a one way ferry back to Ireland. Still, if anyone can convince a horse to change their mind, it is Jesse.

Arriving in the UK at the tender age of 21 as part of the New Zealand High Performance squad, Jesse earnt his stripes with none other than Andrew Nicholson. He made his 5* debut back in 2015, at Luhmuhlen, and did so in fine style, winning the cross country prize when he completed the course bang on the optimum time. Henry, meanwhile, made his 5* debut at Pau last October, although a fall at the third water meant that their competition came to a premature end. Regardless, Henry has managed to jump double clear around the CCI4*L at Bramham on two occasions now, landing them within the top 20 on both occasions. He put in a similar performance at Blenheim Palace in 2022, so the challenge he faces on Saturday at Badminton shouldn’t trouble him too much.

Expect to see a dressage score in the mid to high 30’s, though a return to form cross country could see them inch their way back up the placings. Capable of a clear on the final day – Henry knocked just two rails last season – it is not guaranteed, so while they might not manage to maintain their place, Jesse will no doubt be happy with a completion, given that Pau did not quite go according to plan!

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61: Alexandra Knowles and Morswood (USA)

Morswood is returning to British soil after a long hiatus. Originally ridden by Piggy March and Susie Berry, Morswood is no stranger to British Eventing, having completed events like Burnham Market and Barbury Castle. But since Allie Knowles took over the reins in 2018, the 16-year-old Chestnut Irish Sport Horse gelding has been pretty much relegated to North American soil, except for a trip to Pau last year, where he placed 18th. Allie describes him as, “He’s just been a total partner. He’s a real dude. He doesn’t always love dressage, but he gives us his best. We have our weaknesses, which has always been show jumping and sometimes it catches us out and sometimes it doesn’t. But he is an out and out amazing cross country horse and I have learned a lot from him.”

Fittingly known as “Ginge,” Morswood has started off his season strong with a good dressage score in the 4*-S at Stable View, but unfortunately he took down three rails in show jumping and was withdrawn before cross country. Historically, Ginge scores in the low-30s to high-20s in dressage, with his lowest score being a 26.1 in the 4* at Unionville. The brave Irish Sport Horse rarely has obstacle faults on cross country, but isn’t the fastest horse on the course, usually crossing the finish line with a handful of time faults. The show jumping phase is a different story, as the chestnut gelding usually puts the pedal to the metal in this last phase. For their first trip to Badminton as a pair, look for Ginge and Allie in the top 20, if not the top 15.

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62: Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR)

The most fun thing about this year’s Badminton is that it really does feel wide open – in this form guide alone we’ll have put forward about six winners. That means that from the word go, it’s going to be exciting, and unexpected, and packed with surprises, and because there are so many great characters to get behind, you won’t be short of cheering opportunities.

And so, with that, let us put forward another potential winner, this time in Emily King – daughter of eventing legend Mary – and her very cool French horse, Valmy Biats. They come to Badminton having won Thoresby’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S for the second year running (the first pair ever to do so!) and ready to cast aside some Badminton demons.

If good eventing karma is a thing, Emily’s definitely one of the riders who deserves it this week. She pulled Valmy up on course last year, even though he looked brilliant and full of running, because she felt him start to tire incrementally and felt that pushing him on until he began to genuinely struggle would be unfair to him. She was, to that point, looking nearly guaranteed a healthy climb up the leaderboard.
That’s Emily, though: she is, at her core, simply a very good, empathetic horsewoman who truly adores her four-legged partners. That empathy and horse-first system means that sweet Val actually lives out in a field 24/7, where he might look like a bit of a hippo, but he’s miles happier than when he has to come into a stable. That also makes him naturally sure-footed, because he’s used to wandering up and down his hill in all sorts of ground conditions, and Emily gallops him on grass, too.

They’ve been eighth at Pau in 2022 and top thirty at Burghley last year after picking up 11 penalties at the Waterloo Rails. Their first phase is very, very good – they’re 25-or-lower scorers at four-star, but hover around 30 at five-star, and they’re good showjumpers, too. Saturday will be the big question: on paper, they’re more than capable of being hugely competitive, but Emily will need to push past any mental block leveraged by her run of rotten luck at this event. If she can do that, and we suspect she can, they can be right up there.

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63: Holly Richardson and Bally Louis (GBR)

Holly and Bally Louis made their 5* debut last September, storming around the hallowed turf of Burghley to finish in the top 25. Not a bad effort for their first run at the level, but unsurprising given the grit with which Louis’ has tackled even the toughest of courses thus far in his career – “Ever since I did my first Novice on him, he has been unbelievable, he’s just flown up the levels and I’ve never come across anything that has phased him yet. Everything I ask him to do, he just keeps saying yes, and keeps jumping. We have had a few mistakes along the way, but it’s usually because I have made an error and fallen off him or something” – said Holly before Burghley this year, so the course at Badminton shouldn’t cause him too much trouble, either.

One thing that Louis does struggle with though, is the dressage – or namely his nerves and the resulting tension – so we are unlikely to see them too far up the placings after the first phase: expect a score in the mid 30’s. Still, there is no doubt that Holly will have been hard at work with trainer Melissa Chapman this winter to improve on their 36.9 at Burghley, so anything better than that will be a bonus for them personally. Another strong cross country performance should see them sitting comfortably within the top 25 again, another commendable result for this unassuming pair and all their connections and testament to what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.

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64: Tim Price and Vitali (NZL)

Oh, sweet Vitali, the heartbreaker heartthrob of the pack. This is one heck of a horse, so let’s start with that – he’s a real contender for dressage leader (he was just that at Burghley last year, putting an 18.7 – yes, really – on the board), and he’s pretty likely to hold that lead on Saturday, too (he also did that at Burghley, adding 8 time penalties that he could afford by dint of that wicked lead). But on Sunday? That’s when we all hold our breath. This will be his fifth five-star, and he’s never been out of the top ten at the level – but he’s also never had more or fewer than three rails at it, either. He also had three down at the Tokyo Olympics. Mr Consistent indeed, but we’re sure Tim would like that consistency to reallocate itself somewhere more productive.

Vitali’s actually a very good jumper, but as Tim explains it, it’s a mental block: he’s a funny, quirky, sensitive little horse, and master of empathetic horsemanship Tim is always trying new techniques to help him settle and deliver his best in his trickiest phase. It looks, at the moment, like it might be working: they finished fourth in Thoresby’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S with a clear showjumping round in a busy, tricky arena, but we’ve also dared to dream before, such as in 2022, when he showjumped clear and very well at Gatcombe en route to taking the British Open Championship title.

And so, if you’re bold enough to risk the emotional turbulence, here’s a horse you can put your emotional bet on – a horse who’s every inch a five-star winner in the making, but also, somehow, nothing close to a sure thing. But what a triumph of patient horsemanship it would be if they did it, right?

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65: Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois (FRA)

Arthur Duffort brings seasoned CCI5* campaigner Toronto d’Aurois forward for his eighth top-level start and third Badminton, and after jumping clear across the country at last year’s wet and wild edition of the British 5*, he’s got to be feeling good as he goes into this year’s competition where, despite another wet spring in the UK, things are looking decidedly drier in terms of the ground conditions out on course. They picked up a fair few time penalties last time, but so did most, and their efforts on cross country day made themselves known in the show jumping, where they rolled five poles – he’s normally a four or eight kind of guy – but they finished up in 27th place at what had been a tough competition.

‘Toronto’ was produced in France up to 2* by part-owner and Arthur’s friend, Paul Gatien. The original plan was for the horse to be sold on, however, Toronto was so difficult that they couldn’t find a buyer and he ended up staying. A bit of a shy guy who’s easily spooked, his groom, Leonore Gignoux, says she would turn off the giant screen in the dressage arena for his test if she could. He’s typically mid- to high-30s in the first phase and, until the end of last season, had been reliable for clear jumping across the country; a 20 at Burghley saw them retire out on course though, so Arthur will be hoping to have put that behind them over the winter as he sets out looking for a sixth 5* completion with the 17-year-old gelding.

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66: Daragh Byrne and Kilcannon Ramiro (IRL)

‘Kilcannon’ is owned by Daragh’s dad, James Byrne, who bought the gelding as an unbroken three-year-old from the Goresbridge sales. A steadfast supporter of both his son and his equine “child”, James has never missed a competition. Daragh says the horse is his dad’s “pride and joy”. He’s been brought along slowly through the levels, partly because he’s pretty enormous and so needed the extra time as he matured. He’s stepped up a level each year and came forward for his first CCI5* at Pau last season, where an unfortunate tip-off cross country means they’re looking for their first top-level completion at Badminton this year.

He’s generally mid- to high-30s in the first phase, but he’s pulled out a couple of low-30s results, namely a 32 on his way to winning at Ballindenisk in 2022 on his first attempt at the 4*-L level. He’s certainly no slouch across the country; in 21 FEI starts, he’s had jumping penalties only twice, once at Pau last season and then once back in 2021. He had an unfortunate fall on the flat in the 4*-S Nations Cup at Millstreet last year, but aside from those blips, his record is impressively clean. Based on form, it would be fair to say that show jumping is something he’s still working on, with faults in each of their runs bar a 1* back in 2018, but he kept it to one pole in his season-opener in the 4*S at Kronenberg this year. Daragh — and his dad — will no doubt be delighted if they could get a 5* completion on this horse’s record at Badminton, however it plays out.

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67: Helen Bates and Carpe Diem (GBR)

This is a first Badminton for Helen and ‘Demon,’ the Contendro I gelding she bought as a very naughty four-year-old (hence the moniker). Although it took a while to convince him to play ball, Helen’s perseverance has paid off, and the two of them have come through the levels together, completing their first 5* in fine form in Pau last October, where a classy double clear saw them finish in the top 25. Described by Helen as a ‘fever dream,’ that performance was typical of these two, who manage to pull off a double clear more often than not. Over the last two seasons they have had just one rail, and he made light work of the cross country at Pau. They have jumped double clear on all of their starts this season, too.

Helen will be the first to admit that he doesn’t find the first phase quite so easy though – ‘he finds flying changes tricky,’ she says. Still, she has been working hard with trainer Kevin McNab, so hopefully they will be able to improve on the 37.7 they scored at the level in Pau. Indeed, their first phase score this season has averaged more towards the lower end of the 30’s, so if they manage to continue that form at Badminton, and tackle the jumping phases with their usual gusto, then another top 25 finish could be on the cards. Helen’s adorable dog Dora will be tagging along as chief cheerleader as well as Lydia Swan, who groomed for the pair in Pau. Here’s hoping that she is their lucky charm!

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68: Selina Milnes and Gelmer (GBR)

The lead-up to Gelmer’s Badminton debut hasn’t necessarily been straightforward: Selina was sidelined at the start of the year with a skiing injury, which meant she handed the reins over to Austin O’Connor to get the season started. He piloted Gelmer around Tweseldown’s Open Intermediate, finishing twelfth, and Thoresby’s Advanced, finishing tenth, before Selina returned to competition for Burnham Market in April. There, she did dressage – a slightly disappointing 37.3 – and had two rails before opting to withdraw the gelding, and the next weekend, fared better at Kelsall Hil, where they had a steady clear in the Advanced/Intermediate.

This Badminton run will be Gelmer’s second five-star start; he made his debut at Pau last year, though it was an educational, rather than glory-covered, start to his forays at the top level. He put a 41.6 on the board to start, and picked up a 20 on course and plenty of time, and then wasn’t presented at the final horse inspection.

But we’ve also seen some very promising moments from him, including a 31 at Blenheim CCI4*-L in 2022. His scores do fluctuate in this phase, and his cross-country runs tend to be not enormously quick, though other than that Pau result, he’s never had a jumping penalty on cross country at an FEI event. On Sunday, he’s clear more often than not, but he does have a few two-rail rounds on his record.
It remains to be seen whether Selina will ultimately run at Badminton or decide to rethink her plan after a tricky spring, but if she does run, this will all be about developing her up-and-comer’s education.

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69: Lauren Innes and Global Fision M (NZL)

This will be a third Badminton for full-time chartered accountant Lauren and Global Fision M – or Flipper, as he is known at home. Top 25 here last year, and again at Burghley in the Autumn, Lauren keeps Flipper at home, meaning that she can fit riding and training in around her full time job. Bought as a 5 year old from Brian Morrison, Flipper struggles to manage his nerves when in between the white boards – especially when there is a crowd. However, Lauren – who changed nationality to New Zealand in 2022 – has been working hard with Jason Webb to combat those nerves and keep him as calm as possible. She will no doubt be hoping that it pays off, and they can improve on last year’s dressage score of 46.4. Still, this is a horse that lives for the jumping phases; he skipped around the cross country here last year, despite the acres of mud, and did the same at Burghley later in the year. As Lauren says, ‘nothing is too big,’ hence their ability to climb back up the placings, even if they seem out of touch after dressage.

Debbie McDonald will be taking care of Flipper this week, and once again providing ‘lucky banana’ — complete with a drawn on face –- as his mascot, something of a tradition for Team Flipper! They may not knock the big names off the top spot, but expect another solid performance from Lauren and Flipper, and perhaps an even better finish than last year, if they can keep the nerves at bay in the first phase.

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70: Gemma Stevens and Chilli Knight (GBR)

Though Gemma was achingly disappointed to have to withdraw her other ride here, last year’s sixth-placed Jalapeno, in the lead-up to the event, she’s got a peach of a ride to boost her spirits still in the hunt. And what a treat for all of us as eventing fans to get to see the return of Chilli Knight, winner of the one-off Bicton five-star in 2021 – the pandemic pop-up – back on form after sitting out a lot of 2022 and most of 2023.

Gemma’s a dab hand at slow, steady, careful rehabilitation, which she’s shown with Jala, and Chilli Knight’s progression back from the sidelines has been managed very similarly, helped along by Gemma’s proximity to the rolling Surrey hills, which have been a major player in developing strength. So far this year, Chilli Knight has been ‘furious!’, in Gemma’s telling, to have had to run in two four-stars with the handbrake firmly on, but the joy on both horse and rider’s faces at being back in action has been palpable. The handbrake will come off this week, which the son of 2015 Badminton winner Chilli Morning will be delighted about – and when he’s quick, he’s very quick. He didn’t pick up a single cross-country time penalty in his entire 2021 FEI season, which comprised five runs.

It’s always hard to put up a horse who’s been off the scene as a serious contender, because there are so many question marks – but if we follow our hearts, and a little bit our heads, it’s seriously tempting to put Chilli Knight forward as a top-ten finisher, quite possibly a top-five contender, and even – what a fairytale this would be! – a dark horse shout for a win. He’ll be up against it in the first phase, in which his 32-or-so score won’t compete with the likes of Izilot DHI, but this year’s course looks plenty tough and if we see a classic Chilli Knight run over it, he’ll make a tremendous upwards leap on the leaderboard. His final phase can be a touch risky, but Gemma spends a lot of time showjumping over massive tracks, and she’ll have all the tools at her disposal to try to fend off his tendency to a rail. At that Bicton five-star, he finished on his dressage score of 27.9 – if he did the same again at Badminton, that would be a seriously formidable result.

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71: Libby Seed and Heartbreaker Star Quality (GBR)

This year’s Badminton line-up is a great showcase of high-flying amateur riders, and among those is Libby Seed, who balances her eventing alongside an intense job in the medical devices industry, where she works in the Vascular Interventional Radiology. She often has to ride ‘Angel’, as her gutsy mare is known at home, in the wee hours of the morning or late into the evening to fit everything in, but the juggling act certainly hasn’t slowed her roll.

This pair has two five-star starts under their belt so far: they made their debut at Badminton in 2022, finishing in the top 30 after a steady clear across the country and a final day clear, too. Last year, they returned to the top level at Pau, earning fourteenth place with a similarly steady clear on Saturday but losing out on a top-ten finish when they had a seriously uncharacteristic four rails down on the final day. Generally, we’d expect a clear – prior to Pau, they hadn’t had a rail in an FEI competition since mid-2021 – and so Libby’s no doubt been working hard at this phase over the winter to understand what happened that day and prevent its recurrence.

In both five-star starts, they’ve begun their week in the 33 range, and we’ll be looking for much the same again this week. On cross-country, they’re both game and reliable, if reasonably steady speed-wise, and on Sunday, we’re confident they’ll be back on form. If so, they can realistically be expected for at least a top twenty finish.

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72: Alexander Bragg and Quindiva (GBR)

This will be the second attempt at Badminton for Alex and 14-year-old Quindiva, and only the third attempt at the level for this gutsy little mare. Although they started well here last year, posting a very respectable 34.3 in the first phase, Alex ultimately made the decision to pull up before The Lake out on cross country. Onlookers may have been confused by his decision; she was seemingly tackling the course with ease. But Alex was mindful of the difficult conditions, and as her said at the time ‘I didn’t want to break her heart.’ That decision paid off, and the pair contested a very successful Burghley later in the year, adding just a smattering of cross country time to their dressage score to finish in 15th place.

Hopefully, better ground conditions this year will see them finish what they started last time they were here, especially given the added experience the mare now has under her belt (girth). Particularly careful in the final phase, Quindiva has similar prowess cross country, and Alex has a wealth of experience at this level, having been in the top 5 at Pau and Luhmuhlen with former 5* partner, Zagreb.
Back in 2022 they won the CCI3*-S at both Barbury and Wellington, adding not even a singular time fault to her first phase score. She finished top 10 in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim later that same year in similar style, evidence of the quick turn of foot that complements her incredible jumping ability.

Their dressage scores tend to hover around the mid to high 30s, which will no doubt keep them from troubling the leaders, but there is every chance that they can repeat their Burghley result – or even better it.

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73: Laura Collett and Hester (GBR)

Sweet Hester, the second ride of former Badminton champ Laura, is a horse who’s really been around the block: she began her international career as a jumper with Jonelle Price, who did two seasons at the Spanish Sunshine Tour with her prior to the pandemic, and in the midst of those two, husband Tim took the reins to pop her around a CCI2*-S in France. The next year, Jonelle did a run of events with her, culminating in a trip to the Seven-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers, where she finished 28th. In 2019, Alex Bragg took over, stepping her up to 4* with a couple of good placings, but then we didn’t see her again until late 2021, by which time she was part of Laura’s string.

2022 was a pretty quiet year for the pair, too – they’d had the one FEI run at Cornbury CCI3*-S in September of 2021 to get to know one another over a proper track, and in 2022, they ran just once in an international, jumping a steady clear around the CCI4*-S at Thoresby in March. They did a test in Houghton Hall’s CCIO4*-S in May, but withdrew before the jumping phases.

When Hester returned in July of 2023, though, she looked on excellent form, taking the win in the CCI3*-S at Aston-le-Walls before heading to Ireland for a fourth-place finish in Lisgarvan’s CCI4*-S. Her step up to CCI4*-L at Blenheim went well, landing them in a very good fourteenth place to wrap up the season. This year, they’ve been seventh in both their runs in the CCI4*-S classes at Thoresby and Burnham Market.

Much of Badminton, though, will be an exercise in waiting to see what happens: Hester can fluctuate from the high-20s to the mid-30s on the flat, though she’s done a 21 at three-star, and while she’s generally a naturally quick and catty mare, this is a big step up. She is, by dint of all that early-career practice, a very good showjumper. She could offer up some exciting surprises this week.

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74: Wills Oakden and A Class Cooley (GBR)

Blair Castle CCI4*-L winner A Class Cooley is the second of two rides here for Scottish-based Wills, who first competed at Badminton in just 2019, and whose best result at the event is 12th place, earned last year with Oughterard Cooley. This will be a second start at the five-star level for the twelve-year-old gelding, who went to Pau last season but was retired on course after a run-out at fence four, which Wills put behind them with a few more positive fences before calling it a day.

Wills is a very, very good cross-country rider, and while this is a relatively inexperienced horse with only the one real dazzler of a result on his international record, it would be foolish to totally discount him. The slightly more big and open track of Badminton could suit him better than Pau’s tight, technical twists, and while his low-30s start won’t have him vying for the win early on, we could well see him climb on Saturday. On Sunday, he’s probably due a pole.

Ultimately, this is a horse being developed for next year and onwards, or even for a competitive crack at another big run this autumn, so start watching him now to enjoy the full benefit of seeing him progress at the top level.

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75: Tom Rowland and KND Steel Pulse (GBR)

Another Badminton debutant, although this will be the second start at 5* for thirteen year old ‘Dermot.’ His first crack at the level came last year at Pau, and it was a successful one, with a top 25 finish. Tom himself has ample experience at Badminton – he first came here back in 2019 with the infamous Possible Mission, and together they notched up three completions, so who better than to take Dermot round the course for the first time? Tom, who has trained with such greats as Angela Tucker, Nigel Taylor and Pippa Funnell at various points throughout his career, took the reins on Dermot back in 2016, bringing him all the way from BE100 level to this, the pinnacle of the sport.

Bought from Padraig McCarthy, Dermot hovers around the low to mid 30’s in the first phase – he scored a 35.3 in Pau last year – and although the challenge he faces this week will be an altogether different one to that he faced in France in October, he has jumped clear around the likes of Blair Castle and Blenheim Palace, so there is no reason why he shouldn’t do that here, too. His performance on the final day could see him drop back down the leader board – he had 3 rails in Pau and is more likely to have a rail or two than not. However, another 5* completion would do very nicely indeed, and help to fill the Possible Mission shaped hole in Tom’s life, after he retired from top level competition last year.

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79: Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier (NZL)

Two-time Caroline and ‘Cav’ were on the start list here last year, too – then just the second run at 5* for this talented mare. 5th in her first 5* back in 2022 at Pau, expectations were high; she had proven herself to be one to watch that season, also coming 3rd in her first CCI4*L at Ballindenisk. A 27.4 dressage got them off to a good start at their first Badminton too, but 40 penalties cross country meant they dropped out of contention, ending up in 30th place. However, Cav redeemed herself at Maryland in the Autumn, adding just time faults to her first phase score of 29 to pull off 6th place. With better ground conditions at Badminton this year – here’s hoping anyway – Caroline will no doubt be hoping to pull off a similarly good result, with the Paris Olympics just a heartbeat away.

There is no doubting the mare’s capability; her dressage marks hover around the low 30’s but in all three of her 5* starts thus far, they have actually dipped into the 20’s, a trend Caroline will be looking to continue at Badminton. Her show jumping record is similarly consistent – more often than not she leaves the poles firmly in their cups, and so Caroline – who will be contesting her 16th Badminton this week – will be hoping that they are able to maintain that form here, and finish well up the leader board, putting last year’s less than perfect run down to experience.

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80: Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift (GBR)

This is an exceptionally good partnership, and one that could well be in contention for a win here. Try not to hold their 20 penalties at the European Championships last year against them; that was a real outlier of a result and a first cross-country jumping penalty since pre-pandemic. At five-star, they’ve been very, very good – they were fifth here last year in those grotty conditions, second at Burghley the year prior, and top twenty on the horse’s Badminton debut that spring.

When Tom wants to run ‘Walshy’ quickly, he’s very quick indeed, and he’s straight as an arrow across the country. He’s a very good showjumper, too, and his first phase is constantly improving – where he was once a pretty guaranteed 33 on the flat, he’s now very capable of smart sub-30s. He’s been in the 20s twice at five-star, and has dipped as low as 25.7 at four-star, which he did under pressure at the Europeans.

It’s hard not to think of Tom as a bit of an undersung talent, but few people in the know would be surprised to see him take a career five-star win. Whether it happens this week, or perhaps at a Burghley, or maybe both, remains to be seen. No doubt, though, it’ll come with this excellent stamp of an Irish horse.

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81: Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick (GBR)

It’ll be great fun to see what last year’s Bramham champion makes of his first trip to Badminton. He’s an interesting horse: when Pippa took him to Bramham last year it was as a bit of a litmus test as much as anything, because she’d taken on the ride for stable jockey Helen Wilson and wasn’t sure yet whether she wanted to have the very hot, quirky gelding in the long term. If he was good enough to make Bramham feel like fun, she reasoned, he could earn his place in her string. But winning it was well beyond her anticipations.

Maverick’s excellent performance there is a testament to Helen’s great foundations, and to Pippa’s patience, because keeping him relaxed is all about buying as much extra time as possible for slow, repetitive, calm spurts of work. She likes to arrive a day early to an event so he has extra settling-in time, and he’ll come out for ten or fifteen minutes of gentle lunging lots of times throughout the day, because he prefers to be moving and burning off some of his excesses of energy. Badminton, despite its extraordinary buzz, is actually the sort of place that really allows for riders to dig into the nitty-gritty of what they need to do with their horses, so his progression will be fascinating if you’re interested in the fundamentals of working with a quirky horse.

This won’t be a five-star debut for this horse, for what it’s worth: he made the trip to Pau last year, finishing eleventh despite a seriously uncharacteristic five rails down on Sunday. Hopefully this year he’ll come out a bit stronger for his experiences there, and a touch more physically mature.

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82: Harry Meade and Red Kite (GBR)

Harry will be hoping that three’s the charm as he heads out for his third ride on Badminton cross country day looking for for a first CCI5* completion for Red Kite, after picking up 40 penalties and retiring out on course on the horse’s debut at the level at Pau last season. Prior to that his cross country record was pretty clear, with just two non-completions and a 20 on his card over nineteen FEI runs.

Although Harry acknowledges that the gelding isn’t naturally predisposed to cross country, Harry’s traditional style of producing horses – with plenty of educational hunting and point-to-pointing – has stood Red Kite in good stead as he’s progressed through the FEI levels. In the first phase he’s is proving to be a high-20s to low-30s kind of guy – he put down a 32.7 at Pau – but the flashy chestnut has plenty of ability between the white boards; Harry says, “If he stopped mucking about, he could be a scholar!”

He can be speedy across the ground on his day, proving his mettle with a double clear at the notoriously tough 4*-L at Bramham last season and he’s shown he’s game for any going when he took second in the 4*-S at a particularly wet edition of the Eventing Spring Carnival last year, with the third quickest round of the day. Their show jumping record is a bit patchy, but there’s no denying that when they get all three phases to come together, this is an exciting prospect in Harry’s string, it’s just a case of waiting for everything to fall into sync as he continues to gain experience.

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The Diabolo is in the Details: Will Coleman Goes Clear for the Win in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S

Will Coleman and Diabolo win the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Since the inception of the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S, last year’s champions Karl Slezak and Hot Bobo have been the only pair who managed to finish on their dressage score — but now Will Coleman and Diabolo have added their names to that record. They will also boast the second-lowest finishing score in history, just 0.6 behind Karl’s score to end on a 29.9.

Only 40 horses entered the stadium this morning after a few leaderboard changes overnight — Lyndsay Traisnel withdrew her mount Bacyrouge soon after cross country, and previous leaders Lucienne Bellissimo and Dyri also bowed out before the start of the day’s events this morning.

Show Jumping Hall of Fame member and USHJA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Steve Stephens presented a lovely, balanced course to the Kentucky entrants today, which saw scattered faults across the 15 total jumping efforts without too much focus on any one specific question. Stephens has designed for three Olympic Games in 1984, 2000, and 2008, as well as for hugely influential competitions, including the Washington International, National Horse Show, Royal Winter Fair, Winter Equestrian Festival, and the American Invitational.

Show jumping in this division has always been highly influential, Karl Slezak’s 2023 victory being the only time a cross country leader has gone on to win. With an optimum time of 77 seconds and a historic average clear rate of 26%, today’s course saw just one in three of our competitors without jump faults and within the time.

Safety has always been at the forefront of Stephens’ designs; the five-time Team USA Chef d’Equipe’s course today being described as very attractive while still maintaining a difficulty level worthy of Kentucky’s 4* field. “He’s a legend in course design, and the way he uses the stadium is just really unique I think from all the people that have designed here,” said Will Coleman of Stephens’ process. “I think he builds some of the best tracks that we do, and the stadium is always electric.”

As one of the top ten horses in the field, despite his and Will Coleman’s fresh partnership, Diabolo (Diarado – Roulett M, by Aljano 2) was the only horse clear within the time on Derek di Grazia’s “four-and-a-half-star” course yesterday. Another record can be added to their growing repertoire as this also made them one of only five pairs ever to finish double-clear in the CCI4*-S cross country.

The leaderboard after cross country showed incredibly tight margins, with less than a point between the top three, and only 3.6 faults separated Liz Halliday and Miks Master C from her overnight seventh-place mount, Cooley Quicksilver. In a shocking twist, a single dropped pole at the penultimate fence from post-cross-country leaders Liz and Mikki opened the door to Will and Diabolo’s first win together. Will and Liz are known to be incredibly supportive of each other, often referring to the other as most deserving of a win at any given competition, and both riders left the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships with first place victories — Liz and Mikki in the $60,000 Adequan Advanced Final and Will with Chin Tonic HS in the Intermediate Finals, where Diabolo took second place as well.

Will was originally predicted to win the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S with a 24% win chance on Chin Tonic, but despite having made the difficult decision to withdraw the field favorite to win before the start of the competition, he is certainly leaving Kentucky having had an excellent few days at the office.

This is the first faultless finish the 12-year-old Holsteiner has seen with Will — his only other dressage-score finish attained with previous rider Gemma Tinney at the 2019 Adelaide CCI3*-L, which was coincidentally also his most recent first-place victory. “This horse came from Australia and his transition to the northern hemisphere was actually really difficult for him,” Will explained. “For most of last year to be honest, he just struggled to feel like he was his normal self. He had various issues adjusting to life in a different hemisphere — I think the season change and all that kind of stuff definitely took a toll on him — so we were just really patient.”

Will explained that he and Diabolo “laid low” for most of the 2023 season, thus explaining their multiple withdrawals from competitions, in order to focus mainly on getting to know each other and learning how to navigate their new partnership. “We bought the horse last year and I can’t thank the people enough who came together to acquire him for me,” he said of the Diabolo Group LLC. “I think we’re only just getting started and I really hope that we can just continue to bring him to his full potential.”

Will has plans for Diabolo to make his 5* debut at Luhmühlen this summer, which will also be their first competition outside the US. “Even at home, [Diabolo] was starting to give me the feeling that he was on the verge of doing something competitive at a big event, and we obviously have a lot of belief in the horse’s talent,” Will said of the horse’s potential. “We kind of have just been patiently biding our time until he was ready to sort of show it to the rest of the world. I think he still has a long way to go, but I’m really keen on him and I’m excited about his future.”

When asked about how this placement may affect his plans for his potential Olympic qualification, Will replied with a laugh, “I wouldn’t even try to answer that.” Off The Record and Chin Tonic have both been considered as highly likely candidates for Will, and likely for the selectors as well, but this win — as well as Off The Record’s third-place finish — has definitely brought another contender to light.

“I think highly of both horses, and as you know, it’s still many months away and there’s a really competitive group of horses and riders here in America competing for just three spots,” Will explained with his trademark humility. “I don’t count myself in by any stretch of the imagination, and we’re just going to keep trying to get a little better each day. If we end up at that horse show at the end of July in France, that’s one thing and we’ll be very happy, and if we don’t, there’s other things we can go and do.”

Boyd Martin and Commando 3. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Boyd Martin was all smiles and big pats for his newest Olympic hopeful Commando 3 (Connor 48 – R-Adelgunde, by Amigo xx) after their second-place finish in Rolex Stadium this morning. The Yankee Creek Ranch LLC’s gelding was a pleasure to watch, achieving a clear round under optimum time in lovely, near-slow-motion form.

“I think it was a great course — the top jumpers all jumped well,” said Boyd of taking to Steve Stephen’s track with his two horses. “The time was a little bit tight; you had to sort of scoot around the corners.” Nothing, he said, quite beats the feeling of the atmosphere present at this competition. “There’s no question that American crowds are the best anywhere in the world,” he noted. “They love the sport, they cheer when things go well, and they even cheer when things go bad. It’s a wonderful atmosphere here at Kentucky — it’s almost a bit of a let down when you go to the other five-stars in Europe.”

A newcomer to the US circuit, “Connor” was previously campaigned by Louise Romieke of Sweden to much success, from taking fifth place in his first international competition at the 2019 Haras de Jardy Young Horse 2*-S — his only finish to date with double-clear rounds in both cross country and show jumping — to multiple podium finishes at the 3* level.

Since acquiring the ride at the start of last year, Boyd has piloted Connor to maintain a flawless cross-country jump record. Fast and clear in the stadium is also a usual for them, with less than a handful of scattered poles on their books. The pair added only three seconds of time to their dressage score yesterday, with their foot-perfect ride this morning putting them on the podium at a 30.1.

“I’m very blessed with the two horses that finished in the top group here, and they’re pretty hard to split actually,” Boyd mentioned of Connor and fourth-place finisher Fedarman B. “They’re about as good as each other, they’re very strong in all their phases. It’s a wonderful position to be in to have a couple of [Olympic] hopefuls. Like your children — you should never favor one more than the other,” he said jokingly.

Will Coleman and Off The Record. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Will Coleman is just as thrilled about his overall victory with Diabolo as he is of his podium finish on long-time partner Off The Record (Arkansas VDL – Drumagoland Bay by Ard Ohio). He and “Timmy” have been around the world and back together, with a myriad of successes lining their excellent record together — with this achievement marking their 21st time on the podium.

“Off The Record is a proven champion and has been one of the greatest horses I’ve ever ridden in my career,” Will said of the 15-year-old gelding. The only US Aachen winner in history was tied with Boyd Martin’s Fedarman B for the second-fastest run across the country yesterday, and finishes on a 30.9 with just 2 seconds during cross country added to his dressage score.

“We haven’t had that many great Sundays here,” Will admitted after learning of both his final placings. “I’m just so proud of both my boys, they were awesome.”

Of Chin Tonic HS, Will’s original hopeful to win the 4*, he explained that their season may look a bit different after this weekend’s events. “I couldn’t really say whether [Chin] is definitely out for Paris,” he admitted. “We’re going to need to explore the issue with this carpal sheath a little bit more, but I would think having missed this event that this was sort of the key event for him to do in terms of selection. I would say it’s low odds that he’d be available for that, but I still don’t really have the full picture on what we’re going to have to do regarding this carpal sheath issue. The horse is 100% sound and he’s really well, but we don’t want to put him at any sort of risk and do anything that could threaten the rest of his career.”

Rated as one the best show jumping pairs in the field, it was no surprise that Boyd Martin and Fedarman B (Eurocommerce Washington – Paulien B, by Fedor) managed a double-clear round today, finishing in fourth place on a 32.5.

“I think I’m in a wonderful position with both Commando 3 and Fedarman B,” Boyd said of his plans for the season — and that one season highlight everyone has on their minds. “Obviously the Olympic Games now looks like it could be real. There’s the Luhmühlen five-star — which, geez, I’d love to win that — and then there’s Aachen four-star short. I don’t think this run took much out of them, so I think those are the three events coming up in the next couple months that I’d hopefully see them at.”

The pair’s score still tied with Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake (Tolan R – Doughiska Lass, by Kannan) since yesterday’s cross country conclusion, but “Bruno” was ultimately closest to optimum time yesterday after running the second-fastest in the field, leaving 2023 Pan American Games Gold Medalists Caroline and Blake to end the day in fifth position.

“Honestly, Blake would be the top one in my string at the moment,” Caroline said enthusiastically of the young gelding’s future. “I’m kind of in a different position than these guys — the oldest horse that I have at the moment is nine years old. My other two big time four-star long horses are actually going to head over to Europe about May, because I got selected to do the European tour.” Chatsworth, Millstreet, and Aachen are all in sights for the up-and-coming US Team Member, and she certainly has enough quality horses to see some great results. “Blake is supposed to run in about fifteen days time to do Tryon’s four-long — and if that goes well, then hopefully we’ll be looking on towards the Olympics.”

All three of Liz Halliday’s mounts make up the rest of the top 10 — Cooley Quicksilver, Miks Master C, and Shanroe Cooley — along with her fellow Pan American Games team member Sydney Elliott and Carol Stephens’ QC Diamantaire in eighth position. Dani Sussman from Colorado aboard her and Carol Mavrakis’ Jos Bravio round out the leaderboard in tenth place. Click here to see the final scores for all contenders in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S.

It’s been yet another whirlwind week here at Kentucky, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Congratulations to all on an excellent weekend, and continue to watch this space for our report on the finale to this year’s Defender Kentucky CCI5*. Head over to our Instagram @goeventing for what are sure to be some beautiful moments captured by our EN team on the ground. Only 364 days until next Kentucky – but we’ll hopefully see some of these friends again soon at “that horse show at the end of July in France.”

Go Kentucky, and Go Eventing!

EN’s coverage of the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is presented by Kentucky Performance Products, your one-stop shop for science-backed nutritional support for all types of horses. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products.

Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Tickets] [Scoring] [Ride Times] [Live Stream] [Ultimate Guide] [EN’s Coverage]

Sunday Links from EcoVet

Lauren Nicholson and an incredulous Vermiculus ( Lauren Nicholson and an incredulous Vermiculus ("Bug") after the completion of their CCI5* test at the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event. Photo by Kristin Leigh Richards.

I know, Bug, I’m not ready for it to be over either!

Time is the name of the game today for all our contestants, and we are so ready to be sitting in those stands (or on our couches with good snacks) to watch us crown the world’s newest 5* champion! Team EN has been on the grounds all week, so we know Sally, Veronica, Tilly, and Mr. Tilly are also looking forward to a nice consolidated area from which we’ll be watching today’s battle royale.

If you need to catch up after a whirlwind of a Saturday, skim through our 5* Cross Country Report and 4* Cross Country Report from yesterday before getting too comfy in the stands or on the sofa. As a refresher, here’s our top five going into each division on this the final day of the #BestWeekendAllYear:

🏆Defender Kentucky CCI5*🏆
1️⃣ Tom McEwen & JL Dublin (GBR) – 28.6
2️⃣ Yasmin Ingham & Banzai du Loir (GBR) – 31.6
3️⃣ Oliver Townend & Cooley Rosalent (GBR) – 31.8
4️⃣ Monica Spencer & Artist (NZL) – 32.7
5️⃣ Mia Farley & Phelps (USA) – 33.8

🏅Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S🏅
1️⃣ Liz Halliday & Miks Master C – 29.2
2️⃣ Will Coleman & Diabolo – 29.9
3️⃣ Boyd Martin & Commando 3 – 30.1
4️⃣ Will Coleman & Off The Record – 30.9
5️⃣ Caroline Pamukcu & HSH Blake [TIED] Boyd Martin & Fedarman B – 32.5

We’ll start off this morning bright and early with the second horse inspections to begin at 8:00 a.m. EST. Riders will start rolling out to Rolex Stadium at 10:30 a.m. EST sharp with the first rider in the CCI4*-S, and the first rider in the CCI5* will take to the ring at 2:15 p.m. EST. There’s $400,000 on the line, so stay tuned and follow us here and on Instagram @goeventing for live play-by-play updates, press releases, full detail reports, and more fun shenanigans on our final day at the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event!

Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Tickets] [Scoring] [Live Stream] [Ultimate Guide] [EN’s Coverage]

U.S. Weekend Action

Horse Park of New Jersey Spring H.T. (Allentown, NJ) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Spring H.T. (Leesburg, VA) [Website] [Entries][Ride Times] [Volunteer][Scoring]

The Event at Archer Spring Fling YEH and NEH (Cheyenne, WY) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer]

University of New Hampshire Spring H.T. (Durham, NH)[Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

International Events

Ballindenisk International (Ireland) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Timetable] [Eventing Ireland Facebook Page]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

11 of the last 13 XC leaders in the K3DE five-star have gone on to win — Will Tom McEwen join them?

Get out the tissues and watch Phillip Dutton’s dedication to daughter Olivia before her 4* challenge

It’s the weekend of OTTBs: Thoroughbred census reveals ‘invaluable information’ on life after racing

First day of 5* for these Kentucky rookies!

Are YOU a KY3DE Rookie? Don’t Miss This Horse Girl Lexington Guide

Sponsor Corner: USDF Bronze Medalist and eventer Rebecca Barber Tyler uses Ecovet! Here’s what she has to say about it: “The only fly spray that is actually worth applying. It keeps the flies and other biting insects away, while not sweating off, and not irritating the horses’ skin. Pretty impressive!” PM her for a discount code on your next order.

Morning Viewing: Watch Liz Halliday and Miks Master C tear up the bluegrass in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S yesterday. With just one second in hand, will they maintain their lead today in the Rolex Stadium? Watch this space as we anxiously await a victory!

The Liz, Will, & Boyd Show: A Wild Day of Cross Country at the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S

We all awoke this morning to a greatly-reduced field in the 2024 Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event after six overnight withdrawals. We’ve all said that this would be a bloodthirsty bunch, confirmed after no less than eight on-course retirements and five rider falls during this morning’s trials. Liz Halliday and superstar Miks Master C (Mighty Magic – Qui Lumba CBF, by Quite Easy) emerged victorious from the pack — 8 seconds of time weren’t enough to knock this power team out of their overnight lead.

Though they have only one second in hand headed into tomorrow’s show jumping round, the Swedish Warmblood, owned by Ocala Horse Properties, gave us a flawless show once again across the Kentucky bluegrass. Liz remains in the top ten with all three of her mounts so far, with The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Quicksilver (Womanizer – Kylemore Crystal, by Greggan Diamond) in seventh place on a 32.8, and Ocala Horse Properties‘ other gelding Shanroe Cooley (Dallas – Shanroe Sapphire, by Condios) four points behind him in eighth.

Our current top three have less than one point separating them, with Will Coleman and Diabolo (Diarado – Roulett M, by Aljano 2) on Liz’s tail at 29.9, and Boyd Martin and Commando 3 (Connor 48 – R-Adelgunde, by Amigo xx) breathing down Will’s neck with a 30.1. Will’s longtime partner Off The Record (Arkansas VDL – Drumagoland Bay by Ard Ohio) follows in fourth on a score of 30.9, with Boyd Martin once again in fifth place aboard Fedarman B (Eurocommerce Washington – Paulien B, by Fedor), tied with Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake (Tolan R – Doughiska Lass, by Kannan) on scores of 32.5.

Our top seven will all be within one jump fault of each other heading into show jumping tomorrow — with Caroline Pamukcu the only other rider in that mix outside of the Liz, Will, & Boyd Show.

The word of the day is “coffin” — one we’ll likely wait to utter for a healthy period of time after today’s myriad of coffin-borne catastrophes. With a total of 24 refusals in the field, 20 of them were instigated by the 5*-worthy combination at 6ABCDE, with 75% of those refusals attributing to the final E element — a particularly tricky skinny brush. Three horses ended up retiring at the combination (Lucienne Bellissimo aboard Tremanton, Heather Gillette and Vincent Chase, and Leslie Law on Lady Chatterley) and we saw two rider falls as well: Molly Duda on Disco Traveler and Hannah Sue Hollberg with Carsonstown. Hannah Sue subsequently withdrew Capitol HIM from the 5*, though she isn’t seriously injured she did have trouble bearing weight on her right leg and decided not to run the 5* when she was not 100%.

The rest of the course was rightly competitive with a final clear rate of 44%, but saw nowhere near as many refusals as the dreaded combination. We did have three additional falls with Samantha Tinney, Autumn Schweiss, and Tamie Smith, and five others elected to retire on course. With the addition of Canada’s Lindsay Traisnel withdrawing her mount Bacyrouge after cross country, we now head into tomorrow’s second horse inspection with a field of 41 — the field 21 horses lighter than when we all emerged from the sandboxes.

Liz Halliday and Miks Master C (Mighty Magic – Qui Lumba CBF, by Quite Easy) maintained their flawless cross country jump record over Derek di Grazia’s minefield today, albeit keeping us all on the edges of our seats during some close calls (that had my heart in my throat on several occasions). Bred in the US by Laurie Cameron, “Mikki” and Liz have been partnered together for two years now, already with several high-profile completions under their belts. After acquiring the ride in 2022 from Maya Black, Liz had four consecutive wins with Mikki at the Bromont CCI2*L, Chattahoochee Hills Intermediate, Rebecca Farm’s CCI4*-S, and the FEI Eventing Nations Cup at Bromont CCIO-4*S.

Liz has seen a winner’s potential in Mikki from the start, which has held true as they were named to three US Teams in their short time together. The pair achieved a top-five finish at Boekelo in the 2022 FEI Eventing Nations Cup CCIO4*-L, another fifth place in Aachen’s CCIO4*-S last June, and contributed to Team USA’s Silver in the 2023 Pan American Games at Santiago, Chile, where they had the lowest dressage score in the field and finished seventh individually.

“Mikki gave me a run for my money,” Liz said of the current division leader. “He was a little keen today, but jumped all the jumps spectacularly.” One of four total rides today, Liz was understandably a bit beat after her completion on Cooley Nutcracker — who ended the day in eighth position in the Defender Kentucky CCI5* — and managed to maintain her lead on Miks Master C after already pushing herself to the max with two previous runs. Regardless, Liz says Mikki took great care of her on course and pulled off yet another spectacular performance. “He is just such an incredible athlete and he’s a very good jumper and he’s very careful, so although he was strong in between the fences, he was very thoughtful and very organized at all the combinations, which is what I sort of always look for for him.”

Liz also spoke with great pride of her runs on current seventh- and eighth-place rides, Cooley Quicksilver and Shanroe Cooley, respectfully. “The young horse [Shanroe Cooley] blew my mind away. He was so clever, he’s a real one in the making. Monster scrapped his way around like he always does for me. To finish up like this with four clear rounds — I think my slowest one was 6.4 time — that’s a pretty good day at the office, and we don’t always have good days at the office so I’ll take it! I’m just happy all my horses are fit and well and feeling good in themselves — that’s the most important thing.”

Liz and Miks Master C’s prep run for Kentucky at the Carolina International CCI4*-S last month ended with a victory gallop as they left with the blue ribbon, and the last time Mikki and Liz left Rolex Stadium together, it was with a third-place finish at the gelding’s CCI5* debut one year ago. With reigning champions Tamie Smith and Mai Baum withdrawn, and reigning reserve champions Tom McEwen and JL Dublin returned to the 5* for another (rather likely) shot at victory, will this partnership emerge victorious this year in the 4*-S? We’ll be eagerly waiting to see tomorrow afternoon!

Moving up from sixth place overnight thanks to being the fastest round of the day, Will Coleman and Diabolo were the only combination to go double-clear in the 4*-S this morning. Will was clearly on fire as he stormed across the country today, having also delivering the second-fastest round (tied for time with Boyd Martin’s Fedarman B) on his current fourth place holder Off The Record.

Like Mikki with Liz, the Diabolo Group LLC’s gelding known as “Dab” has also only been with Will for a short time, having acquired the ride on the stunning Holsteiner from Australia’s Gemma Tinney last year. This is the pair’s sixth 4*-S start, but will hopefully be their third completion — Will is affectionately known as a horseman who continues to be very considerate of his horses’ wellbeing and condition, opting to withdrawn Diabolo from three events to include the Stable View Aiken CCI4*-S three weeks ago. Clearly this policy works, as Will hasn’t yet been outside of the top ten with Dab, with two podium finishes with last fall at the Terranova CCI4*-L and Morven Park International CCI4*-S.


Will and Diabolo sat in sixth position heading into this morning, but sped to the forefront as Lucienne Bellissimo and Dyri (Diarado – La Calera, by King Milford xx), who’d held second place overnight, were knocked down to 31st place after a refusal at the dreaded 6ABCDE coffin. Will commented on the coffin complex, noting that it was, as many found out the hard way this morning, “pretty close to five-star” in terms of difficulty.

“It was a proper rail, and I actually think a lot of the horses just looked like they didn’t quite know where to look,” Will said of the tricky combination. “There is a lot going on there, it was early in the course, and your four-star horses, obviously most of them were a bit greener. [Diabolo] ran at it for so long, sort of looking at it. I think most people that had trouble, it looks like to me like they didn’t really have their horse back in what you would say is a proper coffin canter — and then if you jump in and get either too fast or too out of balance, then the horse falls away from you a bit harder, and I think it can be hard to then recover over the ditch and make the two stride, make the one stride.”

Nevertheless, Will stated that he thought this question was a smart one — one that could be expected to weed out the stars in a pack of upper-level potential gunning for the Olympic team. “It was a clever question because it didn’t walk intimidating at all, but in a strange way it just caught a lot of people out,” he said. “I think because at that part of the course, your horse is running on, and it can be hard work just getting them to get back and sit on their haunches and be organized for it.”

Heading into show jumping tomorrow, I’m sure we’ll all be anxious to see how the leaderboard may shake up. Diabolo has only taken two poles ever on his international record, but we can expect to see a few seconds of time — it will all come down to speed tomorrow, and how well our champion trio recovers from their gallops today.

Much like Will & Diabolo, Boyd Martin hasn’t yet been out of the top ten with Commando 3, rounding out our top-three’s pattern of new partnerships as the two have also only been together for the past year. Boyd and “Connor” added just 1.2 time faults to their very solid dressage test on Thursday, allowing the pair to move up to third place headed into show jumping tomorrow. The pair are looking to add on to their international winning streak they’ve held since September — stealing the blue at the Tryon 4*-S, Morven Park International 4*-L, and Stable View 4*-S in the last eight months.

Commando 3 certainly has his quirks that Boyd is still working to figure out, but was overall thrilled with his heart out on course today. “When he’s feeling fresh, he’ll find any excuse to jump around a bit” Boyd laughed. “The horse has got so much quality, we sort of put up with his antics.”

Heading into the final showdown tomorrow, Boyd says he has great trust in Connor and expects competitive performances from everyone currently vying for the win. “I think we’re all on very good showjumpers — the top four or five horses are very good show jumpers and good show jumping riders,” he admitted. “So I think the goal would be to get the horses a good night’s sleep and potentially school them a little bit on the flat in the morning and give it our best tomorrow.”

The German-bred gelding, owned by Yankee Creek Ranch LLC, has only been improving over time with Boyd in the saddle, to include his spotless record on cross country. Like Diabolo, dropping a pole is very rare for Connor, but he also has only a very small handful of time scattered throughout his entire competition history. The Holsteiner gelding’s trustworthy speed will be paramount to his success tomorrow with the time being so important in this tight top three.

Will’s 2021 Aachen champion Off The Record is still not to be discounted in this race, adding only 0.8 time faults to their dressage score this morning and moving up to fourth place. The 15-year-old “Timmy” has three 5*s under his belt, all of which have been here at Kentucky with their placement improving every year, so it’s safe to say that he’s become well-acquainted with the Rolex Stadium. This proven partnership is very reliable when it comes to time over the colored sticks, so a clear round for them tomorrow could still be very competitive against the higher ranks.

The Liz, Will, & Boyd Show features Pan-American Games gold medalists Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake, who sat in third overnight after a stellar dressage test. Caroline and Blake took 5.2 time penalties on course, falling down the ranks to tie for fifth with Boyd Martin’s other ride, Fedarman B. HSH Blake is one of the youngest horses in the field at just nine years old, with this being the horse’s third start at the 4* level, taking third place at their 4* debut at Terranova in 2023 and second at Tryon just last month.

The Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B is a two-time blue ribbon winner at the 4* level, winning at the 2022 Tryon International CCI4*-L and the 2023 Tryon 4*-S. The 14-year-old known as “Bruno” was blazing on course today, shooting up to fifth from 13th position after adding just two seconds to their time.


It all comes to a head tomorrow — with Olympic team selectors standing by with a watchful eye as some of the top riders in the world descend on Rolex Stadium starting at 10:30am. Team EN is flitting across the grounds at the #BestWeekendAllYear, but you can bet we’ll be locked in place to bring you updates on our leaders and eventual champions tomorrow morning. Best of luck to all the competitors and Go Eventing!

EN’s coverage of the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is presented by Kentucky Performance Products, your one-stop shop for science-backed nutritional support for all types of horses. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products.

Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Tickets] [Scoring] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Commando 3 Surges to Front In the Final Ride of the Day in Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S

Boyd Martin and Commando 3. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As the final ride of the day, Boyd Martin and Commando 3 slotted themselves right into the lead position in the first day of dressage for the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S at the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event. The 4*-S is being considered by many as potentially the more influential field this weekend, with many top horses and riders working to put their best feet (hooves?) forward for the Olympic selection committee present here this weekend. The 2024 Connaught Grant recipient pair delivered one of only two sub-30 scores today, taking first in the division overnight on a 28.9.

Boyd Martin and Commando 3. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Owned by Yankee Creek Ranch LLC, the 11-year-old Commando 3 (Connor 48 – R-Adelgunde, by Amigo) is on a recent winning streak, having won the last three competitions he’s started at, to include the Stable View CCI4*-S just weeks ago. Boyd referred to “Connor”, as he’s known in the barn, as “one of those horses of a lifetime”, after the second of those three wins at the Morven Park International CCI4*-L in October.

“I’ve been slogging away at the sport for 30 years, riding any horse that comes my way, and after all these years and years and years I feel very blessed that now we’re able to select some of the best animals in the world,” Boyd said of Connor’s test today. “Horses like Commando 3 rarely come on the market — they’re a needle in the haystack. I’m just very honored and privileged to be in a position to ride a horse of this class and quality. He is young and still needs work, but we’re nowhere near his peak and the sky’s the limit.”

This is only Boyd’s second year campaigning the Holsteiner gelding, having gotten the ride from Sweden’s Louise Romeike, who had been with the gelding since his two-year-old year. “You think if you buy a Ferrari, you’re off to the races, but it’s often not the case,” Boyd explained of his partnership with Connor. “In the back of my mind I wanted to have him as a potential Olympic horse, so I had to get going with him real quick. My second or third event was a four-star short, and my fourth event was a four-star long, and it’s not really your horse until about a year later. To me, [Commando 3] is such a class animal that even while I was figuring him out, we still ticked the boxes and jumped a lot of big courses. It wasn’t until the end of last year to the beginning of this year that I really feel like we got a connection and a partnership and we understand each other — I know his little quirks now and got an understanding on how to ride him.”

The Olympics are, of course, in the back of everyone’s mind, and Boyd is no different — but he states he is trying his best to focus on what’s in front of him first. “I’ve been lucky enough to go to three Olympics, and I’ve learned that you don’t get to the Olympics unless you have a great performance here — it’s pointless thinking about until next week,” he explained. “It’s all about doing a great job this week, making sure the horses perform well, that they’re happy and healthy, and then not let your mind even wander off on outcomes or possibilities. Next week, we can start thinking about one of these horses hopefully going to the team, but at the moment we’ve got a mission ahead of us here at Kentucky — I’ve got three good horses and they’re in good shape and we’re ready to rock.”

Will Coleman and Diabolo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Will Coleman held the lead for all of five minutes on the penultimate ride of the day with Diabolo (Diarado – Roulett M, by Aljano 2), moving down to second place behind Boyd and Commando 3 to finish the day on a 29.9. Will is also looking to catch the eyes of the Olympic selectors with his three mounts this week, and had held the lead for most of the morning after his test with Off the Record, who ended the day in third position.

“It’s unique, given the fact that it’s an Olympic year,” Will said after his success today. “I think everybody has a little bit of a different approach, both in terms of how they want to put themselves forward for selection, and whether they feel like they’re going to make a stronger case for themselves doing the five-star versus the four-star, or if they’re focusing on just their horse.”

The Diabolo Group LLC’s gelding is a newer horse to Will’s barn, having taken the ride in May 2023 after being campaigned by Gemma Tinney of Australia through the 4*-L level. Will is aiming “Dab” at Luhmühlen for his first 5* after the pair had a successful first season last year, to include a second-place finish in the Intermediate Championships at AEC and two third-place finishes at the 4* level at both Terranova and Morven Park. The 12-year-old Holsteiner has never been out of the top ten with Will, and is easily keeping up with both of Will’s other mounts this weekend, both champions in their own rights.

“I’m really lucky to have him in my stable,” Will said of the newest addition to his string. “I’ve got a great group of people that came together to acquire him for me, and I’m just thrilled. I think he’s going in the right direction.”

Will’s choice to add Diabolo to his Kentucky plans with Chin Tonic HS and Off The Record was mostly to help give the gelding an experience in the high atmosphere while still allowing him an easier track. “He’s still a relatively new horse for us, and to get the experience in that main arena and even just around Kentucky Horse Park during the week, on the cross country on Saturday, and then back in that stadium on Sunday — that’s just a experience you can’t really duplicate in too many other places in the world, so it’s nice to be able to get that under our belt,” Will stated. “It’s going to help me know a little bit better how I want to prepare him going forward, and just get a sense of where we’re at in terms of his readiness for big time events, five-star events, and championship events down the road.

After leading for most of the morning on a 30.1, Will and Off The Record moved down to third place after the conclusion of his second ride of the day and Boyd’s ultimate overnight victory.

Will’s relationship with Off The Record has certainly been star-studded with success in recent years. The Off The Record Syndicate’s Irish Sport Horse gelding won first place at Aachen in 2021, a historic first-time US win for the event. Will and “Timmy” also took seventh place in the 2022 World Championships at Pratoni — contributing to the US Team’s silver medal — with another seventh-place finish at the 5* here at Kentucky last year.

Will and his three-horse powerhouse team have been sweeping the podiums, taking a one-two punch victory at the Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field, where he won the event aboard Hyperion Stud’s Chin Tonic and earned a close second with Off The Record. Timmy also left Stable View’s CCI4*-S with a fourth-place finish behind Boyd and Commando 3’s win (and another second place ribbon by Will on Chin Tonic).

Partnered together for over nine years, Will has high hopes for the 15-year-old in the rest of his career. “Off the Record is an older horse, and if he was going to be asked to go to Paris, for him, I think doing the five-star here and then turning around and doing Championship in July would be a lot for him,” Will explained of his decision to aim his trio for the four-star short.

“All three of mine are on that four-star short track for various reasons,” Will explained of his preparation for Kentucky with all three of his mounts in this division. “I think, as always, if you just listen to your horse and you try to make the best decision based on your horse and what’s going to make him be at his best, then the selection stuff is out of our hands and I think it’s not really worth even putting too much thought into.”

Tamie Smith and Danito, Phillip Dutton on Jewelent, and Great Britain’s Leslie Law aboard Lady Chatterley take up the fourth, fifth, and sixth place overnight positions, respectively — but don’t go away, because tomorrow’s lineup is just as competitive as today’s and we can hardly wait to see how the positions shift after tomorrow morning’s performances.

We’ll be right back in the sandbox tomorrow morning at 8:00am EST, so be sure to stay tuned for much more from the #BestWeekendAllYear!

EN’s coverage of the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is presented by Kentucky Performance Products, your one-stop shop for science-backed nutritional support for all types of horses. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products.

Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Tickets] [Scoring] [Live Stream] [Ultimate Guide] [EN’s Coverage]

One for the Money, 63 for the Show: EN’s Form Guide to the 2024 Defender Kentucky CCI4*-S

Did you think we’d forget about Kentucky’s jam-packed CCI4*-S entries? Never!

This year’s 4* contingent of 63 entries is star-studded, to say the least, as the top riders of our sport have planned out every inch of their potential qualifying runs this season — all for the chance to earn a seat on that plane to Paris this summer. You’ll notice that no less than 10 riders will pilot at least two mounts in this division, with some — including Liz Halliday, Jessica Phoenix, and Will Coleman — taking three horses to the field to better their odds and rack up those points. This year’s 4* will be no joke, and this bloodthirsty pack will surely give us just as incredible of a show as our 5* contestants.

Our new format for form guides features some special trading cards on each horse and rider combination, where you will see some stats on each horse in the running at each 5* going forward, courtesy of our friends at EquiRatings. You’ll note that each card lists not only each pairing’s Top 3 Placing probability score (which can be found in the EquiRatings Prediction Centre), but also displays their average finishing score over the past 12 months. For horses without enough runs to average over the last year, their average final score at the level since 2008 has been used instead.

The EN team will be on the ground this weekend at the #BestWeekendAllYear, so stay tuned for much more, and be sure you’re following @kentuckythreedayevent and @goeventing on Instagram to keep in touch with all that this weekend will bring!

EN’s coverage of the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is presented by Kentucky Performance Products, your one-stop shop for science-backed nutritional support for all types of horses. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products.

Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Tickets] [Scoring] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Want to jump straight to your favorite horse and rider? Click the links below to jump to their section (the combinations are listed below in alphabetical order by last name; entries categorized by draw order):

Lisa Barry and Rosie’s Aventadora (USA)
Alexandra Baugh and Hubert Des 3 Arbres (USA)
Lucienne Bellissimo and Dyri (GBR)
Lucienne Bellissimo and Tremanton (GBR)
Melissa Boutin and Obeah Dancer GS (CAN)
Mia Braundel and Cashmere (USA)
Hanna Bundy and Lovely Assistant (CAN)
Brooke Burchianti and Cooley Space Grey (USA)
William Coleman and Off The Record (USA)
William Coleman and Diabolo (USA)
William Coleman and Chin Tonic HS (USA)
Bruce Davidson Jr and Cooley Candyman (USA)
Mary Bess Davis and Imperio Magic (USA)
Molly Duda and Disco Traveler (USA)
John Michael Durr and Blue Rodeo (USA)
Olivia Dutton and Sea Of Clouds (USA)
Phillip Dutton and Jewelent (USA)
Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire (USA)
Janelle Fleming and Fly Me Courageous (USA)
Savannah Fulton and Cash Point (USA)
Heather Gillette and Vincent Chase (USA)
Ariel Grald and Diara (USA)
Elisabeth Halliday and Miks Master C (USA)
Elisabeth Halliday and Shanroe Cooley (USA)
Elisabeth Halliday and Cooley Quicksilver (USA)
Hannah Sue Hollberg and Carsonstown (USA)
Leslie Law and Lady Chatterley (GBR)
Rachel Lawson and High Tide (USA)
Shannon Lilley and Ideal HX (USA)
Shannon Lilley and Eindhoven Garette (USA)
Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye (CAN)
Katie Malensek and STX Mex (CAN)
Katie Malensek and Landjaeger (CAN)
Boyd Martin and Commando 3 (USA)
Boyd Martin and Fedarman B (USA)
Tik Maynard and SKM Lux Sonata (CAN)
Jen Moody and Eye Of The Storm (USA)
Nilson Moreira Da Silva and Elmo (BRA)
Caroline Pamukcu and King’s Especiale (USA)
Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake (USA)
Caroline Pamukcu and She’s The One (USA)
Jessica Phoenix and Watson GS (CAN)
Jessica Phoenix and Freedom GS (CAN)
Jessica Phoenix and Fluorescent Adolescent (CAN)
Waylon Roberts and OKE Ruby R (CAN)
Cassie Sanger and Fernhill Zoro (USA)
Cassie Sanger and Redfield Fyre (USA)
Autumn Schweiss and Bamford CF (USA)
Karl Slezak and Chevalier (CAN)
Melanie Smith and Shakedown Street (USA)
Tamra Smith and Kynan (USA)
Tamra Smith and Danito (USA)
Sydney Solomon and Early Review C (USA)
Allison Springer and Vandyke (USA)
Briggs Surratt and Corture (USA)
Dani Sussman and Jos Bravio (USA)
Alexa Thompson and Just To Be Clear (USA)
Samantha Tinney and Cutty Sark (USA)
Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge (CAN)
Elisa Wallace and Renkum Corsair (USA)
Arden Wildasin and Sunday Times (USA)
Julie Wolfert and SSH Playboy (USA)
Ryan Wood and Cooley Flight (AUS)

***

101: Jessica Phoenix and Fluorescent Adolescent (CAN)

102: Allison Springer and Vandyke (USA)

103: Elisabeth Halliday and Shanroe Cooley (USA)

105: William Coleman and Off The Record (USA)

106: Tamra Smith and Danito (USA)

107: Phillip Dutton and Jewelent (USA)

108: Caroline Pamukcu and She’s The One (USA)

109: Molly Duda and Disco Traveler (USA)

110: Melanie Smith and Shakedown Street (USA)

111: Lucienne Bellissimo and Tremanton (GBR)

112: Heather Gillette and Vincent Chase (USA)

113: Waylon Roberts and OKE Ruby R (CAN)

114: Bruce Davidson Jr and Cooley Candyman (USA)

115: Shannon Lilley and Ideal HX (USA)

116: Melissa Boutin and Obeah Dancer GS (CAN)

117: Nilson Moreira Da Silva and Elmo (BRA)

118: Autumn Schweiss and Bamford CF (USA)

119: Sydney Solomon and Early Review C (USA)

120: Brooke Burchianti and Cooley Space Grey (USA)

121: Cassie Sanger and Redfield Fyre (USA)

122: Briggs Surratt and Corture (USA)

123: Janelle Fleming and Fly Me Courageous (USA)

124: Katie Malensek and Landjaeger (CAN)

125: Karl Slezak and Chevalier (CAN)

126: Olivia Dutton and Sea Of Clouds (USA)

127: Lisa Barry and Rosie’s Aventadora (USA)

128: Julie Wolfert and SSH Playboy (USA)

129: Jessica Phoenix and Watson GS (CAN)

130: Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye (CAN)

131: Leslie Law and Lady Chatterley (GBR)

132: William Coleman and Diabolo (USA)

133: Boyd Martin and Commando 3 (USA)

135: Hanna Bundy and Lovely Assistant (CAN)

136: Caroline Pamukcu and King’s Especiale (USA)

137: Dani Sussman and Jos Bravio (USA)

138: Elisabeth Halliday and Cooley Quicksilver (USA)

139: Elisa Wallace and Renkum Corsair (USA)

140: Alexandra Baugh and Hubert Des 3 Arbres (USA)

141: Lucienne Bellissimo and Dyri (GBR)

142: Shannon Lilley and Eindhoven Garette (USA)

143: Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire (USA)

144: Rachel Lawson and High Tide (USA)

145: Ryan Wood and Cooley Flight (AUS)

146: Tik Maynard and SKM Lux Sonata (CAN)

147: Ariel Grald and Diara (USA)

148: Mia Braundel and Cashmere (USA)

149: Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge (CAN)

150: Hannah Sue Hollberg and Carsonstown (USA)

151: Cassie Sanger and Fernhill Zoro (USA)

152: Samantha Tinney and Cutty Sark (USA)

154: John Michael Durr and Blue Rodeo (USA)

155: Alexa Thompson and Just To Be Clear (USA)

156: Mary Bess Davis and Imperio Magic (USA)

157: Katie Malensek and STX Mex (CAN)

158: Savannah Fulton and Cash Point (USA)

159: Arden Wildasin and Sunday Times (USA)

160: Jen Moody and Eye Of The Storm (USA)

161: Boyd Martin and Fedarman B (USA)

162: Jessica Phoenix and Freedom GS (CAN)

163: William Coleman and Chin Tonic HS (USA)

164: Elisabeth Halliday and Miks Master C (USA)

165: Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake (USA)

166: Tamra Smith and Kynan (USA)

We’re Back! EN’s Form Guide to the 2024 Defender Kentucky CCI5*

Bring on that beautiful chaos, because it is finally time to sit back and read up on the horses and riders of the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event! I’m sure, like us, many of you have been waiting all year for this pivotal weekend, and we can’t wait to see who emerges victorious come Sunday — but first, let’s take a peek at what each pair is bringing to the Kentucky table!

Our new format for form guides features some special trading cards on each horse and rider combination, where you will see some stats on each horse in the running at each 5* going forward, courtesy of our friends at EquiRatings. You’ll note that each card lists not only each pairing’s Top 3 Placing probability score (which can be found in the EquiRatings Prediction Centre), but also displays their average finishing score over the past 12 months. For horses without enough runs to average over the last year, their average final score at the level since 2008 has been used instead.

The EN team will be on the ground this weekend at the #BestWeekendAllYear, so stay tuned for much more, and be sure you’re following @kentuckythreedayevent and @goeventing on Instagram to keep in touch with all that this weekend will bring!

EN’s coverage of the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is presented by Kentucky Performance Products, your one-stop shop for science-backed nutritional support for all types of horses. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products.

Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Tickets] [Scoring] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

[Click here to download the Form Guide in PDF format]

Want to jump straight to your favorite horse and rider? Click the links below to jump to their section (the combinations are listed below in alphabetical order by last name; entries categorized by draw order):

James Alliston and Karma (USA)
Susannah Berry and Clever Trick (IRL)
Calvin Böckmann and The Phantom of the Opera (GER)
Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II (AUS)
Zachary Brandt and Direct Advance (USA)
Jennie Brannigan and FE LIfestyle (USA)
Jennie Brannigan and Twilightslastgleam (USA)
Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI (GBR)
Bruce Davidson Jr. and Sorocaima (USA)
Phillip Dutton and Azure (USA)
Phillip Dutton and Quasi Cool (USA)
Mia Farley and Phelps (USA)
Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way (USA)
Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me (CAN)
Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan (USA)
Matthew Grayling and Trudeau (NZL)
Elisabeth Halliday and Cooley Nutcracker (USA)
Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Carlitos Quidditch K (GER)
Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby (USA)
Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol H I M (USA)
Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir (GBR)
Ema Klugman and Bronte Beach (AUS)
Sara Kozumplik and Rock Phantom (USA)
Boyd Martin and On Cue (USA)
Andrew McConnon and Ferrie’s Cello (USA)
Andrew McConnon and Wakita 54 (USA)
Tom McEwen and JL Dublin (GBR)
Joe Meyer and Harbin (NZL)
Bobby Meyerhoff and Lumumba (USA)
Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus (USA)
Doug Payne and Camarillo (USA)
Doug Payne and Quantum Leap (USA)
Monica Spencer and Artist (NZL)
Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent (GBR)
Christoph Wahler and D’Accord FRH (GER)
Sharon White and Claus 63 (USA)

***

2: Sara Kozumplik and Rock Phantom (USA)

Sara Kozumplik has jumped straight out of the frying pan and into the fire with this year’s drawn order. After Philip Dutton and Denim withdrew from the event, Sara has found herself as the field’s new trailblazer with 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse Rock Phantom. There’s nothing quite like contesting your horse’s first CCI5* track and being the first out the start box. Having recently retired her previous 5* horse, Rubens D’Ysieux, from the upper levels of competition, all the pressure goes onto “Rocky” to perform at the top of the sport. It seems Sara is feeling hopeful that Rocky will step up to the level well. According to a statement she made on Instagram, “He tries so hard and feels so great!”

After taking over Rocky’s reins from Brazil’s Nilson Moreira Da Silva in 2022, Sara and Rocky have pulled off some great performances, including winning the 4*-S at Chattahoochee Hills, now called Bouckaert Farm. Despite the abnormal cross country penalty, Rocky has a pretty clean cross country record in terms of obstacle faults. So far, Sara has run him on the slower side with a few time faults being their norm. With show jumping being their toughest phase, the last day of competition will prove extremely influential for this pair.

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3: Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol H I M (USA)

Best pal of Hannah’s long-time partner Harbour Pilot, her individual silver and team gold 2011 Pan-American Games ride, ‘Chito’ comes to Kentucky for his third CCI5* start. He’s relatively low mileage for his age, having only begun his international career in 2019, making his top-level debut at Kentucky in 2022, when an unfortunate rider fall ended his competition early. He returned to contest the 4*-S last year, finishing just outside the top-10, going on to really show his class at the 5* level later in the season with a 4th place at Maryland. He’s come out in great form this year with a win in the 4*-S at Bouckaert Farm a few weeks ago.

We can expect a low-30s score in the first phase — he put down a 32.4 at Maryland and a 30.8 in the 4*-S at Kentucky last year. Since 2020, he’s incurred cross country jumping penalties only twice in sixteen runs, both in the 2022 season. That year, Chito was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, but with the appropriate treatment there’s been a marked improvement in the gelding’s athleticism. In terms of cross country time, he’s likely to pick up a handful of penalties, but certainly not too many to put him out of the running. The final phase really highlights what a careful jumper this guy is — in 24 FEI competitions he’s had 15 clear rounds. It’s possible we’ll see this combination up there when all’s said and done at Kentucky.

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4: Jennie Brannigan and Twilightslastgleam (USA)

Jennie Brannigan will be third in the order across the Kentucky bluegrass with her longtime partner “Comic.” His other nickname, “Grandpa,” belies his age — he’s just 14 — but instead speaks to his lovable, laid-back attitude in the barn. He’s been partnered with Jennie since he was four, climbing the ranks from the USEA Young Event Horse Program to his CCI5* debut at Maryland in 2022.

This will be his fourth start at the level. We expect him to land low-to-mid-30s after the first phase. He’s got a very strong cross country record, but unfortunately activated a frangible pin here last year, so this pair – who had to sit out Maryland cross country due to Jennie falling from another horse – are on a redemption arc to set the record straight on Derek di Grazia’s course.

Comic’s owners Nina and Tim Gardner have believed in him every step of the way, beginning in utero. He’s a full-blooded Thoroughbred, sired by Nina’s National Anthem, who boasted a nine-year racing career before retiring sound, and out of a mare called Royal Child, whose bloodlines trace back to the beginning of the Gardner’s breeding program in the 1980s. Comic was bred to race, and though he did train at Fair Hill as a two-year-old it was quickly evident that the racetrack wasn’t his destiny, and Nina serendipitously redirected him toward eventing.

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6: Susannah Berry and Clever Trick (IRL)

It’ll be a Kentucky debut for British-based Northern Irish rider Susie, who’s previously ridden around Luhmühlen, Badminton, and Burghley –- and a five-star debut altogether for cross-country machine ‘Owl’, who was exceptional in very tough conditions at last summer’s European Championships. 28-year-old Susie was part of 2022’s Irish World Championships team, and became a professional rider after taking a ‘gap year’ after school, deferring a university place studying physiotherapy in favor of a season spent with Piggy March. She stayed five years, producing and competing horses such as Morswood, who became her Young Rider Europeans mount before heading to the US, along the way, and set up on her own just before the pandemic.

Owl is a relatively new addition to Susie’s string, having been produced to four-star, and to the end of the 2021 season, by fellow Irish rider Alex Donohoe, who competed the mare under the name Kilcandra Bonnie Reward. Since pairing up with Susie, who’s throwing down the gauntlet for a super 2024 season after losing the back end of 2023 to a serious injury sustained on another horse, she’s jumped classy clears around Bramham’s CCI4*-L, arguably the toughest course of the level in the world; Boekelo’s Nations’ Cup finale CCI4*-L, where she finished in the top ten; and, of course, that famously tricky Europeans. She’s game as they come, quick, and incredibly blood, and Kentucky’s track should be well within her wheelhouse – even if the first phase sets her off the pace a bit as the week unfolds. They’ll be hoping for a major effort from Derek to allow them to play a masterful game of catch-up and give Irish selectors plenty to think about — not least because Susie has five horses in contention for this summer’s Games alone.

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7: Andrew McConnon and Wakita 54 (USA)

It’s always exciting to see a horse in their 5* debut, and even more exciting when their rider has brought them through the levels. While this will be Wakita 54’s first 5* competition, Andrew and “Kiki” have loads of experience together, as we have seen Andrew develop her from her first FEI event in 2020 up the levels. Kiki had a successful finish to her 2023 season, finishing in the top ten in the last three 4* competitions she’s competed in. Recently, we’ve seen her finish in the top 5 in the Intermediate at Pine Top.

This duo normally scores in the upper 30s in dressage. While this might not put them at the top of the leaderboard on day one, outside of one uncommon elimination on cross country in 2022, Kiki and Andrew have a clean cross country jump record, typically going clear with a handful of time. However, a rail or two on show jumping day is not out of the question. We’ll be excited to see how Andrew and Kiki compete in their first attempt at the level, and if their normally clear cross country will continue serving them well. 2024 looks to be an exciting year for Andrew — he received the Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider Grant this year, and is looking to take a horse or two to Europe.

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9: Ema Klugman and Bronte Beach (AUS)

Ema Klugman and girlfriend/sometimes groom Meg Gooddale are my favorite eventing power couple. Back at Kentucky after a few years spent producing some promising young horses, this is Ema’s first CCI5* since her 2021 run with the much-beloved Bendigo, who sadly passed away earlier this year. I like to think that Bronte Beach will be galloping through the Kentucky Horse Park with Bendigo on her shoulder, whispering tips in her ear.

“Bronte” (Bron-tee, not Bron–tay like the author — remember this bay mare is Australian, not British) has a squeaky clean record at the FEI level, with just one elimination due to a rider fall back in 2022. Other than that, Bronte typically crosses the finish line with some time faults. With dressage scores in the low to mid-30s and a tendency to add a few rails in the show jumping phase, Bronte tends to land in the top ten, or just outside, at the 4* level. With this being her first crack at a 5*, it’s anyone’s guess as to where the cards will fall. I’d be willing to bet Ema’s goal is simply to cross the finish line happy and healthy with a newly minted 5* horse.

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11: Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan (USA)

Found as a five-year-old in Ireland and bought by Annie Eldridge of Setters’ Run Farm, ‘Simon’ is impressively expressive with tons of energy and it’s a credit to Ariel’s relationship with him that she takes his natural exuberance in her stride. Their 5* debut came at Kentucky in 2019, where they finished 12th, following this up with a trip across the pond for Burghley later in the season where their top-10 finish made them highest placed first-timers. They returned after the Covid hiatus to claim third place at Luhmuhlen in 2021, then went to Badminton a year later and came 15th.

This is surely a pairing with oodles of potential; as well as their solid 5* form, they have an 11th individual place at the World Championships in Pratoni on their record, where they were one of just five combinations to finish on their dressage score. They’ve generally scored low to mid-30s in the first phase at 5*, but with just one cross country jumping penalty in 18 FEI runs since stepping up to 4* in 2019, they’re unlikely to add much on the second day, just a handful of time faults, and with just two show jumping rails in their last nine internationals, their practice in the 1.40 ring obviously pays off in the final phase. We didn’t see them at 5* last season, so this is an exciting opportunity to see whether all that form will come together for another great placing.

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12: Calvin Böckmann and The Phantom of the Opera (GER)

Fans of the EquiRatings Eventing Podcast will feel a spark of familiarity when they see Calvin’s name — he’s the young upstart that Diarm Byrne once dubbed ‘the young Jung’. At just 23 years old — he’ll turn 24 on Kentucky cross-country day, so make sure to tell him ‘Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!’ if you spot him out and about — he’s already accomplished plenty to help him live up to that lofty moniker. He’s competed on nine German European Championships teams — four times at the Pony level, plus once as a jumper, once as a Junior eventer and once as a Junior jumper, and once at the Young Rider level for eventing, too. And across those appearances? He’s picked up an impressive nine medals, and became the Pony European Champion in 2015.

These days, he’s kept busy as part of the German Equestrian Federation’s Warendorf training program for rising stars of the sport, which is helmed by one Julia Krajewski, the reigning Olympic eventing champion. She’s not a bad person to have on side as Calvin heads into his five-star debut, because she, too, is a five-star winner. And in The Phantom of the Opera, who’s so often heralded into dressage arenas around Europe to exactly that song, Calvin’s got the ideal partner: since the splashy-faced chestnut and the cut-glass jawlined rider teamed up in early 2022, they’ve logged 15 FEI starts, completing every single one of them and finishing in the top ten 12 times. In fact, they’ve never finished lower than 25th, and that was in a huge Blenheim field where they jumped a quick clear.

We could see this pair tip the right side of 30 in the first phase, which they’ve done a couple of times at four-star, and they look set to impress on Saturday. Sunday tends to be a one-rail sort of affair for them, but perhaps the atmosphere of the Rolex Arena will inspire a change of fortunes.

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15: Doug Payne and Quantum Leap (USA)

It’s been many years since anyone called this horse “Baby Quantum” but that’s exactly what he was when he landed in Doug Payne’s barn as a yearling. Fast forward about 12 years and he’s every bit the polished professional. He’s got six CCI5* completions to his name, and of those he’s only finished outside the top ten once — not to mention he was the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Champion in 2022.

Quantum has proven his incredible staying power at the top of the sport with only one cross country penalty on his International record, and we expect to see him once again landing in the top ten — or even better, knocking at the door of a top five result. His results have varied on the flat, but on his best day he can go sub-30, and a clear show jumping on Sunday is very achievable for this pair.

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17: Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI (GBR)

This’ll be a seventh five-star start for Kirsty and her oil painting of a horse, Classic, who has previously contested Pau, Badminton, Luhmühlen, and, of course, Kentucky last year, finishing 21st after a runout on course. We’d love to call that runout ‘uncharacteristic’, but it’s not quite the right word — ‘Betty’ is a mercurial sort of horse, capable of extraordinary greatness (second place at Luhmühlen and sixth place at Pau are just two examples of this talent), but also capable of being a wee bit complicated.

On her day, she’ll throw down a beautiful sub-30 test and follow it up with two speedy clears; but it’s also not beyond the realm of possibility that we’ll see her fizz up like a glass of Berocca, plunge her way into the 30s, add a jumping penalty across the country, or have two down on the final day. It’s this will-she-or-won’t-she that makes her a rather exciting horse to follow and cheer for, although there’s a touch of emotional whiplash involved.

In any case, you can’t fault this pair for the strength of their partnership, forged in the wilderness of England’s New Forest, where the mare — who really does look like she’s stepped out of a Munnings canvas — spends most of her time hacking, because she’s not fond of the pressures of the school. If they have a week here like they had at Pau in October, you’ll be daydreaming of these gutsy gals for the rest of the year.

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18: Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir (GBR)

What a stroke of luck for us –- we get to welcome the reigning World Champions back to Lexington, and in an Olympic year, no less, which means that Yas and Banzai will leave no stone unturned on their quest to prove a point to the selectors. And that’s a point that does need proving: while the duo have an extraordinary roster of results behind them, including second place at Kentucky in 2022, they did also spend part of the 2023 season undergoing some tough learning moments. They picked up a 20 at Kentucky last year, and one at the European Championships, but also enjoyed a major win at CHIO Aachen and, other than those two tough events, never finished outside the top three in FEI competitions.

Expect Yas and Banzai to lead after the first phase, as they did last year on a 22.1. Then, keep your eyes firmly on them come Saturday: we know they’ve got everything it takes to come home clear and quick, and they’ll have been hard at work since last year, fine-tuning the basics, but they’ll also have to contend with a whole lot of pressure. On Sunday, they’re generally exceptional, with just two rails down since 2021. They’re a frontrunner for the win here, but with just enough question marks on their name right now to make the whole thing incredibly exciting, right down to the very last moment of the competition.
And if they get that win, or even a top five finish? Expect to see the pair right back in the hunt for a spot at Paris –- the competition the horse was bought for in the first place.

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20: Monica Spencer and Artist (NZL)

Monica and ‘Max’ are definitely on the short list for personal favorites this year. Their first Kentucky 5*, they are no stranger to the level, having finished 7th at Maryland last year. A typically impressive result from this pair who burst onto the Northern Hemisphere eventing scene in 2022, as part of the Bronze medal winning Kiwi team at the World Championships in Pratoni. They were top 10 after dressage on that occasion, with a PB of 25.9 and were comfortably into the 20s again at Maryland, so it will be no surprise if they are sitting pretty going into cross country at Kentucky, too.

Another OTTB, Monica bought Max as a four-year-old. ‘Too slow’ for the track, they dominated the New Zealand eventing season before coming temporarily basing in the US last August in preparation for their run at Maryland. They returned in February, along with a string of horses and no return ticket. Husband Andrew and son Gus have made the move too, and Monica has hinted that this time it is a more permanent move. Andrew and Gus will be grooming for Monica and Max this weekend, so it will be quite the family affair! Monica has made no secret that she has eyes on Olympic selection, so a good run this weekend will certainly help in that respect, and further confirm their presence on the world stage.

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21: Bobby Meyerhoff and Lumumba (USA)

Bobby Meyerhoff and Lumumba tackled their first CCI5* just last year at the Maryland 5 Star, finishing in 14th place. While the longstanding pair completed the Kentucky 4* in 2021, this will be their first attempt at the iconic 5* track. Their upper level career has been a little bit hit or miss. While Lulu has finished in the top ten several times, most recently achieving 7th in the 4*-S at the Maryland International, that much-desired podium finish has eluded them thus far.

Lulu tends to score in the mid-30s in the dressage phase, and despite having no obstacle faults on her cross country record, her philosophy leans towards slow and steady wins the race. The pair could be turning over a new leaf in 2024, as they had their lowest number of time faults yet at their first FEI event of the season at Carolina International. Unfortunately, show jumping is their real achilles heel with at least three rails at each event in their 2023 season. When it comes to an uber competitive event like the Kentucky Three Day, you can’t have a single rail if you want to finish in the top ten, which is a big ask for 13-year-old Lumumba.
For only their second 5*, I suspect Bobby may play it safe and ride to cross the finish line, not to win. After all, the real win is when every pair is back at the barn happy and healthy at the end of the day.

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22: Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me (CAN)

If anyone has a spare groom at the horse park, I’m sure Lisa Marie would appreciate it, as she’ll be grooming for herself this weekend if her friend can’t get the time off work. This will be Lisa Marie’s first return to the Kentucky Horse Park since 2022 when she and Honor Me placed 19th with a score of 68.8. Honor Me, aka “Tali,” have been competing at the FEI levels for over a decade. 2024 marks the 18-year-old gelding’s sixth year of competition at the 4*/5* level.

With all those years of experience, Tali has only a handful of refusals/run-outs on his cross country record, but regularly gets 10 to 20 time penalties. Unfortunately, his dressage scores are really what holds back the big chestnut Welsh Sport Horse. Consistently receiving scores in the low to mid-40s, it’s clear that dressage is not his favorite phase. While he’s not particularly careful in the show jumping phase, typically adding a rail or two, he is fast with very few show jumping time faults on his record. At the end of the day, I’d search the results for Honor Me and Lisa Marie somewhere in the middle of the pack.

I’m mostly hoping that Tali and Lisa Marie will bring along their adorable Appaloosa mini friend, Popcorn. While I’m not sure if this is the role Popcorn plays, in general the emotional support Miniature Horses that come alongside these big bad 5* horses always make me happy.

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23: Phillip Dutton and Quasi Cool (USA)

Phillip Dutton hardly needs an introduction. A seven-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist, he’s forgotten more about eventing than I will ever know. As his second 5* mount of the weekend, Quasi Cool is in good shape to tackle his first ever 5* course. Despite it being his first time taking a crack at the level, I’m sure Phillip is hoping for a triumphant return to the park after placing second with “Quasi” in the 4* in 2022.

Phillip took over the ride on Quasi circa 2021. Just a year later, the horse’s career was almost cut short by a broken orbital bone, putting him at risk of having his eye removed. Now 13 years old, the Holsteiner gelding is set up to have a promising eventing career ahead of him.

True to form, since Philip took the reins Quasi hasn’t placed lower than 15th, and has won notable events including the 4*-L at Morven Park and the 4*-S in Unionville. Quasi and Phillip have never had a refusal or run-out (knock on wood) and typically cross the finish line with a few time faults. In dressage, Quasi is more than capable of pulling sub-30 scores, his lowest to date being a 23.9 at the Carolina International CCI3* in 2021. Clearly Quasi and Phillip have a system that works for them, but this weekend is a bit of a wild card as it’s Quasi’s first time moving up to the 5* level.

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24: Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Carlitos Quidditch K (GER)

If there’s one thing that unites most of us, it’s that childlike love for a leggy, elegant dappled grey. To hell with the fact that keeping them clean is a nightmare; never mind the fact that those dapples eventually fade. The twelve-year-old girl inside all of us (men included; being a horse girl is a non-gender-specific affliction, frankly) yearns for the unicorn. And here he is.

If you’ve not had the joy of seeing Carlitos Quidditch K, or ‘Schimmi’, as he’s known at home, on the European circuit, prepare yourself to fall in love. Since the start of his career, which he’s spent with Malin in its entirety, he’s been joy on legs, gobbling up every cross-country course he’s unleashed upon with his best pal aboard. Last year, we saw the pair make their Senior championship debut, riding as part of the German team at the European Eventing Championships, where they finished in the top twenty individually and in silver medal position with their countrymen after battling horrendous conditions.

This’ll be a first five-star start for Schimmi, who comes in with super form: in his last eight FEI runs, he’s only been out of the top twenty once (and then it was 22nd for a planned slow clear at three-star this spring); in five of those, he finished in the top five, including a win in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim in September. He’s usually a 29/30 hoverer in the first phase but if he can start his Kentucky week on the sub-25 he pulled off at Blenheim, things could start to get very exciting indeed for Germany’s formidable front in Lexington.

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25: Matthew Grayling and Trudeau (NZL)

If there is one thing that you can be sure of at a 5*, it is that there will be several heart-warming stories. Enter veterans of the sport, 60-year-old Matthew Grayling and 18-year-old Trudeau.

Like fellow Kiwi Monica Spencer, Matthew and ‘Tru’ came to the States earlier this year, basing with Boyd Martin. Like Monica, he too has one eye on the Olympics — ‘Paris is at the back of my mind,’ — though his day job is less professional event rider, and more full-time dairy farmer. He has left his son in charge of the family farm, and the 600 dairy cows that live there, in order to have one last crack at the big time.

Matthew is no stranger to the top level of the sport, though: he won Adelaide back in 2001 with Revo, the horse with whom he finished 8th in the 2004 Eventing World Cup. The pair were also part of the fifth placed New Zealand team at the Athens Olympics that year.
This will be 18-year-old Tru’s 5* debut, though he has won 3 consecutive national titles in New Zealand, and is rarely out of the top 10. He had an uncharacteristic 20 on the cross country at Raeford earlier this year, but his jumping record is otherwise impeccable. Matthew has said that he is ready to ‘take on the big boys again,’ and I can’t wait to see them do just that: hopefully theirs will be another 5* fairy-tale.

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26: Sharon White and Claus 63 (USA)

This debut at 5* is a somewhat long time coming for Claus 63, who was sourced from Germany by Dirk Schrade as a 5-year-old. Sharon liked the horse so much on video — and trusts Dirk immensely with his eye for what she likes — that she bought Claus nearly sight unseen. It proved to be a fortuitous purchase, as Claus now stands to be the sixth horse Sharon has produced to the 5* level.

After winning a team silver medal at the 2023 Pan American Games, Sharon has her eyes set on a successful 5* career for Claus — and has also submitted for Olympic consideration ahead of Paris. Claus is notoriously “emotional” but has a very empathetic and patient rider in Sharon, who manages his emotions well. Sharon will be thrilled to deliver a dressage test that’s relaxed and in which Claus can “take a breath” and ease into his body, a clear cross country, and a clear show jump that the 12-year-old Holsteiner is well capable of. She will have dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s ahead of this next step for an exciting debutant, and she will have all of her fans clad in her signature orange cheering her on this weekend.

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27: Zachary Brandt and Direct Advance (USA)

‘Rosco’ and Zach have been together right from the gelding’s first event, and Zach credits their solid partnership for their rise to the top level of the sport, with their CCI5* debut coming at Maryland in 2022. They return to the Horse Park after finishing 24th last season, a completion Zach was thrilled with despite having two runouts on the tricky cross country course. He was honored with the James C. Wofford “On the Rise” trophy, presented in remembrance of the late Jimmy Wofford, which was a super special moment given that sixteen-year-old Zach had been lucky enough to ride in a clinic with Jimmy.

The first phase is still very much a work in progress for Rosco, with scores ranging from mid-30s to having a hoof in the 40s — at Maryland last year they posted a 35.9; at Kentucky it was 43.5. Their cross country record shows a couple of green mistakes at 5* — as well as the 40 at Kentucky last season, they picked up a 20 at Maryland in 2022, and then again last fall. After retiring out on course in both his Maryland runs, Zach’s looking for his second completion at the level and will be hoping to secure the clear cross country jumping round that’s eluded this pair thus far. No so in the show jumping however, where Rosco really shows how careful he can be over the colored poles, generally adding nothing in the final phase. Here’s hoping they get to build on their 5* experience at Kentucky this time around, and put in the cross country round which is clearly within Rosco’s capabilities.

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28: Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way (USA)

This weekend marks the sixth CCI5* start for “Mason”, who’s become a consistent performer in partnership with Will Faudree. This pair have finished in the top 16 at the level three times and will be looking to best that marker in Kentucky. Campaigned at the outset of his FEI career by Germany’s Andreas Dibowski, Mason journeyed to the States to begin his relationship with fill in time for the 2019 season, and he went on to debut at Kentucky in 2021, where he finished 14th overall.

Will works hard on the flat, arguably Mason’s most challenging phase, with Bettina Hoy, who will be on hand to assist this week. We’ve seen this pair pull out a sub-30 score at this level before (Burghley 2023), and if they can get close to this number again this year they’ll be in good stead to finish on or close to the mark and in the top percentage of the field.

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29: Mia Farley and Phelps (USA)

Where to start with Mia and Phelps, who provided the fairytale of last year’s Maryland 5*? Their debut at the level, they finished in 5th place- had it not been for the two poles that fell in the final phase, they would have been on the podium. They posted the only cross country clear inside the time, although that is hardly surprising, given that Phelps is a OTTB. Bought by David O’Connor for the enormous sum of, er, $1, he and 24 year old Mia have been together almost ever since (see, I told you theirs was a fairytale).

Mia — who has been based with the O’Connor’s since 2017 — says she is hoping for another confident run at the level, and for them both to add to their positive experience last fall. She will be the first to admit that he struggles in the show jumping, but he hasn’t had a cross country fault in the whole of his FEI career thus far, and his dressage isn’t too shabby either. They were top ten after the first phase at Maryland, and will no doubt be hoping to repeat that form here, too.

Pushy with his closest friends, but ultimately ‘such a dude,’ Phelps brought Mia to the top 20 in the 4* here last year, and given their performance on their 5* debut, there is no reason why they shouldn’t post a similar result in the 5* this year. A classy pair, and one of my personal favorites on the start sheet.

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32: Joe Meyer and Harbin (NZL)

New Zealand Olympian Joe Meyer will be piloting Harbin around Harbin’s first 5* attempt. Harbin started his competitive career as a racehorse, selling for €40,000 as a 2 year old. After racing four times, where he placed in none of his races, Harbin found his calling in the event world. Joe took the ride on Harbin in 2021 after Rebecca Brown took him through the 3* level. Since the beginning of their partnership, Joe and Harbin have competed in ten 4* events since they began at the level in 2022.

The 2024 season started off strong for this duo, with a 3rd place finish in the 4* at Bouckaert Equestrian, where they saw a typical low 30s dressage score, a clear cross country, and a clear show jumping. While they do deliver some impressive results up the levels, we have seen some inconsistencies at the level, recently finishing with an elimination in the 4* at TerraNova. As they turn to the 5* in Kentucky, they’ll be looking to secure the scores we know they can deliver.

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33: Christoph Wahler and D’Accord FRH (GER)

If you’re not rooting for Christoph, who’s based at his family’s fairytale dressage stud near Luhmühlen, where have you even been these past few years? He was second at his local five-star in 2021 with the great grey Carjatan S, and with the same horse, was top ten at two European Championships, top twenty at another, and part of the gold-medal-winning German team at the 2022 World Championships in Pratoni, where he was the pathfinder. He’s a seriously good rider across all three disciplines, and five-star debutant D’Accord mustn’t be underestimated either. While he’s not as sharp or flashy a type as Carjatan, he’s been seriously consistent since Christoph took the reins in 2022, finishing in the top ten in nine of their 13 FEI starts together.

His first-phase results can fluctuate — he’s gone sub-30 at four-star a few times, but tends to sit more consistently between 30 and 32. On cross-country, though, he shines — he tends to be bold as brass and seriously quick, particularly for a big horse, and has only added a total of 4.8 time penalties across his last eight FEI runs. He’s a decent showjumper, too, and constantly improving in this phase — he’s gone from being a regular four- or eight-faulter to a horse who tends to have a rail down every third round or so. Consider these two a shout for a very good top ten finish – assuming D’Accord can go the distance — and then get on Google and start fantasizing about moving into Christoph’s base, Klosterhof Medingen. It is perfect.

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34: Andrew McConnon and Ferrie’s Cello (USA)

We saw Andrew McConnon and Jeanne Shigo’s Ferrie’s Cello take their first crack at the 5* level this past fall at the Maryland 5*. Finishing just outside of the top ten in 13th and their first 5* appearance, Andrew and “Eddie” started their partnership when Eddie came to Andrew as a young Preliminary horse with loads of physical talent, but a bit of a mental code that needed Andrew’s careful development.

This pair’s FEI partnership began in 2019. They moved up to Advanced in 2021, and have since competed for the US on the Nations Cup teams in Bromont and Strzegom. This duo typically sees dressage scores in the low-mid 30s, and have seen an occasional cross country penalty or rail. We’ll be excited to see how this duo competes in their second attempt at the level before an exciting 2024 for Andrew — he received the Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider Grant this year, and is looking to take a horse or two to Europe.

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35: Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle (USA)

The second part of Jennie Brannigan’s ginger dream team is the thirteen-year-old German Sporthorse gelding FE Lifestyle. “Foxy” is quite the seasoned campaigner at this point in his career with six CCI5* completions under his belt. His best finish was fifth at Maryland in 2022, but last season he was 12th at both Kentucky and Burghley.

We expect a low-30s dressage result in the first phase, and Jennie’s grit partnered with Foxy’s big, forward step could make them a major threat on cross country day. Here last year, they had only 2.4 time penalties across the Kentucky bluegrass, so another performance like that will certainly keep them in the hunt to crack the top ten.

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36: Bruce Davidson Jr. and Sorocaima (USA)

Buck’s here for his third trip ‘round Kentucky CCI5* with Sorocaima, his Kentucky-bred OTTB. ‘Cam’ earned over $80,000 on the track before turning his hoof to eventing, retiring from racing in 2015 and joining Buck’s barn in 2020. His 5* debut came in 2022 at Kentucky, which was followed up with a trip ‘round Maryland in the fall, where he finished 14th. Last year he returned to the Horse Park and finished just outside the top-20, rounding out the season back at Maryland where he was top-10.

We can expect a mid-30s score in the first phase — they put down a 36 at Kentucky last year and 34.2 at Maryland — but like a lot of eventers, Cam’s here for the cross country. In his 19 FEI starts, he’s had cross country jumping penalties only twice, both times at Kentucky — Buck will be looking to put that right this time around. There are generally time penalties to be added, although not due to a lack of speed on the flashy bay gelding’s part; he’s super powerful which tends to eat up precious seconds out on course. The final day is the trickiest for this pair, with jumping penalties often racking up to 8, or more. They kept it to one pole at Kentucky last season, although that came with 4 time penalties, which was a huge improvement on the year before when they added 28 jumping and 2.8 time. Will they slay their Kentucky 20 demons in 2024? We’ll have to wait and see!

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37: Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby (USA)

With thirteen CCI5* starts in his twelve year eventing career — and seven top-20 finishes — LCC Barnaby comes to Kentucky for the third time with a bunch of experience (and then some) under his cinch. He made his top-level debut at Kentucky in 2016 and has since become a familiar face on the 5* circuit both in the States and across the pond, having contested the two US 5*s and both British ones multiple times. He’s been to Badminton the last two seasons but returns to Kentucky this year for his sixth Horse Park appearance. He finished his 2023 campaign with a career-best result, placing just outside the top-ten at Maryland; earlier in the year he was top-20 at a really tricky Badminton.

It’s no secret that Barnaby’s heart is on the cross country course. His best score in the first phase, 33, came at Maryland in 2021; at Badminton last season he put down a 39.5. But we all know eventing’s not a dressage competition and Barnaby is likely to be a leaderboard climber on cross country day — from 42 FEI competitions, he’s had jumping penalties just four times. Time penalties can run to double figures, and Barnaby’s no spring chicken, but Lillian will be riding the horse that’s underneath her and enjoying his game approach on what is likely to be amongst his last appearances at the level. He’s reliable on the final day, rolling just one pole in each of his 5* competitions last season. It’s such a pleasure to watch these experienced horses still loving their job, and a testament to everyone who takes care of them. If you want to see a horse running cross country with a grin on his face, Barnaby’s your guy.

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38: Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent (GBR)

Produced by Oliver from the start of her eventing career, this exceptional mare has an impressive record: from 19 FEI competitions, she has three wins, five second placings and three third place finishes, only finishing outside the top-7 on three occasions. Last season she won the 4*-S for eight- and nine-year-olds at Blenheim, finishing on her dressage of 24.7, the only competitor to keep a clean sheet across the board, and made her CCI5* debut at Luhmühlen where a green mistake cross country saw her finish in 27th. She obviously stored that learning experience under her cinch though and came back to claim third at Maryland in the fall, where she held her position as clubhouse leader after cross country with a quick-enough clear but dropped down the podium with two rolled poles on the final day. Nevertheless, she sure showed her class at the level and it’ll be exciting to see how she takes to Kentucky.

We can certainly expect a sub-30 dressage score, perhaps even landing in the low-20s — at Maryland she put down a 23.1. She’s unlikely to add much to that come cross country day, having had just that blip at Luhmühlen in her last nine FEI runs and generally keeping any time penalties to single figures. The final phase can be her undoing however; whilst there are plenty more clear rounds than faults on her record, she’s yet to jump clear on the final day of a 5*. This mare is truly an exciting prospect for Oliver — watch this space.

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39: Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II (AUS)

After a two decade hiatus, 2024 marks “Bec” Braitling’s return to the five-star level. Her last crack was in 2003 at Adelaide in her native Australia with her self-produced mare Just A Lady. In the years since, Bec has relocated to Paso Robles, California, though she still rides under the Australian flag, and she’s now partnered with “Ernie” who she owns in partnership with longtime supporters the Arnell family.
Bec first met Ernie while horse shopping overseas for Lauren Burnell, the founder of Arnell Sporthorses. The serendipitous connection was made by Mike and Emma Winter where Bec had a love at first sight moment with the British Sport Horse. Bec recently told the USEA, “I just thought to myself, ‘I am going to take this horse to Kentucky,” and that’s exactly where they’ve landed.

Though this is a five-star debut for Ernie, he did dip a toe in this pond last year contesting the competitive CCI4*-S division where he finished 23rd. He followed that up with a whirlwind European summer vacation that included representing Australia at Aachen as well as completions at Jardy, Hartpury, and Blenheim. The education gained last season is one of their most valuable tools ahead of what will be a memorable weekend for this exciting pair.

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40: Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus (USA)

Everyone’s favorite “Bug” returns to the top of competition level this year after a stall injury forced him to stay on the sidelines last year. Vermiculus’ last major competition was a tiny show called the FEI World Championships for Eventing in Pratoni, Italy, where the pair aided the U.S. in a historic silver medal finish.

Lauren is very excited to bring her veteran partner out again at 5*. He’s 17 years young, but don’t tell him we told you that — he prefers to be thought of as 17 going on 7, if you ask him. This is a pair that stands to be competitive on the weekend, and Lauren’s studious and methodical way of producing horses has contributed to Bug’s long career.

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42: Elisabeth Halliday and Cooley Nutcracker (USA)

It’s difficult to stand out when you live in a barn full of winners like Miks Master C, Fernhill by Night, and Cooley Quicksilver, but Cooley Nutcracker or “Bali” will get the spotlight treatment his week as hometown rider Liz Halliday’s sole entry in the CCI5* division.

Though a first-timer, Bali has certainly proven himself a fierce competitor for Liz, landing on the podium practically more often that not, and most recently winning his last two CCI4*-L competitions. He was first campaigned by French Olympic gold medalist Astier Nicolas before landing in the states only two years ago.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see Liz and Bali stick a high-20s score in the first phase, and he boasts an impressive cross country record with a dozen faultless international results under Liz’s tutelage. Bali usually sees a smattering of time penalties, but there’s no one better to fight the clock with than a former racecar driver. On the final day, Bali is known to rise to the occasion with a double clear result in show jumping.

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43: James Alliston and Karma (USA)

Karma — queen of the barn at Team Alliston — came to Helen and James as a ‘pretty difficult project,’ with a tendency to freeze in the ring. When she arrived at their West Coast base, she was indeed ‘pretty antsy,’ and took a little while to settle. Once she did though, she proved unstoppable and had moved up to the Intermediate level within her first eventing season.

She and James were part of the US Nation’s Cup Team at Military Boekelo-Enschede last year, finishing on their dressage score of 35.9. This talented young mare is rarely out of the top ten and won both the CCI4*-L at Rebecca Farm and the CCI4*-S at Twin Rivers last year. She has won twice this year too, and James will be hoping that she runs as well in the 5* at Kentucky as she did in the 4* last year, when she added just a handful of time faults to her 35.2 dressage score, to finish in 8th place.

Karma’s dressage scores are unlikely to break any records, but what she lacks in the first phase, she more than makes up for in the jumping rounds. “I remember the first time I cross-country schooled her, I was thinking, Oh yeah, we’re on to something here. She’s very natural,” says James, who cut his teeth with Bruce Davidson Sr. Fingers crossed she continues to demonstrate such aptitude, and Team Alliston can return home with a newly minted 5* horse.

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44: Tom McEwen and JL Dublin (GBR)

Could last year’s reserve champion become this year’s Kentucky winner? You’d be hard-pressed to bet against Tom and the former Nicola Wilson mount ‘Dubs’, who became the European Champion in 2021 with his previous rider -– but as with compatriots Yas and Banzai, there are a couple of little question marks here that’ll need to be ironed out if they want to get a spot at the Olympics this summer.

Let’s start with the good: they finished second in their first CCI4*-L together at Boekelo in 2022, before coming to Kentucky for that second place finish last spring. They earned another second place at Little Downham’s CCI4*-S last autumn before heading to Pau and finishing third (nice to break a trend, but we reckon Tom was aiming for the other direction!). This spring, they earned their first win together, taking the CCI4*-S at Kronenberg in the Netherlands from wire to wire.

But then there’s the little whoopsies — like a very late run-out while in contention at Aachen last summer, or a rider fall in the final water at the European Championships on their next outing. They’ve bounced back brilliantly, but there’s a point to prove that’s enough to have sent them across the Atlantic. The stakes are ludicrously high — but it’s hard not to think that this duo have a top-level win in them soon. They’ve got a second and a third place at the level — maybe now it’s time to complete the set on their third attempt.

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45: Doug Payne and Camarillo (USA)

By now, we’ve all see the viral video Doug Payne shared of “Carl” when he was younger and much more “feral” than he’s likely to be these days (though Doug admits you still have to ride this one with both eyes open and a good ability to stay stuck). It’s a testament to patience and belief in what you’ve got that has kept Doug plugging away with this U.S.-bred gelding. And that hard work has begun to pay off: Carl competed here at Kentucky successfully last year, finishing 20th in the Lexington 4*-S before going on to finish 10th in the 4*-L at Tryon later that spring. Doug’s got plans to give Carl the most confidence-boosting rides he can provide to set the 10-year-old up for what we hope will be a lengthy career at the top levels, following in the hoofprints of his well-known stablemates Vandiver and Quantum Leap.

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46: Boyd Martin and On Cue (USA)

The Maryland 5 Star winner from the event’s inaugural year in 2021, On Cue, took some time off from the top levels in 2022 and returned to full competition last year, finishing 10th at Burghley in the fall. She’s 18 years young this year and is eyeing her fourth 5* start. She’s a competitive lady: she’s not finished outside of the top 10 (and has only finished outside of the top 5 once) in three starts at the level.

If Boyd, who works on the flat with his superstar wife Silva as well as German Olympian Bettina Hoy, can secure a mid-20s score that “Cue” has earned before, he’ll be well-placed to make a run for the top of the board in a wide-open field. The mare does have a handful of rails spotting her 5* record, but luckily Boyd has the secret sauce that is Olympic show jumper Peter Wylde in his corner, and they’ll have been fine-tuning the Sunday phase at home in preparation for this run.

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47: Phillip Dutton and Azure (USA)

Bred and produced to CCI4* level by Irish international eventer Elizabeth Power, Azure joined Phillip’s barn in 2022 and made her first 5* start last season at Maryland. An unfortunate mishap with the striding between a double of corners on the cross country there means Phillip’s looking for his first top-level completion with the mare at Kentucky. Trending mid-30s in the first phase — they scored 34.2 at Maryland — they won’t be at the top of the pack once dressage is done, but Azure’s cross country jumping record is seriously impressive; in 24 FEI starts, there’s just one 20 on her score card. She’s no slouch when it comes to the clock either, with a clear inside the time in the 4*-S at Kentucky last spring, where she finished 7th, and another in the 4*-L at Tryon at the end of last season, for third place; she won the 4*-L at Bromont adding just 0.4 penalties across the country and the same in the show jumping.

Azure is generally a one or none kind of gal in the final phase, but she came out this year with a clear round at Bouckaert Farm a few weeks ago, where she finished 7th, and another at Stable View earlier this month, so we’ll see whether things continue in the same vein as the season progresses. Until their fall at Maryland, Azure looked to be eating up the 5* fences, so it’ll be cool to see her take on Kentucky and hopefully fly through those finish flags having climbed the leaderboard.

[RETURN TO TOP]

Kentucky CCI5* At A Glance: The Horses and Riders of The Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event

If you’re a numbers person like myself, then sit back and get ready for a deep dive into the stats and facts of our CCI5* field at the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event. This year’s run brings a lot of diversity, with riders from across the globe pushing to earn their golden ticket to Paris in July. We’ve seen a lot of entry shuffling over the past few weeks (seriously, are you as whiplashed as I am from the back-and-forth of who’s going to Kentucky, who’s going to Badminton, some riders are opting for Stable View — it’s been a scramble) as everyone races to work the system to their best advantage in this incredibly pivotal year.

Several of our usual 5* contenders will actually be seen running in the 4*-S for this reason as well, so while these numbers only reflect our 5* competitors, keep an eye on your favorite pairs as they tackle both courses at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day!

You can view the full drawn order for the CCI5* by clicking here, and be sure to keep an eye out for our Form Guide (coming soon!) for a more thorough investigation into each horse and rider. The drawn order for the CCI4*-S can be found by clicking here.

EN’s coverage of the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is presented by Kentucky Performance Products, your one-stop shop for science-backed nutritional support for all types of horses. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products.

Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event: [Website] [Tickets] [Entries/Drawn Order]

Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event: [Website] [Tickets] [Entries/Drawn Order]

Sunday Links from EcoVet

IT’S KENTUCKY WEEK!! The best weekend all year is here and we are ready. And in true spirit of K3DE week, Liz Halliday is offering meet-and-greet tickets to two lucky winners — attendees can enter here to win, but you need to enter by tomorrow!

So strap in and get out your walking shoes (or your sittin’ sweats if, like me, you’ll be glued to the screen all weekend) and join the party — and make sure to check in regularly here for all Kentucky, all weekend. Additionally, if Kentucky Derby fans get Derby Fever, what do we eventers get? Defender Diphtheria? Three-Day Typhoid? Kentucky Cold Sweats? Vote now on your phones, let’s start a new hashtag.

U.S. Weekend Action

Fair Hill International April H.T. & CCI-S (Elkton, MD) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times][Scoring]

Masterson Equestrian Trust YEH/NEH Qualifier (Lexington, KY) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Meadowcreek Park – The Spring Social Event (Kosse, TX) [Website] [Entries][Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Ocala International Festival of Eventing (Ocala, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Sporting Days Farm April H.T. III (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer][Scoring]

Major International Events

Adelaide Equestrian Festival [Website] [5* Entries] [Schedule] [Scoring] [Live Stream]

UK International Events

Kelsall Hill International [Website] [Entries] [Scoring]

European International Events

Strzegom Spring Open II [Website] [Entries] [Timetable] [Scoring] [Live Stream]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

MARS Bromont Rising Grant Applications Now Open

Two new members appointed to British Eventing’s leadership team

Charlotte Fry and Everdale unfortunately eliminated at FEI Dressage World Cup

Check out some construction updates for the Paris Olympic Games!

Sponsor Corner: Does your horse’s tail look like this? Don’t panic. Reach for Ecovet– the only fly spray repellent that improves insect-related skin sensitivity by stopping insects from landing on the horse in the first place. [Shop now.]

Morning Viewing: Here’s some extra Kentucky hype to start off your week!

Sunday Links from EcoVet

We’re just a couple of weeks away from the #BestWeekendAllYear: the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event. Ahead of this year’s event, there’s plenty of preview content hitting the airwaves. In particular, we’re excited to see what Athletux has been working on with this year’s Behind the Barn video series. Check out the preview:

You can watch previous episodes of Behind the Barn here.

U.S. Weekend Action

Stable View Spring 2/3/4* and H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

CDCTA Spring H.T. (Ruckersville, VA) [Website] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Pine Hill Spring H.T. (Bellville, TX) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Rocking Horse Spring H.T. (Altoona, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Badminton waitlist all accepted – and Harry Meade set to make history

New USEF rule: ‘Night Should Be Dark’

Chronicle of the Horse’s 2024 Readers’ Choice Survey

Athletux is hiring for intern positions

Please take a moment to complete this Sport Horse Nation survey!

Sponsor Corner: Today is the last day to take advantage of EcoVet’s Spring sale! 🐇🌷 Get 25% off your purchase with code ECO2024. Start fly season off right– with the industry’s only fatty-acid fly repellent that also improves insect-related skin sensitivity. [Shop now.]

Morning Viewing: Look at what else has been going on around Stable View this week!

Sunday Links

Valmy, Salty, and Banzai, oh my — “an old winner, all over again” gave a great start to what will be a cutthroat British eventing season as Emily King and Valmy Biats took their second consecutive Grantham Cup win at Thoresby’s Spring Carnival of Eventing. Maryland’s reigning heroes Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue set themselves up nicely in second place, with current World Champions Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir clinching an extremely close third.

Meanwhile, some of our U.S. faves have been conquering some 4*-S of their own on both coasts at Galway and TerraNova, where Tamie Smith and Alyssa Phillips cleaned house this weekend. If the past few months have felt like the longest winter on record for you too, you’ll probably share my enthusiasm in welcoming our world’s biggest players back into the scene!

U.S. Weekend Action

Bouckaert Equestrian H.T. (Fairburn, GA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Scoring]

Galway Downs International H.T. (Temecula, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer][Scoring] [Live Stream]

Jumping Branch Farm Spring H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Morven Park Spring H.T. (Leesburg, VA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

The Event at TerraNova (Myakka City, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring] [Live Stream]

International Events

BEDE Events’ Thoresby Eventing Spring Carnival (UK) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Scoring] [Live Stream]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Rats and human urine to blame in recent positive dope tests

Libby Seed: From the Operating Theatre to the 5* Stage

Now On Course: Bondi Beach Brings Tyler Hope During Her Darkest Days

What Is It About Spring Grass That Makes My Horse’s Body Grumble?

What Makes a Great Jump?

Morning Viewing: Here’s a bit of deja vu for you on this fine Sunday morning — Emily and Valmy take to the track, but from one year ago! Catch their 2022 winning round here, and take notes to compare with this year’s epic back-to-back champion run.

Sunday Links from SRF Carolina International

When you’re just a horse-crazy kid, who happens to be the trainers daughter, and your birthday happens to coincide with the first schooling event of the season, obviously you have to make a big deal of it all. Shout out to Kacie Preysz who made a viral-worthy eventing-themed cake for my barn group in honor of young Brooklynn’s birthday, which was almost too cool to eat. It’s even a West coast track-based course, appropriate for our Utah venue, complete with flagged water complex, coop, rock wall, and brush box. Setting the standard here everyone — if you can’t eat the course, is it even worth it?

Happy birthday to my favorite Pony Squad member Brooklyn Taylor — unfortunately, the little horse and rider aren’t edible.

U.S. Weekend Action

Full Gallop Farm March II H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Scoring] [Volunteer]

March Horse Trials at Majestic Oaks (Reddick, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Texas Rose Horse Park H.T. (Tyler, TX)[Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

European Events

Outdoor Horst (Kronenberg, Netherlands) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Schedule] [Scoring] [Live Stream]

Other Events

Road to the Horse (Lexington, Kentucky) March 21-24 [Website] [Schedule] [Competition Format] [Live Stream]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Studies reveal dressage judges have been rewarding behind-the-vertical head carriage

A Young Professional’s Perspective on Equestrian Canada’s Coach Status Program

Booli Selmayr And Urania Are Back On Track With Carolina International Win

A New Chapter: Equine Network Launches Foundation

Time for a Re-read: The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels, Your Ultimate Resource

Sponsor Corner: Couldn’t get to Carolina International this year? Relive the action with this wrap-up article… and mark your calendar for next year!

Morning Viewing: Learn some cool tips to practice your flying changes with Yasmin Ingham! Apparently, I don’t actually have to look where I’m going after all.

Sunday Links from SRF Carolina International

Course designing for decades apparently has hidden health benefits, because I can tell you right now that I will not be in any shape to catch ride a 5-year-old at Training level in my 70s. Not only did Ian Stark take a jaunt around Carolina today, but was also celebrated as he begins his final year in course design. Our sport truly won’t be the same without him!

In other news, Liz Halliday casually dominated the 4*-S this weekend, taking not only the win on Ocala Horse Properties and Deborah Palmer’s ever-incredible Miks Master C, but fifth as well on Cooley Nutcracker. Caroline Pamukcu took second with Meghan O’Donoghue third and Sydney Elliot in fourth, making a female power-team in the top five. Check out Cheg’s play-by-play here as they battled it out for the win. Truly a strong start to the 2024 season!

U.S. Weekend Action

Carolina International CCI & H.T. (Raeford, NC) [Website] [Schedule] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Cross Country Maps] [Live Scores] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Ocala Winter II (Ocala, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Pine Top Spring H.T. (Thomson, GA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Ram Tap National H.T. (Fresno, CA) [Scoring] [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer]

International Events

FEI Eventing Nations Cup Leg 1 (Montelibretti, Italy) [Website] [Timetable] [Entries] [Show Jumping Live Stream] [Cross Country Live Stream]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

As predicted! EquiRatings was right on track with Liz Halliday’s win

An Affront To American Breeders

Meet Our Community Outreach Organizations: Metropolitan Equestrian Team

The VIP Volunteer: Jim Moyer Earns 2023 USEA Volunteer of the Year Award

Morning Viewing: Check out Liz Halliday’s winning show jumping round from Carolina here, courtesy of Horse & Country:

Sunday Links from SRF Carolina International

The first CCI4*-S of the Olympic season is officially under our belts, and we can already feel the heat as our riders came out swinging. Despite near-flood conditions at the start requiring some phase rearrangements, the awesome folks behind the Bouckaert Equestrian H.T. International (aka The Event Formerly Known as Chatt Hills) really pulled out all the stops and managed to put on yet another fantastic opening show, complete with what seems to be a unanimously infamous new resident arachnid on course.

After what was likely rather soggy runs around the cross country course on Friday, and as the field’s fastest rider still coming in 11.6 seconds over time, Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol HIM held on to their lead with a beautifully double-clear show jump round to take the win on a 43.3. Despite a dropped rail, Phillip Dutton maintained his second-place position on new partner Jewelent (previously campaigned by Ireland’s Clare Abbott) to end the day on a 47.6. Repping for New Zealand, Joe Meyer climbed up the leaderboard from 14th to finish in third aboard Harbin, ending on 50.6 with huge smiles all around.

While our upper-level riders have already concluded their weekend for the weekend, there are still Novice through Preliminary levels to go as we finish out today. Check out EN’s show preview for more info on this event, and stay tuned for Gillian’s full report coming soon. This coming weekend will mark 2024’s first 4*-L with a favorite — our Sunday Links sponsor Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International CCI and Horse Trials — so watch this space as EN gets back into show season mode with event reports coming at ya on the regular! Go Eventing!

U.S. Weekend Action

Bouckaert Equestrian H.T. International (Fairburn, GA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Scoring]

Full Gallop Farm March I H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Scoring] [Volunteer]

SAzEA Spring H.T. (Tucson, AZ) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Southern Pines H.T. I (Raeford, NC)[Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

International Events

Land Rover Horse of the Year (Hastings, New Zealand) [Website] [Program] [Equestrian Schedule] [Eventing Schedule] [Eventing Live Scores] [Live Stream]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Participate in Noelle Floyd’s Market Research Study for a chance to win!

West Coast, Best Coast: Intercollegiate Eventing Heats Up at Galway Downs & Twin Rivers Ranch

At the end of the day, do stunts like “Mankini-Gate” generate interest in horse sports?

And speaking of minimalistic attire, what’s the point of riding bridleless? A Q&A with Brendan Wise

USEA Events A-Z: Jumping Branch Farm in Aiken

Sponsor Corner: Only three days left until the Yanmar America CCI4*-S cross country course walk! If you’re attending the SRF Carolina International 4*, you can’t miss walking the course with International 5* Eventer Ariel Grald. The course walk starts at 1pm, so [RSVP here!]

Morning Viewing: I’m always here for a side-by-side, so here are two runs by Will Coleman at the Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field — one winning round aboard Chin Tonic HS last weekend, and one aboard 8th place finisher Obos O’Reilly in the inaugural 2019 event. What a difference five years can make!

Sunday Links from SRF Carolina International

Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS. Photo by Sally Spickard. Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS. Photo by Sally Spickard.

And just because he could, Will Coleman showed up to the 2024 $100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field with a vengeance, starting out the 2024 season with both first and second place prizes. Taking #AnEventLikeNoOther by storm (quite literally, see yesterday’s News and Notes to catch a soggy Sally and Shelby in action), Will and Hyperion Stud’s Chin Tonic HS finished on a 30.5 with the blue ribbon as predicted, adding just four seconds to their dressage score with even more to spare at the end of the day. Will’s second-place round on Off The Record, owned by the Off the Record Syndicate, was only a few points behind on a 33.2, just one second off their dressage score as well.

GPE 2022 champions Boyd Martin and the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B followed behind Will in third place, nearly five points behind Chin Tonic’s leading score at 35.3. Liz Halliday, three-time GPE champion, managed to finish within the top 10 aboard all three of her mounts, along with New Zealand’s Monica Spencer, Liz’s recent Pan Am teammates Sydney Elliott and Sharon White, and 2023’s reserve champion Doug Payne.

Thanks to Will, Team Green in the Ride For Charity Team Challenge will also take the win, earning some big prize money for the Aiken County Pony Club. Second and third place Teams Purple and Orange will also receive donations to their charities, Battlefront Outdoors and Tri-Development Center, respectively. And speaking of prize money, thanks to the increase in winnings from $50K to $100K this year, I’m sure Will is leaving with quite the happy wallet.

U.S. Weekend Action

2024 $100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Scores] [Ride For Charity Teams] [Ride For Charity Online Vote] [Volunteer] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Full Gallop Farm March Wednesday H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Rocking Horse Winter III H.T. (Altoona, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Sporting Days Farm March H.T. II (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Twin Rivers Winter H.T. (Paso Robles, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

International Events

Portuguese Spring Tour (Mata do Duque) [Timetable] [Entries] [Scoring] [Portuguese Eventing Association Facebook Page] [More Info]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Back From The Brink: California Eventer Lindsey Smith Returns To The Ring After Devastating Fall

Laughter and Learning at the 2024 Ocala Horse Properties USEA YEH Symposium

CHP is back! All About the Bayou Gulch Horse Trials

Training in the Right Way: The Components of an Effective Warmup

Studs 101: Max Corcoran’s Guide to Perfecting Your Stud-Kit

Sponsor Corner: Have you noticed some colorful new ponies around the Carolina Horse Park? The 5th Annual Painted Ponies Art Walk is here! The 16 Painted Ponies will be on display until April 2nd and will be auctioned off on April 6th, with all proceeds going to benefit the Carolina Horse Park Foundation. [Learn more here]

Morning Viewing: Because I will never deprive anyone of Chin Tonic, here are his and Will Coleman’s leading rounds from this weekend — never relinquishing first place in any phase. What a way to start the season!

Dressage:

Show Jumping:

Meet the Field: $100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field

Please join us in welcoming a full roster of top quality horses and riders to this year’s Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Festival at Bruce’s Field, presented by Taylor Harris Insurance Services.

We’ve reformatted our traditional Form Guide for 2024, opting for a graphics approach for shorter events. You’ll still get the full write-up on background for each pair at major 5* and championship events, but this quick and easy look at each pair provides a glimpse at their info, as well as their probability of winning or finishing in the top 3.

For this, we’ve teamed up with EquiRatings and their Prediction Centre, which pulls from their robust database of stats and performance figures. You can check out the Prediction Centre for Grand-Prix Eventing here.

The graphics are arranged in Order of Go, which you can also view here.

$100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Ride For Charity Teams] [Ride For Charity Online Vote] [Volunteer] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [Ultimate Guide]

We’re pleased to introduce Deirdre Stoker Vaillancourt, with her robust expertise and portfolio of property options in the Aiken area, as the sponsor of our coverage of the Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Festival at Bruce’s Field. Seasonal or year-round, southern charm and the sporting lifestyle await you in Aiken!

Sunday Links from SRF Carolina International

You can collect them all! Take your pick of Carolina International CCI4* competitors and add them to your Equiratings Eventing Manager team. Trade them with your friends Pokémon-style, and wait in line at the midnight release to get the ultra-rare shiny Will Coleman.

U.S. Weekend Action

Full Gallop Farm Mid February H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Pine Top Advanced (Thomson, GA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Three Lakes Winter II H.T. at Caudle Ranch (Groveland, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Free USEA Digital Memberships Awarded to Volunteers for 2024

Lauren O’Connor: Surviving Years of #MeToo Turmoil and Healing Through Horses

Q&A: How has the path changed for ambitious young riders without the budget to pursue the top sport?

Liz Halliday’s three-step process to teaching young horses over narrow fences

Sponsor Corner: Calling all volunteers near the Carolina Horse Park! The Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International CCI and HT on March 14th through 17th is looking for volunteers. Choose from a half day or full day shift and get to enjoy all the eventing action from right in the thick of it. No experience needed! Learn more [here].

Morning Viewing: You’re twelve years old aboard a pony named Cupcake or Sparkles, pulling up to the Beginner Novice warmup wearing your hot pink tie-dye cross country colors, just to queue at the start box behind Boyd Martin and a spicy baby Thoroughbred. Oh, but then you beat him because he racked up time penalties from going too fast.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Boyd Martin (@boydmartineventing)

Sunday Links from SRF Carolina International

Carolina International’s new ribbons are looking good, and they’ll look even better on your horse’s bridle 😉

In preparation for the first CCI4*-S of the 2024 season, join the effort tomorrow, February 19th, to clean up the grounds and beautify the Carolina Horse Park! Some Park Clean Up Day jobs include painting fences, cleaning signs and branch removal, and volunteers of all ages are welcome. Many hands make light work! Lunch and refreshments are provided, so sign up here to join together in brightening up the Park and its community.

U.S. Weekend Action

Jumping Branch Farm H.T. (Aiken, SC)[Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Ocala Winter I (Ocala, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Ram Tap H.T. (Fresno, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Take a dive into Lara de Liedekerke-Meier’s excellent competitive stats

Honorary Event Chair Mark Wahlberg to host benefit event “Equestrians in Paris” for the US Olympic and Paralympic teams

Are Exosomes the Future of Suspensory Injury Healing?

West Tennessee Pony Clubbers Launch Business to Help Thoroughbred Rescues and Horses in Need

California breeders jump on the Jaguar foal train

Sponsor Corner: Competitors will get to take a crack at some new cross country fences at the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International! Take a look behind the scenes as these beautiful new fences are installed on course.

Morning Viewing: If this wasn’t your dream job as a horse-crazy child… you’re lying.

Sunday Links from SRF Carolina International

That’s right, it’s already that time of year! Somehow, the 2023 season ended just last week and 2024’s is just starting tomorrow. Head down to the Carolina Horse Park March 14-17 for an event to really kick off what is looking to be an intense Olympic Year of competition. The folks at the Setter’s Run Farm Carolina International are already hard at work getting some very pretty logs going, as well as some rather large cabins in the back there.

While this year will start (especially for us here behind the stall curtain at EN) at the Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field showcase, our first CCI4* at Carolina is highly anticipated as we begin the nail-biting wait for our long and shortlists for Paris 2024. We only get this high-stakes atmosphere every four years, so take advantage of it and come watch our favorites battle it out!

U.S. Weekend Action

Pine Top Intermediate H.T. (Thomson, GA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Rocking Horse Winter II H.T. (Altoona, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Evie Dutton joins Olivia and Phillip back in the ring!

The Emotional Struggle: Selling Horses When You Don’t Sell Horses

Explore their stories: The Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry

What the Future of Taking Footage at Events Can Look Like with The Pegasus App

Head over to @BritishEquestrian_Official to learn all about Female Health February and how it impacts us as riders and athletes

Sponsor Corner: The Carolina Club is back at the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International CCI4*! Who can resist mimosas and charcuterie boards on Thursday and an all day open bar on Friday? 🥂 Get your ticket or reserve a table for eight [here].

Morning Viewing: And just because we’re that excited, here are some of our favorite upper-level riders discussing just why the Carolina International is the perfect start to anyone’s season.

Sunday Links from Etalon Equine Genetics


Disappointing to Silva as it may be, a little Leo + Emma victory gallop is exactly what we all needed today. As Leo Mic’d Up Part 2.5, it looks like Mini Martin is learning only the most important equestrian skills. It’s a real stretch to try to discern where on earth he could have gotten this fist pump move from…

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

U.S. Weekend Action

Galway Downs 2024 Kickoff H.T. (Temecula, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Sporting Days Farm February Trials H.T. II (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Three Lakes Winter I H.T. at Caudle Ranch (Groveland, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

MIEF will award four $1,000 scholarships to FEI riders competing at the July Maryland International Horse Trials

Behind-the-scenes of MIM clips and reverse pins with KY3DE course builder Levi Ryckewaert

Anonymous Trainer Poll: “What is one radical change that you believe would completely change our industry for the better?”

Panelists & Riders Announced for the 2024 Ocala Horse Properties USEA YEH Symposium

Lake Erie College: Where Equestrian Career Dreams Can Become Reality

Sponsor Corner: How can Etalon Equine Genetics inform the purchase of your next horse? They recently released the new “Build-a-Horse” app that takes into account a horse’s temperament, speed, performance & abilities, health & disease risks, and more.

Morning Viewing: Tune in for an excellent (and vital) presentation given by Chief of Sport David O’Connor at the 2024 US Equestrian Annual Meeting, titled “Working Together for our Future: Our Collective Responsibility for Ensuring the Future of Equine Activities”.