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Niki Hinman

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Doughnuts and Olympic Dreams for Falco and Tim Price

Tim Price and Falco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Falco is fast becoming a superstar, and could be tipped for the Olympic team in Paris come 2024 — he’s now the number one ride of Marlborough-based New Zealand event rider Tim Price.

The 13-year old pocket rocket (he’s a “nuggety” 16hh) certainly has diva-like tendencies to suit the big stage: he likes the occasional doughnut, and is described by Tim as “a bit of a cheeky brat who uses a ‘spooky’ card”.

“He’s always been cheeky,” Tim said. “He’ll spin, he’ll bugger about. The bell would have gone for the dressage and he’s stood up on his hind legs and spun around. But I just ignore that kind of thing. He is an incredibly unique character. I’ve never known another horse like him. He was never really pitching himself as a top level eventer through those first six years.

“He’s been an enthusiastic and rather too exuberant jumper from the beginning,” Tim described. “But he is incredibly intelligent and he has learned how to adapt and perfect his skills. We have had a lot of bumps in the road and while he has made mistakes, he has never made the same mistake twice.”

Falco is owned by another Marlborough-based equestrian legend, Sue Benson, described by Tim as an owner of a lifetime. Sue, the London Olympics 2012 Cross Country course designer, has a phenomenal equestrian CV from the 70’s to the 90’s when she represented Great Britain at three European championships, finished second at Badminton and third at Burghley, amongst other things.

Sue says she picked Tim to ride Falco seven years ago, as he was nearby at Mere Farm near Mildenhall in Marlborough. But a choice of convenience has emerged as a partnership of magnificence. “Although initially location was the main factor for choosing Tim, the coincidence is that he is now regarded as one of the best riders in the world,” Sue said.

Tim Price and Falco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“By this time I was no longer competing myself so I only wanted him because I didn’t want anyone else to have him!” Sue recalled. “His sale price was not within my perceived budget but I released some inherited investments and purchased him anyway. I wanted him because he was beautiful. He had presence. He moved with such lightness of step, his eye was big, dark and full of glee. It’s such a cliché, but he literally jumped like a stag; effortless but with such joy. He appeared to be the ultimate athlete.”

“It was only 12 months ago that I started noticing the change in him,” Tim continued. “I really noticed it at Burnham Market where he won the Advanced class, and thought, ‘you are different now.’”

Now, Tim has the Luhmühlen 5* in Gemany in his sights this June, followed by the World Equestrian Games, and then hopefully the Paris Olympics in two years’ time.

“He is definitely a championship team horse. We might get in a couple of Badmintons too,” added Tim.

In 2021, after six long years, Tim and Falco excited the equestrian world when winning both their Millstreet 4* and Pau 5*, back to back.

“When I think of Falco I think of Tim, and when I think of Tim I think of Falco,” Sue explained. “They are a partnership which can never be separated. Bonded by their many successes — and a few failures — their combined belief in each other has united them.”

Falco was bred in Germany to jump, but Sue says dressage was easy for him as well, and says she won every dressage competition she entered on him, before deciding to find another rider to bring him on further.

“Even after seven years with Tim he is not the finished article,” she added. “I believe he can still improve.

“I believe he wants to improve and I believe he longs for more mileage! He never looks happier than when he is doing what he does best: competing with his best friend Tim Price at the controls.”

‘Everything I Could Have Wished For’: Catching Up with David Doel after Top 10 Finish at First Badminton

David Doel earns a much-deserved moment in the spotlight with Galileo Nieuwmoed. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Badminton first-timer David Doel says he is “just buzzing” after finishing sixth in the 2022 event, presented by MARS Equestrian. David was the best-performing Badminton debutant, and rolled up the leader board from eleventh to sixth place as the show jumping phase played out.

“I am absolutely thrilled, just buzzing right now!” said David, whose yard, Redbridge Eventing is just a 20 minute drive from the event. “I was hoping to get in the top 20, but sixth is incredible. Galileo was amazing, and I could not have done this with out my great grooms and training team. I expect we will be going to the pub to celebrate tonight!”

Laura Collett took first place, on London 52. Runner-up Ros Canter was the only rider to finish on her dressage score with Lordships Graffalo, while Oliver Townend cemented his world number one position with third and fifth places on Swallow Springs and Ballaghmor Class.

David is hoping to make his mark for British team selection and is now looking for a year of top level consistency. He put in an impressive cross country round on the 11-year-old Galileo Nieuwmoed, owned by Gillian Jonas, putting him into 11th place ahead of the show jumping, where poles down for William Fox-Pitt and Kitty King saw him nudge ahead to a final sixth place on the leaderboard. David puts his success down to a lot of prep and fitness work with one of his trainers Nick Turner, as well as support from his team at the event itself.

David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I spoilt myself and brought along two grooms,” he said. “We were expecting to have the two horses, but only the one made it in, but that was definitely worthwhile.” His other mount, Ferro Point, didn’t make it off the wait list.

One of the two grooms was Claire Lintern, who was smiling from ear to ear walking Galileo back to the boxes after the prize giving ceremony in the arena at the end of the first Badminton in three years. “I’m so thrilled and really proud,” she said. “But I don’t know if I will make the pub — I’m more ready for bed!”

While David and the team are heading for a well deserved pint down the pub, David says it’s going to be business as usual for the next week.

“I have four horses running at Aston Le Walls on Wednesday and Chatsworth at the weekend, so back to normality and working with the young horses pretty quickly.”

After a gap of three years, support for the Badminton event was huge: 180,000 visitors attended over the four days, and the many trade stands did a roaring trade, delighted to be back.

“It was everything I could have wished for,” said Event Director Jane Tuckwell. “Lots of happy people, fantastic result, wonderful sponsors in our presenting partner Mars Equestrian and our official partner Lifesource BP. It’s a dream come true at last. Bring on 2023.”

To catch up on all of EN’s coverage of the 2022 Badminton Horse Trials, click here.

David Doel is a Man with a Plan at Badminton

Davie Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed trot up for the Ground Jury on Wednesday at Badminton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

David Doel is going to his first Badminton with a plan: he wants to make the British team.

His CV says it all, and this charmingly modest, mild-mannered farmer’s son sees Badminton this weekend as the next logical step in his hopes for team glory with the British equestrian team.

“I need consistency with results,” he explained. “I’m aiming for the top 15 at Badminton now. That should be realistic. And then a year at the top level with Galileo should give us the right sort of exposure.”

David is currently ranked at 16 in the British Eventing ratings and is steadily creeping his way up. He’ll be taking his impressive 17.2 Galileo, owned by Gillian Jones, to his first Badminton where he’ll ride dressage on Friday toward the end of the day.

“Galileo was sent to me to sell originally, and I didn’t actually really like him to begin with,” said David. “He was this slightly gawky looking thing, but he just kept producing the results. But I love him now. And yes – he definitely sees himself as a star.”

David’s Reybridge Eventing yard is on his parent’s farm, nestled in the hills between Chippenham and Calne. The stables are in converted cattle sheds, and it’s a real family affair at the the farm, which has been in David’s family for generations.

Dad Tony has a 350 head of dairy herd, producing milk for Cadbury’s chocolate and a sideline in ice cream from his Lacock Dairy Ice cream.

“I have a job trying to sell ice cream for him in between all the riding!” said David. “I don’t have to wear any ice cream branded stuff though, thankfully!”

David also earns a bit of cash driving HGV lorries over the winter. “It’s something a bit different, and you can get stuck on the yard sometimes, so it’s good to do other things too.”

As David heads to Badminton, he has the solid reinforcement of Nick Turner for jumping training and Adam Kemp for flatwork training. “They have been instrumental in putting together processes and plans to make sure the horses get into shape for Badminton.”

David’s mum Maggie has been instrumental in David’s steady rise. He is still just 29 years old, but his equestrian CV is impressive. “I never felt pressured to ride,” he said. “I was in the Avon Vale pony club, did the pony club championships and just kept progressing really. I never had fancy horses, but slightly tricky ones which we produced.”

David rode in his first BE competition in March 2007, when he was just 14. He left school after doing his GCSEs at 16. He went on to the Pony Trials, and then in 2011 was the British Under 18 national champion, following this with a bronze in the Team GB Young Riders in 2014.

In the ensuing eight years he moved to the senior competitions — “a noticeable leap” — and starting punching his weight in 2019 to number 12 in the BE ranking and 72 in the FEI world ranking.

“We had some good results,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky, but we have a long term plan.” Some of that success, says David, is down to how his mum has framed “the buzz” or the pre competition nerves.

“Mum was fantastic when I was younger,” David explained. “Even when I was a child, she would say ‘can you feel that buzz?’ And then say ‘isn’t that great? That means you will do well’.”

“She talks about the buzz being good. So rather than feeling nervous as such, I now always have it in my mind that it is a good thing, and a positive force. Some people see being nervous or edgy as a bad thing, but I don’t. It’s just great and exciting.”

He does admit to having the jitters along the way — the first time he jumped at Burghley being one time. “It was one of those times when I actually felt sick,” he said. “I was about 20th to go and only about five had got round before me, which kind of made it worse! We did make it round, and I had a plan, which went ok. But that was one of the only times I have felt a bit sick before going cross country!”

David’s yard team are there for him too at a yard which seems to put planning and a family atmosphere first. He does his cross country training at Rabson Manor, near Marlborough, Larkhill and Boomerang.

“It is like a big family here,” said David. “I live just up the road from Mum and Dad, and we socialise a couple of times a week with the yard girls. To get Galileo and myself to Badminton it is a massive process. This all started about two years ago, to make sure he has the right qualifications for it.”

“So that planning side of it was eighteen months ago, and between then and now, the team starts around seven-thirty in the morning through til about five,” he explained. “I have a fantastic group here. We try to have a nice time, and it is really a family yard. We socialise two or three times together. We have a real team ethic here.”

Vet Peter Milligan and farrier Gary Urch are also nearby, while Kelly Davies runs the yard, having previously worked for Steph Thompson and Zara Phillips. He’s supported by Voltaire for saddles, and Kate Negus does his bridles and leather. Gain supplies the feed — it’s a true village.

David is already working his plan beyond Badminton. But says the horses determine what the plan is. “If he runs well at Badminton, we will aim for Pau,” he said.

“No athlete can sustain eight months of galloping, so we make sure the horses get a proper rest in between,” he continued. “Badminton takes a lot out of them so we will give Galileo a decent recovery time. We make sure that the plan is right for the horses and not the other way around.”

David wears the number 113 at Badminton, and will be in the dressage arena on Friday afternoon.

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