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Badminton 2019 At-A-Glance: Meet the Riders

Welcome to 2019’s edition of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, where the stakes are high and the hopes are higher. We’ve got a (very nearly) full house of 84 horses taking part this week, spread across 74 riders. As we tiptoe ever closer to the start of the competition, let’s get to know this year’s competitors…

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntries, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s Course PreviewEN’s Form GuideEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Badminton 2019: The Worldwide Watching Guide

Watching dressage at Badminton!

There’s nothing in the world that’s better – in my humble opinion – than being at Badminton, with its relentless pulse of energy and its pervasive sense of stopped time. But if you can’t make it this year, then fear not – you’ll be able to follow along with all the action as it happens, no matter where in the world you are.

HOW TO WATCH:

Every phase of the event – including both horse inspections – will be live-streamed directly through Badminton’s website. This is accessible for viewers worldwide, and you can tune into Radio Badminton for additional colour commentary and plenty of expert guests, too. (If you’re on site, we recommend picking up a headset and tuning into this excellent audio service, too – it’s just £10 and will provide an enormous amount of extra insight and entertainment.)

If you’re a UK viewer, there are two major exceptions to your access of the Badminton live-stream. Both the cross-country phase and the final showjumping section will be broadcast on the BBC’s Red Button service. Otherwise, you’re free to live-stream your life away.

Chinch wearing his Radio Badminton headset — ready for cross-country day!

“Alexa, who’s in the lead?”

If you’re the owner of an Amazon Echo, you can enable the Badminton skill, which will allow you to ask for live updates, tune into flash interviews, find out about tickets, stay up-to-date on local travel information, and much, much more.

Badminton has provided a list of some example questions, including…

  • What was Izzy Taylor’s dressage score?
  • When is Michael Jung’s dressage test?
  • Did Star Witness pass the trot up?
  • How did Chris Burton do today?

No word, yet, on whether Alexa can help us figure out the new flag rule.

SCHEDULE:

Wednesday, 1 May:

  • First horse inspection: 16.30 – 18.00 p.m. BST/11.30 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. EST. Available worldwide via the Badminton live-stream.

Thursday, 2 May:

  • Dressage: 9.00 a.m. – 17.00 p.m. BST/4.oo a.m. – 12.00 p.m. EST. Available worldwide via the Badminton live-stream, with French commentary for French and Belgian residents via Equideo, and with German commentary for German and Austrian residents via Horse&Country TV.

Friday, 3 May:

  • Dressage: 9.00 a.m. – 17.00 p.m. BST/4.oo a.m. – 12.00 p.m. EST. Available worldwide via the Badminton live-stream, with French commentary for French and Belgian residents via Equideo, and with German commentary for German and Austrian residents via Horse&Country TV.

Saturday, 4 May:

  • Cross-country: 11.30 a.m. – 17.00 p.m. BST/ 6.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. EST. Available via the BBC for UK viewers, with French commentary for French and Belgian residents via Equideo, with German commentary for German and Austrian residents via Horse&Country TV, and to the rest of the world via the Badminton live-stream.

Sunday, 5 May:

  • Final horse inspection: 8.30 a.m. BST/3.30 a.m. EST. Available worldwide via the Badminton live-stream.
  • First jumping session: 11.30 a.m. BST/6.30 a.m. EST. Available worldwide via the Badminton live-stream, with French commentary for French and Belgian residents via Equideo, and with German commentary for German and Austrian residents via Horse&Country TV.
  • Final jumping session: 14.00 p.m. BST/9.00 a.m. EST. Available via the BBC for UK viewers, with French commentary for French and Belgian residents via Equideo, with German commentary for German and Austrian residents via Horse&Country TV, and to the rest of the world via the Badminton live-stream.

Chinch: the only winner of #JodhpurWatch.

PREVIEWS AND REVIEWS

Want to build up the hype? Check out Horse&Country TV’s hour-long preview show, available now. They’ll also be running an hour-long highlights programme, which will air on their TV channel (UK only) and on their website on 21.00 p.m. BST/4.00 p.m. EST on Sunday, 12 May.

For UK viewers only, BBC2 will run a cross-country highlights show from 12.30 – 14.00 p.m. BST on Sunday, 5 May, prior to airing the final jumping session.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntries, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s Course PreviewEN’s Form GuideEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Badminton Entries: Defending Champion Withdrawn

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet take Badminton 2018. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials entry list has been hit by another high-profile withdrawal. Jonelle Price announced this morning that she’s made the decision to withdraw Classic Moet, the sixteen-year-old British-bred Sports Horse mare with whom she took the title last year.

“Sadly we have made the tough decision this morning to withdraw Classic Moet from Badminton Horse Trials,” reads the statement released on Facebook earlier this morning. “We have struggled with her feet in this unseasonably dry spring and it’s no secret that she likes a bit of rain! I was very much looking forward to defending our title but it’s obviously not meant to be this time around … wishing all the competitors and connections the very best of luck, I’ll be there to cheer you on!”

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet check out their new piece of silverware at Badminton 2018. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Price family will nonetheless be ably represented by Jonelle’s husband Tim, who rides his Burghley winner Ringwood Sky Boy and Bango. Tim finished third in last week’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, riding Xavier Faer.

“Tim – it’s all down to you to keep the trophy with Team Price now, no pressure,” quips Jonelle.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntries, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s Course PreviewEN’s Form GuideEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Kentucky Show Jumping Open Thread, Presented by SmartPak

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Happy Final-Day-of-Kentucky, intrepid eventing fans! I’m just casually sitting here with sweaty palms, thinking about everything to come. Is it healthy to maintain a really elevated heart rate for an entire day? Is it going to supercharge my metabolism so I end up looking like Kate Moss despite having just Bruce Bogtrotter-ed a chocolate cake into my face? God, I hope so.

One thing that didn’t end up giving me the fear was this morning’s final horse inspection, which saw all 31 of our cross-country finishers pass to showjumping, without so much as a hold. You guys don’t need me to tell you how rare this is, particularly at the five-star level.

We’ll be getting underway shortly, with our first rider heading into the ring at 1.00 p.m. That’ll be Dom Schramm, who rides Bolytair B. Then, we’ll head down the line-up in reverse order of placing, getting sweatier as we go. Forgive my typos; slippery fingers. (Eugh.)

Your leaders going into the showjumping.

You can tune in via USEF Network or Horse & Country TV if you’re in Europe. To tide you over – for now – check out Maggie Deatrick’s analysis of our leaders’ jumping stats. For one last time – let’s do this thang.

#LRK3DE: WebsiteScheduleStart TimesLive ScoresHow to Watch LiveEN’s Ultimate GuideUSEF NetworkHorse & Country TVEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

4.02 p.m.

3.29 p.m.

3.28 p.m.

3.27 p.m.

3.25 p.m.

3.24 p.m.

3.09 p.m.

3.08 p.m.

2.59 p.m.

Can we just take a second to mention how remarkable that clear round of Tsetserleg’s was? TOTALLY defied the stats!

2.55 p.m.

What an amazing performance – back-to-back wins for Oliver, and  a first ever 5* national championship win for Boyd!

2.54 p.m.

CLEAR! Oliver and Cooley Master Class win again!

2.54 p.m. SO CLOSE at the liverpool, but clear!

2.53 p.m.

An awkward jump over the triple bar but clear so far

2.53 p.m.

Leader and reigning champ in now!

2.51 p.m.

YES BOYD YES BOYD YES BOYD OUR NATIONAL CHAMPION YEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

2.50 p.m.

FORKING SHIRTBALLS THAT WAS CLOSE

2.50 p.m.

Odds-off for a clear round. Is reverse commentator’s curse a thing?

2.49 p.m.

BOYD IS IN NOW, MY HEART CANNOT TAKE ANYMORE

2.49 p.m.

CLEAR! MY HEART IS GOING TO EXPLODE. IS IT THE CAKE OR THE EXCITEMENT WHO KNOWSSSS

2.48 p.m.

Some riding from Tim at the liverpool! I think I just pulled a muscle in my bum cheek from tensing so hard

2.47 p.m.

Xavier Faer really likes to dangle his front legs and it is GIVING ME A HEART ATTACK

2.46 p.m.

Phillip and Z drop below Felix. What a WEIRD moment. Tim Price and Xavier Faer in now – second leg of the Grand Slam if he manages it.

2.45 p.m.

YIKES Z. Legs everywhere, what a miss! Two rails so far.

2.44 p.m.

P Dutty and Z in now! Who will win the US 5* National Championship this year?!

2.43 p.m.

My stomach flips when they cheer after the treble – our British horses aren’t used to that! But they’re clear, phew! 33.5 finishing score for them. #YEAROFTHEPIG

2.42 p.m.

Red is looking an awful lot more professional today after some surprising green moments yesterday.

2.41 p.m.

What are we doing now? We are #GETTINGPIGGYWITHIT

2.40 p.m.

Oh, and now he has a rail. I need to stop being so thirsty for a good seat. Felix drops below Doug.

2.39 p.m.

This is all looking very stylish, and very Swiss. Felix could pass as a pure showjumper.

2.38 p.m.

These two have been seriously impressive all week – it’s Switzerland’s Felix Vogg and Colero. And damn, what a canter this horse has.

2.37 p.m.

SO speedy and clear for Doug and Vandiver! They nearly FOD this weekend – just 0.4 time yesterday stops them.

2.36 p.m.

Doug Payne and Vandiver in now! Love Doug’s grey outfit. #FASHUN

2.35 p.m.

Just the one rail down for Lauren – two in the top ten for her!

2.34 p.m.

Vermiculus looks like he’s fuelled by his opinions. I LOVE HIM.

2.33 p.m.

Lauren Kieffer is back in now, this time on the very cool little Vermiculus.

2.31 p.m.

Just the one rail and 0.8 time for Ariel and Leamore Master Plan. They move below Lauren and Paramount Importance. What an impressive pair these two are – a serious horse and a very, very exciting up-and-coming rider for the Americans.

2.30 p.m. 

Argh – a rail mid-course drops Ariel three places. They clear the liverpool beautifully, though.

2.29 p.m.

Debutantes Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan find themselves in the top ten as they start this phase – what a feeling that must be. A terrifying one.

2.28 p.m.

Apparently Jollybo had to be kept under observation yesterday because her heart rate returned to normal SO quickly after XC – that really sums this little mare up! Three down though, unfortunately, which sees them drop ten places to 21st.

2.26 p.m.

Jollybo and Hawley Bennett-Awad are our highest placed Canadian combo, and they’re in now. LOVE this feisty little mare, who was bred by British 5* rider Alice Dunsdon and sourced by Kate Tarrant and Justine Dutton. One down so far.

2.25 p.m.

4 jumping, 0.8 time to add for Ellen and Obie. Another very happy rider!

2.25 p.m.

Liverpool goes yet again!

2.23 p.m.

Ellen Doughty-Hume and Sir Oberon start their round. We’re nearly to the top ten, guys!

2.22 p.m.

Blimey. Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale are going bowling. Big pats for a tired horse after adding 28 jumping penalties and 1.6 time.

2.21 p.m.

Clear for Leslie! The (gold medal-winning) boy’s still got it. [bicep emoji]

2.19 p.m.

Our first Brit is in – and it’s a vintage offering. Leslie Law starts with Voltaire de Tre.

2.18 p.m. 

Clear! This’ll be the third time that Hannah Sue and Harbour Pilot will finish in the top fifteen here.

2.17 p.m.

I still haven’t figured out how they get the Land Rover logo onto the feed.

2.17 p.m.

This horse was bred by Jacqueline Mars – a good result here would be very fitting.

2.16 p.m.

Hannah Sue Burnett to start next with Harbour Pilot.

2.15 p.m.

One pole, one place lost for Jessica – but she is thrilled with her lovely horse!

2.13 p.m.

Jessica Phoenix and Bogue Sound starting for Canada.

2.12 p.m. 

Eight faults in total drops Andrea and Indy to 20th.

2.11 p.m.

The liverpool goes again. This could be the fence that decides the outcome of this competition.

2.10 p.m.

4 for jumping and 0.4 for time drops Lillian down a place below Will Faudree and Pfun. Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 in now.

2.09 p.m.

Liverpool down again – Lillian is going pretty slowly, she’ll need to get a bit of a wiggle on.

2.08 p.m.

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby in now. We were sad not to see Lillian’s boyfriend, Ryan Wood, competing here this week.

2.06 p.m.

Will Faudree and Pfun in, growling through the treble. They knock the penultimate but clear the last – just the four for them!

2.05 p.m.

The broken bones club there, between Jenni and Buck. Bet they’re going to sign one another’s casts once they’re off air.

2.05 p.m.

Will Coleman and Tight Lines are CLEAR! Will is thrilled (and so, so pretty.)

2.04 p.m.

Really not sure why the crowd insists on cheering after riders finish the treble. There are two fences left! Let them focus!

2.03 p.m.

Will Coleman and Tight Lines in now. Unlike Lauren and Paramount Importance, they’ve kept their 15 overnight.

2.03 p.m.

2.02 p.m. https://www.instagram.com/p/BwzuPohh1Ok/   1.57 p.m.

1.56 p.m. That’s both Daniela Moguel and Joe Meyer, as you may recall – they’re each riding with broken ribs this week.

1.53 p.m. Heads up, John –

1.51 p.m.

A drag break now – next to jump will be at 2.00 p.m. It’ll be Will Coleman with Tight Lines.

1.49 p.m.

0.4 time to add after the horse has a bit of a trot before the penultimate fence – possibly because of a cheer from the crowd, which may have made him think he was finished. Lauren is thrilled – huge hugs and a big point to her horse. LOVE ALL THIS.

1.48 p.m.

This horse was originally ridden by Ludwig Svennerstal, and it’s a super type – a really exciting addition to Lauren’s string! She gets very lucky at the brown and yellow upright, though – it has a proper boogie in its cups before deciding to stay put.

1.47 p.m.

Last rider before the short break is the Kieffatron, jumping out of order on Paramount Importance. They initially picked up a 15 for missing a flag yesterday, but after a successful appeal, they moved up into the top ten.

1.46 p.m.

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd in now. Matt’s a lovely chap – he offered to buy me a gin and tonic in Ocala this January, but then admitted he was sneaking everything onto his friend’s tab. I still took the drink. (They’ve had one pole. WELL DONE MATT, next drink’s on me. Or probably Conor, again.)

1.45 p.m.

“I’m so incredibly happy with him – he feels absolutely fantastic,” says Sara Gumbiner. “It’s been a long road – I’ve had him eight years, and brought him up from the Beginner Novice level. He’s my best friend, he’s like my kid, he means everything to me. I’ll probably never have another one like him.”

1.44 p.m.

GREAT round! Erin and Paddy are clear – huge cheers for them from the crowd. This is a proper jumping horse.

1.43 p.m.

Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy in and looking great. Such a shame to see them pick up 20 yesterday.

1.41 p.m.

Whoops – bit keen! Polaris knocks a rail in his enthusiasm to get to the other side. He’s clear through the treble though – and these distances are coming up quite short. He’s a big, lanky, 17.2hh boy, so that’s a testament to the adjustability that Sara Gumbiner has installed in him. They finish with just the four faults!

1.39 p.m.

Come on Polaris! I will never forget working with this horse when he was the world’s lankiest three-year-old. Now look at him!

1.38 p.m.

Two more come down – they finish with 16 jumping and 2 time faults, and Chris finishes with an enormous hug for his horse. He canters around pointing to Unmarked Bills as the crowd gives them a colossal cheer. SO lovely!

1.37 p.m.

Unmarked Bills looking a wee bit opinionated out there! They take the triple bar down, and then nearly have a stop – they don’t, but it’s another fence down for them.

1.37 p.m.

This pair picked up a lot of new fans yesterday – Chris Talley and Unmarked Bills are in now!

1.36 p.m.

2.4 time and 12 jumping faults for Marcelo and Glenfly. BUT HIS PRETTY LIL FACE

1.34 p.m.

Two down so far. It’s okay, Glenfly! I’d still give you a carrot <3

1.33 p.m.

Brazil’s Marcelo Tosi and the incredibly elegant Glenfly in now. God, I love this pretty horse.

1.32 p.m.

A better round by the end – Waylon gave his horse a lot of help out there. It’s nice to see that sort of riding.

1.31 p.m.

Whew – Lancaster making it a bit tricky for Waylon. Some awkward, tired jumps out there. He’s taken three so far.

1.31 p.m.

Honor Me looks SO chuffed with himself after that round. What a funny chap.

1.30 p.m.

69.7 finishing score for Lisa Marie after those two rails – that’s good enough to hold her position on the leaderboard! Waylon Roberts and Lancaster in next.

1.29 p.m.

Two down so far for Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me.

1.27 p.m.

Just the two down for Hazel Shannon, who finishes on 73.4. A bit of a bittersweet week for this pair – they’ve had some great moments, but an uncharacteristic 20, too. Their aim has been to get on the radar of the Australian selectors, and it’s been a long old way to come – hopefully we’ll see her contest some more competitions in the northern hemisphere.

1.26 p.m. 

Two down so far for Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford, our two-time Adelaide winners.

1.24 p.m.

“When you’re first in, you just don’t really want to screw anything up. It’s electric – I don’t think I’ve experienced pressure like that before. He was phenomenal. It’s been great to finish on such a good note!” Dom is officially the first rider in the world to complete five-star event!

1.23 p.m.

Cecelia gets a bit quick and kicks out the Rolex rails and the second part of the treble as a result. She crosses the line and pins her ears at the crowd – SUCH mare face. Love this horse!

1.22 p.m.

Daniela Moguel and Cecelia in the ring for Mexico now. Is Dani wearing her festival glitter again? I hope so. It’s a look I’m tempted to steal next month.

1.21 p.m.

First part of the treble out, too. Just 15.1hh, this little dude. 12.4 to add in total – this year, the showjumping time penalties have been changed, and they’re now the same as cross country. They finish on 91.9 and stay ahead of Dom and Bolytair B.

1.20 p.m.

The liverpool and the white rails come down for Allie and Nio.

1.20 p.m.

Our favourite almost-pony is in now! It’s Sparrow’s Nio, ridden by Allie Sacksen. They were MEGA yesterday, and I think Allie has only just stopped crying. The distances here might quite suit this one.

1.19 p.m.

Wow, WHAT a pair. The crowd prematurely cheered when they still had two fences to go, and they didn’t bat an eyelid – they’re CLEAR.

1.18 p.m.

Phew, really clonking a couple there! But what an incredible canter this horse has. Dom is doing so well to package it on some of these shorter-striding lines!

1.18 p.m. WE HAVE A DOM ON COURSE

1.17 p.m.

Still my fave rendition of the national anthem:

1.13 p.m.

OMG he really just dipped out and got the crowd to take over singing the national anthem. I am ROARING. (Also muting to play Old Town Road for the pure lolz, if I’m honest.)

1.12 p.m.

Really missing an opportunity to smash out ‘Old Town Road’, tbh. Here, I’ll fix it.

1.11 p.m. OH MY GOD

1.10 p.m.

This guy could probably do it pretty quickly, though.

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Watching the horses at #lrk3de

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1.09 p.m.

It would take me about twenty minutes to run across this arena. Must lay off the champagne and cake.

1.03 p.m.

Cor, I thought they were going to bust out Killer Queen while showing us the course map. Quite disappointed they haven’t. A first-class CHOOOON. (Mostly because it talks about both champagne and cake, which are among my favourite things.)

1.00 p.m.

The crowds are growing and everyone is excited for an incredible afternoon of sport!

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Last day of the LRK3DE 2019! #LRK3DE

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12.54 p.m.

This might be my favourite photo of Tim ever.

Badminton Entries Update: Ingrid Klimke Withdraws; Final American Pair Accepted

Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob. FEI/Jon Stroud Photo.

Today’s a crucial date in the Badminton diary: 2.00 p.m. BST saw the cut-off of the entry list, after which point no more combinations can be accepted from the waitlist.

The last week has seen a spate of withdrawals, including Gemma Tattersall‘s second ride, Pamero 4Selena O’Hanlon‘s Foxwood High, and Caroline Powell‘s On the Brash. Shortly after the cut-off point today, another was announced: hot favourites Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD will not be heading to Gloucestershire for another crack at the title.

“I have really been looking forward to [Badminton Horse Trials], the five-star classic, in England,” said Ingrid in a statement on Instagram. “Unfortunately in the last few days SAP Hale Bob OLD has not been himself, just not as energetic and fit as I am used to with him. In order to avoid any potential risk for Bobby I have made the disappointing decision to stay home with year. I wish everyone a fabulous 2019 Badminton!”

This year’s waitlist was comprised of 24 horse and rider combinations, of which 14 have been accepted and a further three opted to withdraw. This brings the final list to 89 horse and rider combinations, although three of these are multiple rides over the two-horse limit, and are yet to be withdrawn. One of the accepted combinations is our third pair to compete for the USA next week. We caught up with Woodge Fulton from her new base at Dirk Schrade’s stables in Germany to find out how she’s feeling ahead of her Badminton debut.

Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack at Kentucky. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

“Getting off the list is a tough thing to hope for, because me getting in means someone else didn’t get to go – but I was trying to be totally prepared for either situation,” she says. “I’m very lucky that I’m close by in Germany; I would have been a serious nervous wreck if I had to make the decision to fly from home or not. But now I’m relieved and excited – time for the actual hard part to start!”

Woodge will ride her 16-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding Captain Jack. So far, the pair have jumped clear across the country in all three of their five-star runs – they completed Kentucky in 2017 and 2018, and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in 2017.

You can read all about every horse and rider pair on the entry list on our updated Badminton form guide. All of us at team EN wish Bobby – and his fellow withdrawn entries – a quick return to form, and a safe, enormously fun week to Woodge and the rest of the Badminton field!

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntries, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s Course PreviewEN’s Form GuideEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

 

Kentucky Cross Country Open Thread, Presented by Horseware

Caroline Martin and Spring Easy. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Started from the bottom, now we’re here – and folks, it’s going to be one heck of a day at the Land Rover Kentucky Horse Trials. We’ve got a big, technical cross-country challenge set by course designer Derek diGrazia, we’ve got blazing hot competition, and we’ve got enough adrenaline to power a small country, so that’s good (and slightly unsettling).

Tuning in? Here’s how to watch, wherever you are. If you want a closer look at today’s challenge, check out our preview and photo gallery, with everything you need to know. For stats and insight on the top cross-country pairs in the field, dive into this debrief by Maggie Deatrick, who was dubbed the ‘Math Chinchilla’ by one of our lovely readers yesterday. We’ll be getting her a t-shirt made imminently.

Here’s the leaderboard after dressage:

Our first horse and rider to leave the start box will be Islandwood Captain Jack, piloted by Caroline Martin. They’ll be starting at 10.30 a.m. 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 … let’s have a great ride, everyone.

#LRK3DE: WebsiteSchedule, EN’s Ultimate GuideEntries & Drawn Order, Live ScoresHow to Watch LiveUSEF NetworkHorse & Country TVEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

2.10 p.m.

Your top ten going into the final horse inspection tomorrow! We’ve seen three double-clears today, plus Will Coleman’s round, which was inside the time but clocked up 15 penalties for missing a flag. Lauren Kieffer and Paramount Importance were the only other pair to pick up a 15, while Dom Schramm and Bolytair B were the only pair to be awarded 11 penalties for knocking a frangible pin. 31 of our 37 starters completed today.

2.07 p.m.

Here’s that clip of Ariel Grald taking a flag home that I promised about eighteen hours ago:

2.02 p.m.

8.2 time for Lauren and Vermiculus! They’ll be eighth overnight.

1.58 p.m.

Just Lauren left on course now – she goes long at the Normandy Bank.

1.57 p.m.

“Its a tough track – a lot harder than it walked,” says Boyd Martin. “Watching horses go this morning, I knew I was in for a tough round. There’s a long road to go still, but we’ll make sure he recovers well and jumps around tomorrow, and then we’ll start thinking of glory. Last year was much more brutal, and tough, and testing – this year I thought it was much softer, but I was wrong. After Phillip went through the Normandy Bank direct I knew I’d get made fun of if I didn’t!”

1.53 p.m.

Last horse and rider are on course now – it’s Lauren Kieffer riding Vermiculus. This cool little horse looks super, super game.

1.51 p.m.

BOYD IS CLEAR ON 11:11. Our fastest time yet and also, crucially, a time you can make one hell of a wish on. MAKE THOSE WISHES PEOPLE

1.50 p.m.

BEAST MODE ACTIVATED

1.49 p.m. 

WAY up on the clock for Boyd and Thomas! They go direct at the Normandy Bank – one of the very few who had attempted it – and make it look laughably easy.

1.47 p.m.

One second over for Doug and Vandiver! Clever boy, saving himself that time. He’ll be top ten overnight.

1.46 p.m.

Boyd basically just picked Tsetserleg up and put him on the other side of the corner at the Hollow. Blaaaadddddy hell, that would have stopped for anyone else!

1.45 p.m.

Doug goes long at the Normandy Bank but takes the ultimate inside line – he hops the decorative shrubbery to save a fraction of a second.

1.43 p.m.

Every Thoroughbred that started today has completed. Love a good TB!

1.42 p.m.

Boyd is the only person who can take away Oliver’s one-rail advantage tomorrow – and he’s also, remarkably, never won the 5* National Championship here. COME ON THEN BOYDOOOOO

1.40 p.m.

Vandiver is sired by Windfall, Darren Chiacchia’s Olympic ride – and so is Boyd Martin’s Tsetserleg, who has just started!

1.37 p.m.

10.8 time penalties for Hawley and Jollybo! Vandiver is just powering along – what a cool horse!

1.36 p.m.

Doug Payne and Vandiver are our newest starters. Jollybo is looking brilliant on course.

1.34 p.m.

“He’s unbelievable. He’s had very good prep this year. He made his own mind up a couple of times – I’m used to him being a bit behind me and a bit too careful, but anyone could have ridden him round there today,” says Oliver Townend. “[Derek] is one of the best designers in the world – it really tests you and your horse, and your feel. Again, he’s produced a true five-star track to test us every second of the way. If he repeats what he did last year Richard Sheane of Cooley Farm will be having a celebration.”

“There’s Oliver trying to nail down a discount on his next Cooley purchase,” uuips John.

1.33 p.m.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show opt to retire after further problems at the Mars Sustainability Bay.

1.32 p.m.

A stop at the first water for Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Phillip Dutton and Z stop the clock at 11:18 – the same time as Tim Price.

1.32 p.m.

One happy Yorkshireman!

1.31 p.m.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo on course now. We can confirm that Lauren Kieffer has also been awarded flag penalties with Paramount Importance.

1.30 p.m.

“It was really good. He’s got a lovely, long gallop on him, so I tried to use that to my advantage. He stayed with me the whole way and kept galloping, and that’s the key to going fast,” says Tim. He’s the only rider to go clear inside the time – Will Coleman has been awarded flag penalties.

1.27 p.m.

1.2 time to add for Oliver and Coolio, but no one can catch them – they’ll lead overnight!

1.26 p.m.

Oliver goes long at the pond, nearly gets chased by a loose dog, causes a few minor heart attacks. KEEP. YOUR. DOGS. ON. LEADS. OR. LEAVE. THEM. AT. HOME.

1.23 p.m.

Jessica Phoenix and Bogue Sound finish with 6.4 time. Oliver goes long at the Normandy Bank – but he’s well up on the clock.

1.22 p.m.

Phillip Dutton and Z now following Oliver around the course.

1.21 p.m.

Pheeewwww! Oliver and Coolio miss a stride out at the second water. That was a bit hairy!

1.20 p.m. 

Cooley Master Class pushes a flag out over the natural log, which will be reviewed – but it looks good from this angle.

1.19 p.m.

Direct through the Hollow for Oliver and Coolio – MAN, those lines were tight. Oliver doesn’t want to risk adding a single second.

1.18 p.m.

WAHOOOO! Two seconds under the time for Tim Price and Xavier Faer. Bit of an ugly ride at the first water for Oliver and Cooley Master Class, but they’re clear!

1.17 p.m.

Imagine being a score collector and having your horse go for a ginormous wee right as Oliver gallops past you. Better out than in and all that…

1.16 p.m.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class – our overnight leaders – will be our next starters. And they’re off!

1.15 p.m.

Two long routes for Tim now – he goes long at the Normandy Bank. Still up on the clock though!

1.14 p.m.

Oooof – an awkward moment at the Head of the Lake for Tim Price and Xavier Faer, and Tim draws on every inch of his experience to make it happen.

1.13 p.m.

Clear with 17.6 time for Matt Flynn and Wizzerd! He’ll be pleased with that in his first five-star.

1.11 p.m.

Jessica Phoenix and Bogue Sound now on course. Tim Price goes long at Pete’s Hollow.

1.10 p.m. 

That’s 26.8 time for Waylon. Tim is showing us why he’s among the best in the world – he looks like he’s just out for a quiet canter, but he’s so economical and jumps everything out of stride.

1.08 p.m.

Lots of time and 20 penalties, which will be up for review, for Waylon Roberts. We’ll bring you a video soon so you can see what you think.

1.05 p.m.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer have started! Tim is chasing the Grand Slam here this week after his Burghley win last season.

1.02 p.m.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 finish with 9.2 time penalties! Waylon Roberts running into some trouble at the Head of the Lake – this horse isn’t turning easily for him today. Tim Price to start shortly!

1.01 p.m.

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd head out to tackle their debut five-star.

12.58 p.m.

Waylon and Lancaster cruise down to the Hollow. Waylon is having to take a few big pulls but it comes off for him.

12.57 p.m.

Waylon Roberts and Lancaster are jumping through the first water now for Canada.

12.56 p.m. 

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 great through the Hollow – they don’t take any risks on that turn.

12.54 p.m. 

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 out now.

12.53 p.m.

WELL DONE ARIEL! Clear with 6 time in her first five-star!

12.51 p.m.

A fall on the flat at the hollow for Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges. They slip at the same point Piggy and Red did.

12.47 p.m.

Well THAT was the strangest flag situation I’ve ever seen – Ariel Grald quite literally takes the flag with her!

Leslie Law and Voltaire de Tre home clear now.

12.43 p.m.

Leslie and Voltaire de Tre add an S bend to the direct route at the Head of the Lake. They’re clear through it.

12.41 p.m.

Five-star first-timers Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan head out on course.

12.40 p.m.

Leslie Law and Voltaire de Tre zoom through the Rolex Grand Slam combination. This is a level debut for the ten-year-old, so Leslie will be aiming to give him a great education for the future.

12.39 p.m.

Argh! 20 penalties at the Head of the Lake for Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy.

12.37 p.m.

Will Coleman and Tight Lines are our first to come back inside the time! He’s showing as clear for now, but hold tight – we may see the penalties appear soon.

12.36 p.m.

Piggy with Jenni now: “It wasn’t without events, was it? Just not at the races for him today like he has been of late, but that’s horses, and you take the days you’re given. It was hard enough work – there was plenty of little mishaps. He did the quarry at the top really well, so I did the turn really tight – he slipped, I nearly fell off, and my stirrup nearly fell off. My spur was stuck and I knew it would fall off if I took just one backward swipe. I thought, I’m not going round with one stirrup! Then, when I went to gallop, he was just a bit sticky, so I had to trot and make sure he was okay… he had a spook coming into the wash-off area so he’s still got plenty in him. I’m not proud of that round.”

12.31 p.m.

Will Coleman and Tight Lines will definitely pick up flag penalties – they have an awkward jump at 11A, the skinny in the water, and scramble over the side of the fence.

12.27 p.m.

Will Coleman and Tight Lines head out. This Thoroughbred really covers the ground and makes a lovely shape over the Triple Bar.

12.25 p.m.

We can confirm that Buck has broken his collarbone – he’s withdrawn both his remaining horses. Heal up quick, Buck!

12.24 p.m.

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly on course now. Dom Schramm goes long at the Hollow.

12.23 p.m.

Piggy holds the lead – just! She finishes on a new score of 33.5. Would have made the time easily without the water wobbles and the long trot – Piggy has really had to dig deep today. They lead at this stage.

12.20 p.m.

A refusal at 3 for Dom Schramm and Bolytair B. Piggy is up on the clock somehow – Red has been very sticky at every water. She lands nearly in walk again at the final water – she’s near the end now!

12.18 p.m.

AHHHH. Red leaves a leg at the final brush into the Head of the Lake, they scramble over and land in walk. Piggy cleverly uses an S bend to get out without crossing her tracks.

12.17 p.m.

WHAT IS HAPPENING. Piggy will lose a lot of time – something happened as she slipped after the corner. Red loses his right hind – his quarters touch the ground and Piggy nearly hits the deck, but they recover. They spend a lot of time in trot afterwards as Piggy looks for something – a lost stirrup? Lauren finishes, but there is a BIG flag question for her. 30 seconds over OT for them.

12.17 p.m.

Dom Schramm and Bolytair B are away!

12.16 p.m.

Bit of a chip at the water for Pig and Red but they’re through!

12.15 p.m.

John Kyle just brought up the corners at Belton and now I’ve got PTSD. Flags! They haunt my nightmares.

12.14 p.m.

GREAT ride through the hollow for Lauren and Paramount Importance!

12.12 p.m.

Quarrycrest Echo and Piggy are on course now.

#GETTINGPIGGYWITHIT

12.09 p.m.

Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo will be starting shortly. Shout out to Red’s owner, Jayne McGivern, who is a jolly good egg.

12.08 p.m.

Lovely round so far for Lauren Kieffer and the former Ludwig Svennerstal mount, Paramount Importance.

Also, can we talk about Daniela Moguel’s face glitter? V 90s. Possibly v blinding on course. We stan a sparkly kween.

12.07 p.m.

“I’m on cloud nine – he was absolutely incredible and so honest everywhere,” says Chris Talley. “To come jump around like that here, at Kentucky, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I think [my grandmother] would be so proud – she rode along with me every jump of the way.”

LOVE.

12.05 p.m.

Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me added 20.8 time. Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse are withdrawn, so that’s one mystery solved. #WheresCaroline

12.04 p.m.

Chris Talley giving me gastrointestinal concerns at the Head of the Lake. He’s finished now – he and Unmarked Bills are clear with 16.4 time.

12.02 p.m.

Dani Moguel rode around that course with a broken rib. Eventers: a very special kind of nuts.

12.01 p.m.

Buck Davidson has scratched Jak My Style. Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse ostensibly lost on course. Where is Caroline?!

12.00 p.m.

Bloody hell, Chris Talley just made my stomach flip at the Head of the Lake! Stand by to see what I mean.

11.58 a.m.

Someone just SCREAMED “I love you!” at Chris Talley as he jumped through the Moguls.

11.57 a.m.

Bit of a hairy ride at Pete’s Hollow, the table and corner combination at 13AB, for Unmarked Bills and Chris Talley. The horse doesn’t see the corner until the last second, but they rally and get it done. Phew!

11.55 a.m.

Lisa Marie goes long at the Normandy Bank complex – a slightly sticky jump out of the final element.

11.53 a.m. 

10.8 time to add for Ellen Doughty-Hume and Sir Oberon. Chris Talley on course now with Unmarked Bills.

11.50 a.m.

Ellen and Sir Oberon are another pair to go long at the Normandy Bank combination. Lisa Marie and Honor Me add through the Grand Slam combination but get it done.

11.48 a.m.

Ellen and Sir Oberon go long in the lake after a disorganised jump in. Good judgment there.

11.47 a.m.

Daniela Moguel is ZOOMING at the end of the course – they add 21.6 time due to their earlier run-out, but they finish brilliantly. A great round to set them up for their next run at the top level.

11.46 a.m.

“It rode great – it’s a big, challenging track, and it’s never easy when you’re going early and a bunch of people have had problems. I’m kicking myself now, though – I set himself up a bit too much. I’ve got to trust myself to kick at the end of the course when he’s feeling a bit tired,” says Will Faudree. “There’s homework to do.”

11.45 a.m.

Ellen and Sir Oberon are clear so far – now Canada’s Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me are on course.

11.42 a.m.

A slow clear for Will Faudree and Pfun – they pick up 15.2 time penalties. Daniela Moguel and Cecelia add in an extra stride at the Mighty Moguls.

11.39 a.m.

Will Faudree opts to go long at the Normandy Bank with Pfun. They have a nice trip through. Ellen Doughty-Hume and Sir Oberon are next to start.

11.38 a.m.

6.4 time and 20 jumping for Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford as they cross the finish.

11.36 a.m.

Mexico’s sole entry here, Daniela Moguel, picks up 20 penalties early on course at 5A, the hanging log into the first water, with Cecelia.

11.35 a.m.

Will Faudree pushes a flag out with Pfun – we’ll have to see whether that affects his score. The most fun bit of the flag rule is that NOBODY KNOWS. It’s like doing the lucky dip at the fair and discovering that all the prizes are actually turds.

11.34 a.m.

Ahh. They’ve won at five-star twice, but they won’t win this week – Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford pick up 20 penalties coming out of the lake. They clear the hedge on the second attempt and then go long at the Normandy Bank.

11.33 a.m.

Clear round for Lillian and LCC Barnaby! 9.2 time for them. Will Faudree and Pfun are on course now too.

11.32 a.m.

“He was great – we had a few problems at the beginning where he was overexcited and I couldn’t manage the distances, but he jumped sometimes unbelievable. He fighted [sic] for me and I fighted for him, and he was amazing,” says a delighted (and adorably Swiss) Felix Vogg.

11.31 a.m.

Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford clear as they approach the halfway point – we’re seeing their experience in some of the risks Hazel is choosing to take.

11.30 a.m.

Our fastest round of the day! Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale add 2.8 time penalties. ZOOM ZOOM BABY

11.29 a.m.

Allie Sacksen, as it turns out, got annoyed by her stopwatch and chucked it out mid-course – good souvenir for someone!

11.27 a.m.

“I hit my head pretty heard and my neck’s really sore, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’m obviously really disappointed – I was thinking he didn’t feel like my horse today. We’ll get him checked out, but I feel terrible for tipping him up,” says Liz Halliday-Sharp.

11.26 a.m.

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby are on course now – and they’re followed by two-time Adelaide winners Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford.

11.25 a.m.

At the point on course where every other horse starts to tire, Johnny Royale just keeps on giving 110%. Thoroughbreds, eh!

11.23 a.m.

Felix and Colero are our fastest combination so far – they add 6.4 time penalties. Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale make light work of the lake.

11.17 a.m.

Felix and Colero aren’t wasting a single second! Definitely our fastest round so far as they hit the eighth minute. Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale join them on course.

11.16 a.m.

ARGH. A run-out at the step up out of the water for Hallie Coon and Celien, and then another one as they represent. Hallie opts to retire.

11.15 a.m.

Hallie and Celien’s time has been adjusted to reflect the fact that she was started slightly late. Here’s an example of some of the stickability we’ve been witnessing.

11.13 a.m.

Felix and Colero are motoring along. This is Felix’s last competition in the States, and he’s going to want to make a jolly good show of it.

11.12 a.m.

Wow, we are seeing some serious stickability from Hallie in places. She’s a great cross-country rider with natural balance. I’m not sure I’ve breathed since she left the start box, though.

11.11 a.m.

MAKE A WISH.

Felix Vogg now on course. Celien looking a bit sticky for Hallie Coon, but Hallie is getting it done.

11.07 a.m.

Harbour Pilot has made Hannah Sue work for it today, but they’re home clear with just 8 time penalties to add. Big smiles at the finish!

11.06 a.m.

Hallie Coon and Celien come forward for their second run at this level. Celien is one of only four mares here this week, and she’s on great form this season.

11.05 a.m.

“My goal here this weekend was to come home with clean jumping, and he did that. I was coming to the start box and I heard rider fall, rider fall, rider fall – I just thought, oh my goodness!” says a teary Allie Sacksen.

11.03 a.m.

Another clear round with time for Sara Gumbiner and Polaris! How fun to see these two deliver again. This will be a very proud moment for Polaris’ breeder, Phyllis Dawson, too. #plugplugplug #TeamWindchase4evz

11.oo a.m.

Here’s a little taster of Allie’s fab round. LOVE this plucky pony!

10.59 a.m.

CLEAR for Allie Sacksen and Sparrow’s Nio! They’re over a minute over the time but that’s exactly the round they needed. Allie is sobbing with joy as she pulls up. What a great sight to see!

10.58 a.m.

Harbour Pilot really knocks the table at 7A, slips on the turn to the B element, but recovers and gets through the combination.

10.56 a.m.

Allie Sacksen and Sparrow’s Nio are our first combination to make it past the Normandy Bank combination at 20ABC! They look great through their and pop nicely through the final water.

10.55 a.m.

Mara DePuy has withdrawn Congo Brazzaville C. Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot on course now.

10.54 a.m. 

Really positive riding through the water for Allie Sacksen – she makes light work of the step up and brush out of the water.

10.52 a.m.

Sara Gumbiner away now with Polaris – this is the bit where this pair really shine. Larry is 17.2hh and seriously covers the ground – the polar opposite of small and nippy Nio.

10.51 a.m.

Allie and Sparrow’s Nio looking great so far – they’re in the last section of the course now.

10.47 a.m. 

Allie Sacksen and her plucky Connemara cross Sparrow’s Nio on course now. This pair know one another so well and are so fun to watch!

10.46 a.m. 

Buck is back up on his feet. He looks as though he got a bit winded from that fall.

10.45 a.m.

YIKES. Buck is off too. He drifts left at the Normandy Bank and is tips out the side door.

10.43 a.m.

What is life?! Liz Halliday-Sharp has taken a tumble at fence three, while Buck Davidson has a run-out at the brush after the step up out of the water. I have aged horribly in the past three minutes.

10.41 a.m.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z are now on course. They’ll be looking to make a few steps closer to that coveted spot at the top of the leaderboard!

10.40 a.m.

ARGH! Caroline hits the deck at the Normandy Bank. She’s up and walking off course – both she and Islandwood Captain Jack are okay.

10.39 a.m.

Another flag out for Caroline – it looks fine to us, but as we all know, the FEI’s new flag rule is proving to be contentious. This may go to a footage review.

10.37 a.m.

Buck Davidson heads out on course with the first of his three rides – this is Park Trader. They jump into the Mars Sustainability Bay and make it look like a Pony Club question.

10.35 a.m.

A BIG pull before the second water from Caroline – she brings Islandwood Captain Jack nearly back to a trot and then really asks him to bend through the lines. It won’t be the quickest approach, but it’s certainly the safest and the most educational. Smart riding for this horse’s future.

10.33 a.m.

Caroline gets better and better each year. Island wood Captain Jack takes out much of the brush – and a flag – at the first brush box at 7B, the first big combo on course, but Caroline just stays right in the middle of him and lets him find his balance.

10.00 a.m.

And she’s off! Caroline Martin storms out of the start on Islandwood Captain Jack. This horse is a debutante here, but Caroline will need to keep his cruising speed up early on – the first minute is one of the only quick minutes our competitors will get.

Friday Video from Smartpak: Odds-On Oliver’s Leading Test

What, exactly, does it take to post a 24.1 on the board at a CCI5*-L – particularly if your horse has a spook along the way? Watch and learn from the master. Oliver Townend did just that today at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, riding his defending champion Cooley Master Class. Our advice? Keep an eye on the details: accuracy, consistency, and those all-important scales of training. There’s a lot to be learned – and there’s 24s out there for the rest of us to snatch, too!

Go Oliver, and GO EVENTING!

Kentucky Friday Afternoon Open Thread, Presented by SmartPak

Will Coleman and Tight Lines. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Once more unto the breach, dearest pals – we’re back and heading straight into the final session of dressage here at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event.

Here’s a recap of this morning’s scores – you can get the full run-down of the action on the morning report, ably penned by our intrepid lead writer, Shelby Allen. Or, catch up with a browse through this morning’s open thread. We’ll be getting underway shortly with our first rider in the ring, Lancaster, ridden by Waylon Roberts.

Let’s do this thang!

#LRK3DE: WebsiteScheduleEntries & Drawn Order, Live ScoresHow to Watch LiveUSEF NetworkHorse & Country TVEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

3.20 p.m.

3.17 p.m.

Cross-country kicks off at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow – we’ll be bringing you everything you need to know, plus a jam-packed afternoon report, soon.

3.10 p.m. 

That’s it for dressage here at the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event! Here’s the top ten going into tomorrow’s main event:

3.07 p.m.

A 33 for Lauren and Vermiculus, which puts her in 12th and 13th place on her two horses as we move ahead to the cross-country.

3.06 p.m. 

An unplanned flying change on the final centerline mars what is otherwise a very good test for Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus.

3.05 p.m.

 

3.03 p.m.

Boyd’s score is updated to 27.9. He moves into third, while Felix Vogg slips down to fourth.

3.01 p.m.

Our last horse and rider combination to perform their dressage test is Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus. Lauren’s riding with bridged reins – an interesting technique to stabilise the contact, and one which we tend to associate much more with cross-country than dressage.

2.58 p.m.

A quick high-five between Buck and Lauren Kieffer as he walks out and she trots in. Buck scores a 35.9 with Copper Beach.

2.57 p.m.

Argh! Some real issues with the final change, but a nice trip up the last centreline and a lovely, decisive halt.

2.56 p.m.

Wow, what an extended canter! Copper Beach is a slightly heavier type, very Irish-looking, and he charges across the arena like a war horse. Beautiful change at the end, too.

2.54 p.m.

Copper Beach is one of those horses you just want to have a sit on yourself – he looks so kind and game, and he’s a lovely stamp.

2.52 p.m.

Buck Davidson is back in the ring as our penultimate competitor, this time riding Copper Beach.

2.51 p.m.

Equal third for Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg! He’s on 28 – the same as Felix Vogg, who also trains with Boyd’s wife, Silva. She’s obviously paid attention to EquiRatings, who tell us that 28 is the magic number for winning a five-star.

2.50 p.m.

2.49 p.m.

2.47 p.m.

Tsetserleg looks so much like his sire, Windfall. But he also has occasional flashes of another smart little black horse – the great Charisma.

2.45 p.m.

Boyd Martin is in the ring now with his WEG mount, Tsetserleg. It’s looking very smart so far.

2.42 p.m.

It’s a 35.5 for Doug Payne and Vandiver – “maybe he’d have scored a couple marks better if he’d worn a belt,” remarks his friend Will Faudree.

2.41 p.m.

39.6 for Sharon White and Cooley On Show.

2.39 p.m.

A bit frustrating, this test – some really super moments, and then some bits where it just doesn’t go quite right. But we see a lovely stretchy circle from him.

2.35 p.m.

Interesting to see Doug Payne’s method of using a double bridle with Vandiver – he holds the snaffle rein between his thumb and forefinger, like a driving rein.

2.32 p.m.

Cooley On Show looks like he really enjoys the canter half-passes – they’re quite big, bouncy, and playful. Unfortunately his stretchy circle doesn’t deliver – he remains high through the base of his neck.

2.29 p.m.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show in now. This is such an impressive horse, with a huge amount of presence, but today he looks a bit fussy. We’re seeing some head shaking and a tendency to come above the bit.

2.27 p.m.

35.6 for Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo, the last of our Canadian competitors. That’s a full mark better than their average.

2.23 p.m.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer’s score has been reviewed and adjusted to 30.9.

2.22 p.m.

The final session is a go.

1.53 p.m. 

Oliver’s score now confirmed as 24.1! I’ve never even managed that at Training level.

1.52 p.m.

 

1.51 p.m.

We’re onto the next coffee break now – our next rider will be Hawley Bennett-Awad. She rides Jollybo at 2.20 p.m.

1.50 p.m.

1.49 p.m.

1.48 p.m.

“He was a good boy in there – a little bit lazy, if anything, but at the same time he’s been in there and done his job again, so I’m very happy,” says Oliver. I totally just misheard the rest of what he said – apparently he sold a horse to the mother of one of the Pony Club kids. He didn’t, in fact, call her mother a horse. #fakenews

1.47 p.m.

It’ll be a 32.5 and into 8th for Phillip and Z.

1.46 p.m.

A nice finish to the test, but poor Z looks a bit shellshocked by all the applause!

1.45 p.m.

A slightly more conservative lengthening this time, and a slightly less quality change, too.

1.44 p.m. 

Nice canter lengthening and a clean, round change in the corner. Z wants to leave his quarters behind as he begins the half-pass, but Phillip quickly corrects him.

1.43 p.m.

Good trot half-passes! They’re very correct. The horse looks as though he might be settling into his work now.

1.42 p.m.

Not the best entrance – Z looks a bit tense and doesn’t halt quite square.

1.41 p.m.

Phillip Dutton and Z heading in now. Phillip is, of course, the last American to win Kentucky – he took the title with Connaught back in 2008. He’ll be riding with a country’s hopes on his shoulders today.

1.40 p.m.

Sorry, not sorry.

1.39 p.m.

They’ve done it! 24.4 for reigning champions Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class!

1.38 p.m.

Confirmed score of 41.8 for Jessica Phoenix and Bogue Sound.

1.37 p.m.

Good changes! The down transition on the final centreline looks very elevated, too. And the crowd goes MAD – but will it be enough to usurp Piggy’s lead?

1.36 p.m. 

Whoops! A spook in the corner could be costly. But Oliver and Coolio haven’t let it phase them at all. Oliver really lets the horse reach in the stretchy circle.

1.34 p.m.

Tim Price’s scores for his second change will be reviewed at the end of the day for a marking discrepancy. His score could change as a result.

1.33 p.m.

Coolio really is a consummate performer. They put a 28.7 on the board last year – they’ll be aiming for better this year.

1.32 p.m.

Who wants to put a fiver on this? Let’s make betting on dressage a thing.

1.31 p.m.

HERE WE GO. Our reigning Kentucky champions are heading in the ring. It’s Townend time.

1.29 p.m.

What a happy sort of chap Bogue Sound seems! He and Jessica Phoenix are all smiles as they head to the bit check.

1.28 p.m.

1.25 p.m. 

Jessica Phoenix and Bogue Sound now in for Canada – they’re showing us some nice work so far, but Bogue Sound has his tongue out throughout. That could be costly for them.

1.23 p.m.

30.8 for Tim Price and Xavier Faer – they move into third place, below Felix Vogg and Colero.

1.21 p.m. 

Nice finish to Tim and Hugo’s test. We’ll bring you their score shortly.

1.20 p.m.

The next change isn’t quite as clean. Hugo anticipates it and bobbles.

1.19 p.m. 

Hugo comes above the contact for a moment in the rein-back – that’s the first little problem we’ve seen. Now we’re into the canter work, which is looking cadenced; the first change and half-pass look good.

1.18 p.m. 

Nice and accurate so far – Tim might seem like the most laid-back man in the world, but he doesn’t miss a tick. That’s so crucial for Hugo – he’s not flash, so he must be correct to be competitive.

1.17 p.m. 

Xavier Faer – known at home as Hugo – can be a bit of a tricky character in this phase, but he’s also very capable on his day – he was third at Badminton a few years back after three brilliant performances. Fun fact: he’s also a half-brother to Jonelle Price’s Luhmühlen winner Faerie Dianimo.

1.16 p.m.

1.15 p.m.

39.6 for Matt Flynn and Wizzerd.

1.14 p.m.

Next in will be Tim Price and Xavier Faer. Tim is the reigning Burghley champion, and is here to chase the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam – and crucial points in his quest for the premiere place on the world rankings.

1.12 p.m.

This is a five-star debut for both Matt and Wizzerd. We’re seeing that pressure get to them slightly – Wizzerd isn’t making the changes easy for Matt. But he’s obviously a very classy horse – it’ll be exciting to see what they go on to do this weekend.

1.09 p.m. 

The #ladzclub is out in force at the start of this final session – now we’re seeing Matt Flynn and Wizzerd in the ring. Wizzerd’s tiny button plaits look incredible!

1.07 p.m.

32.7 puts Waylon and Lancaster into equal sixth with Hallie Coon and Celien. That’s almost bang on their average.

1.05 p.m.

Waylon has got a jolly good cheering section in the stands! #Beatlemania

1.04 p.m.

Very tidy half-pass steps and a nice stretchy circle from Lancaster – but his tension is showing through in places as he comes above the bridle and darts forward.

12.57 p.m.

Waylon Roberts and Lancaster head down the centreline – they’re another of our competitors representing Canada here this week.

Kentucky Friday Morning Open Thread, Presented by SmartPak

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The weather might be less than inspiring at the Kentucky Horse Park today, but the line-up most certainly is not – we’re heading into day two with some some seriously hot contenders to come, including last year’s winners Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class.

Who will hold the lead after today’s competition? Well, if yesterday taught us anything, it’s that you can only guarantee one thing in this sport, and that’s curveballs. But there are some telling stats to back up some of today’s contenders – to find out more about the strongest first-phase competitors today, check out Maggie Deatrick’s piece on the dressage powerhouses who’ll be entering at A in this second day of pony prancing.

The leaderboard at the close of day one.

Our leader – and the only sub-30 scorer – from yesterday’s dressage is Switzerland’s Felix Vogg, who posted a 28 with Colero. A very impressive score, but there’s certainly space at the top. Can he be overtaken? LET’S FIND OUT.

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11.54 a.m.

11.53 a.m.

 

11.52 a.m.

11.50 a.m.

 

11.48 a.m.

That’s a wrap for this morning’s session! Here’s your leaderboard as it stands:

Join us at 1.00 p.m. for the final session, which sees our defending champion come forward to try to take the lead.

11.39 a.m. 

Apologies for the radio silence, folks – some technical difficulties. We’ve got a score of 39 for Andrea Baxter and Indy 500.

11.28 a.m.

34 for Colleen and Qorry Blue d’Argouges – another five-star PB! Last in the ring before the lunch break is Andrea Baxter with Indy 500.

11.25 a.m.

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges in now for Canada. This is another seriously smart looking horse.

11.24 a.m.

42.4 for Ariel and Leamore Master Plan. Onwards! Upwards! And check out this gorgeous horse!

11.22 a.m.

Well done to Ariel for getting the job done in the ring. It’s clear to see that there’s a very good test to come from this exciting duo!

11.17 a.m. 

Wow, what a stunner Leamore Master Plan is! Currently looking a bit fresh and fussy – though we’re seeing a lot of tongue flapping, so it’s possible he has his tongue over the bit.

11.16 a.m.

Now we’ve got one of our five-star debutantes – it’s Ariel Grald with Leamore Master Plan.

11.14 a.m. 

That 32.2 for Paddy the Caddy is a five-star PB. Leslie Law and Voltaire de Tre, meanwhile, finish their test – Leslie’s wealth of experience allows him to score a 36.9 despite the green moments. Voltaire de Tre looks very excited leaving the ring!

11.10 a.m.

This is one of the youngest horses in the field – Voltaire de Tre is only a ten-year-old. As such, we’re seeing some slightly green moments, particularly in the halt and rein-back.

11.08 a.m.

“I think I probably appreciate it now more than ever. It’s great to be back,” says Leslie Law. He’s starting now with Voltaire de Tre.

11.07 a.m.

32.2 for Erin and Paddy the Caddy! They jump into fifth place, just behind Buck Davidson and Park Trader

11.04 a.m. 

A tiny break in the canter before the half-pass, but Erin and Paddy the Caddy quickly get back to work. This is becoming a bit of a masterclass in how to get the work out of a hot, clever horse.

11.02 a.m.

One for the Thoroughbred fans here – Paddy the Caddy is a stunning stamp of a horse. So much pizzazz in his movement.

11.00 a.m.

Aaaaaand we’re back! Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy will be starting shortly.

10.47 a.m.

10.46 a.m.

10.43 a.m.

Score confirmed for Will Coleman and Tight Lines – they’re on 36. That takes us to the first coffee break – our next rider in the ring will be Paddy the Caddy, ridden by Erin Sylvester. They start at 11.00 a.m.

10.40 a.m.

10.39 a.m. 

We have confirmation of that 27.1 for Piggy and Red! That means we’re…

#GETTINPIGGYWITHIT

10.38 a.m.

Some very nice work by – and a huge cheer for – Will Coleman and Tight Lines. Will is such a soft, kind rider.

10.37 a.m.

If this 27.1 score for Piggy and Red is accurate, then that’s a five-star personal best for the horse. Noiiiice.

10.36 a.m.

Lovely, leggy Glenfly. 41 be damned, I’d take him!

10.35 a.m.

Scores have changed again! Piggy now leads on 27.1. Maybe her mark will just keep dropping throughout the day.

10.34 a.m.

Will Coleman and his WEG mount Tight Lines are in now. Someone has been working hard to make this horse sparkly. #unicornmode

10.33 a.m.

10.32 a.m.

Piggy goes into second on a 29.1 with Quarrycrest Echo, and it’s a 41 for Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly.

10.30 a.m.

Still dodgy scores coming through for Piggy – one judge apparently gave her a 0 for overall impression. Ruuuuuuude.

10.29 a.m.

An erroneous change behind in the canter might be a bit expensive – it happened right in front of the judge at C, so it won’t have been missed.

10.27 a.m.

Glenfly takes a good look at the crowd and comes above the bit for a moment in the walk, but quickly gets back to business.

10.25 a.m.

Dom Schramm and Bolytair B get a 38 – but still no score for Piggy. We’re getting numbers from 25-31.9.

Marcelo Tosi now in the ring for Brazil – he rides the super-classy Glenfly.

10.22 a.m.

Scores are all over the place right now after a leaderboard malfunction. In the meantime, this from Piggy:

“I’m delighted, really – I’m very relieved, to be honest,” she says. “He came back out of his box and felt like he got a little bit cold walking up here…he felt a bit stiff and uninspired. He found the cameramen and flapping things really spooky. I thought, ‘gosh, I’ve not got this right today at all.’ But I’m really proud of him, he’s become so professional. I’m really proud of what he’s done today.”

10.21 a.m.

Some pretty flamboyant changes, but Dom’s doing really well to manage all this energy. Horses, eh – who’d have ’em?

10.20 a.m.

Bolytair B is FULL of beans. This is a level debut for both horse and rider, so they won’t be trying to win the dressage this week – hopefully all this positive energy will be a real asset tomorrow.

10.18 a.m.

An early spook on the centreline for Bolytair B, but Dom Schramm recovers well.

10.16 a.m.

Into the lead for Piggy and Quarrycrest Echo! Stand by for their final score.

10.13 a.m.

Four good changes and a lovely stretchy circle – Red’s nose was practically on the floor!

10.11 a.m.

‘Red’ is really flicking his toes for Piggy – hopefully a tiny bit of very early tension won’t have a big impact on his score. This pair is looking seriously professional.

10.08 a.m.

A huge favourite heading in now! It’s Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo, riding for Great Britain.

10.06 a.m.

It’s a 34.4 for Lauren Kieffer and Paramount Importance! That’ll put them sixth for now.

10.05 a.m. 

Lauren really committed to that stretchy circle, and it paid off! This is quite a short-backed horse, and because he can be a bit tense, it’s not necessarily very easy to show a lot of swing through the back. But they nailed it!

10.03 a.m. 

Lauren and Paramount Importance are looking very relaxed in this huge atmosphere. This big grey was formerly piloted by Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal.

10.00 a.m.

Our first combination in the ring this morning will be Lauren Kieffer and Paramount Importance. They’re heading in now!

9.58 a.m.

Snickers candy bars were named after a horse! Marvellous fun fact. Poor Jenni looks like she might blow away.

9.55 a.m.

Love this from Buck Davidson, who rides his third horse today! #BusyBuck

9.54 a.m.

9.28 a.m.

A bit damp out there.

Kentucky Thursday Afternoon Open Thread, Presented by SmartPak

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Welcome to the second session of dressage at the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event! Our last rider before the lunch break was Switzerland’s Felix Vogg, who stormed into the lead with our only sub-30 score of the morning. His score of 28 with Colero sets the benchmark for this afternoon’s riders, who include two-time Adelaide winners Hazel Shannon and Willungapark Clifford and fan favourites Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby. First in will be Kiwi Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale. They head down the centreline at 1:00 p.m.

Need a refresher on our leaderboard so far? Here’s where this morning’s horses and riders are sitting:

Check out the rundown of this morning’s action from the live thread, and look through today’s dressage powerhouses with stats from Maggie Deatrick. Onwards!

The top ten at the end of Thursday’s dressage session.

#LRK3DE: WebsiteScheduleEntries & Drawn Order, Live ScoresHow to Watch LiveUSEF NetworkHorse & Country TVEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

3.25 p.m.

3.14 p.m.

3.12 p.m.

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3.11 p.m.

3.10 p.m.

3.09 p.m.

3.04 p.m.

Here’s your top ten after the first day of dressage! We’ll be back tomorrow morning at 10.00 a.m. for a stonking day of dressage action. Stay tuned for the full report!

3.02 p.m.

3.00 p.m.

He won’t – it’s a 34 for Jak My Style and Buck Davidson, which is good enough for fifth overnight. That’s our last rider for today – at the end of the first day of competition, Felix Vogg and Colero remain in the lead on 28, our only sub-30 score of the day.

2.57 p.m.

A nice, if conservative, stretchy circle and two good changes from Jak. Buck scored a 32.1 earlier on Park Trader – can he beat himself?

2.56 p.m.

Jak has a tendency to bend through his neck in the extension – though this might be a defensive technique on Buck’s part to avoid any shows of over-exuberance!

2.54 p.m.

This is the second of Buck’s three rides this week – he’s the only rider to have three entries. Idle hands, devil’s work, and all that!

2.52 p.m.

36.2 for Caroline and Danger Mouse – a shame to see some slightly interpretive flying changes knock their score down. Buck Davidson is heading into the ring now with Jak My Style, who had a very short-lived career as a racehorse before turning to eventing. So short-lived, in fact, that he never actually made it to the track – he was too busy putting exercise riders on the floor! Read more about him here.

2.48 p.m.

Danger Mouse is a big, rangy mover, but this can be his downfall a bit, too – he can drift slightly with his quarters, and at this level, straightness is paramount.

2.45 p.m.

Caroline and Danger Mouse spent a couple of months in the UK last season as recipients of the Karen Stives Grant. This big-moving horse impressed in the ring over there, too.

2.44 p.m.

Just two riders left, and they’re busy bees – both of them have already come down the centreline today. First up is Caroline Martin, who was our trailblazer this morning – this time, she rides Danger Mouse.

2.42 p.m.

A big cheer for – and huge celebration from – debutante Chris Talley as he finishes his test with Unmarked Bills! They score 42.

2.41 p.m.

2.39 p.m.

The walk work started well for Unmarked Bills, who has a lovely, lofty overstep. Unfortunately he broke to canter early, though looks to have resettled well now.

2.36 p.m. 

Next up is Chris Talley, who rides Unmarked Bills. Yesterday, Chris honoured his late grandmother with his trot-up outfit, which was embroidered with daisies – her favourite flower – and featured the word ‘love’ in her handwriting along the lapel.

2.35 p.m.

40.9 for Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me – just outside the top ten at this near-halfway stage.

2.33 p.m.

There’ll be a few marks lost in the stretchy circle – Lisa Marie and Honor Me showed some nice steps but not quite enough to really grab those good marks.

2.31 p.m.

Honor Me is looking a bit stilted in the walk – but he makes up for it by moving forward nicely into the extended canter.

2.30 p.m.

2.29 p.m.

Our first Canadian is in the ring! Lisa Marie Fergusson rides Honor Me, a Thoroughbred x Welsh Cob.

2.28 p.m.

 

2.27 p.m.

Ellen is our second rider of the day to sport her Pony Club alumnus pin. Go USPC!

2.26 p.m.

The final centreline in this test is pretty tricky – our riders have to perform a down transition from canter to trot on the centreline, and we’ve seen plenty anticipate the halt and then produce a stilted, slightly hollow trot. Obie is one of them – but he recovers quickly and relaxes well into the final halt. They’ve scored a 36.4 and move into 7th!

2.25 p.m. 

Some really pleasant canter work from Ellen and Obie – we’re seeing lots of stretch in the stretchy circle.

2.24 p.m.

“The test rewards forward riding,” says guest commentator Doug Payne, whose mother Marilyn was in charge of writing it. This is great to see, as John Kyle notes – we reward forward riding on the cross-country, so to do the same in dressage allows us to work with the horses, rather than against their ingrained instincts.

2.23 p.m.

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2.21 p.m.

And we’re back! We’ve got five horses in the final session of today’s dressage at Kentucky. First up is Ellen Doughty-Hume’s Sir Oberon, who holds the unique accolade of having been part of a wedding – Ellen got married at the Head of the Lake here a few years ago.

2.20 p.m.

2.16 p.m.

2.15 p.m.

 

2.06 p.m.

 

1.40 p.m. 

Here’s your current top ten at the judging break – we’ll be back at 2.20 p.m. as Ellen Doughty-Hume and Sir Oberon kick off the final session of the first day of dressage here at Kentucky!

1.38 p.m.

Huge hugs for Cecilia after a PB of 35.2!

1.36 p.m.

 

1.34 p.m.

Wow! This mare has some seriously flicky toes. She looks like the sort of clever mare who really enjoys what she does. A nice pair!

1.32 p.m.

Our last rider before the coffee break will be our sole Mexican competitor, Daniela Moguel, who rides her New Zealand-bred mare Cecelia. It’s great to see Mexico represented on the main stage here!

1.30 p.m.

35.3 and into fifth for Will Faudree and Pfun!

1.28 p.m.

Slightly flamboyant behind in the changes for Pfun! But Will is a consummate professional and, despite a slight lack of harmony, he’s not leaving any points behind for accuracy.

1.24 p.m. 

Next up is a man whose initials have surely been scrawled inside hearts in many fans’ diaries (do people still have diaries?). It’s Will Faudree and Pfun. This is the first horse we’ve seen in a double bridle today.

1.23 p.m.

39 for Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford – not quite what they, or we, were expecting! But it’s good enough for sixth at the moment, and there’s always room to climb.

1.22 p.m.

1.21 p.m. 

Some slight hollowing going into the changes, but Willingapark Clifford still produces the goods – they’re clean and accurate and should deliver safe scores.

1.20 p.m. 

Willingapark Clifford can be quite a tense horse, but he’s not shown any of that so far – his canter half-passes are among the most cadenced we’ve seen today. Hazel is cool as a cucumber and super accurate.

1.17 p.m.

Nice start to their test for Hazel and Willingapark Clifford, who average a low-30s mark. Hazel is very keen to get on the radar of the Australian selectors – this is her first time competing this horse outside of the southern hemisphere. She added a formidable string to her bow over the winter in the form of Cooley SRS; we’ll be looking forward to seeing her results with Oliver Townend’s Badminton runner-up.

1.16 p.m. 

1.15 p.m.

39.7 for Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby! Two-time Adelaide winner Hazel Shannon is next in the ring. “The grass is a lot greener here,” she laughs.

1.14 p.m.

Anyone in the market for a Thoroughbred? Here you go:

 

1.11 p.m.

Lillian is based with fellow competitor Boyd Martin in the Pennsylvania eventing mecca. We’re seeing some positive work in the ring at the moment.

1.08 p.m. 

“We need an American to win it,” says Phillip Dutton. Phillip, of course, was our last home winner here – he took the title in 2008.

Next in the ring is Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby, who made their debut here in 2016, jumping clear. They also completed Burghley last year, so this is certainly a pair to keep an eye on.

1.07 p.m. 

It’ll be a 44.4 for Johnny Royale and Joe Meyer – we saw the horse really start to relax and work well in the stretchy canter circle, which can be a fiendishly tricky movement on a horse affected by atmosphere.

1.06 p.m.

Great shot of our leaders!

1.05 p.m.

“It’s a real accuracy test, which tests your training and your accuracy. There’s a lot on the centreline which really shows any inaccuracies to the judges,” says Phillip of this test, which asks a lot of big questions.

1.03 p.m.

“It’s hard to prepare a horse that’s never been at this level before,” says Phillip Dutton from the commentary box. “You really have to trust in the training.”

Joe is working hard to get Johnny Royale to feel a bit bolder – they’re looking a bit stuck in some movements but we’re seeing some good, tactful, nurturing riding.

1.00 p.m.

And they’re off! Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale have a little wiggle in their entrance and halt, but this is a debut at this level for this horse – so a little bit of buzzing is to be expected. We’re seeing some nice trot work from the gorgeous grey now.

12.57 p.m.

12.45 p.m.

We’re running our Kentucky Top Dog contest again this year, in conjunction with World Equestrian Brands. Submit your pooch pics to win a set of Equilibrium Tri-Zone Impact XC Boots! Check it out here.

12.43 p.m.

No judgment from us.

 

12.42 p.m.

Our very own Jenni Autry is expertly wielding a mic by the collecting ring to chat to riders as they finish their tests. Here’s what current leader Felix Vogg had to say…

 

Kentucky Thursday Morning Open Thread, Presented by SmartPak

Caroline Martin and Spring Easy. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event is a go, party people! We’re just moments away from the commencement of the first session of dressage, where some of the crowd favourites will be battling it out to take an early lead in this year’s event. Click here to find out about some of the heavy-hitters in this session, courtesy of our stats queen, Maggie Deatrick.

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack will be our first pair to take to the centreline at 10.00am – you can watch all the action as it happens via USEF Network. Our very own Jenni Autry will be on commentary duties alongside the marvellous John Kyle – but if you can’t sneak the livestream open at work or school, never fear! We’ll be bringing you everything you need to know as it happens right here – so keep your finger on the ‘refresh’ button and get ready for go-time!

#LRK3DE: WebsiteScheduleEntries & Drawn Order, Live ScoresHow to Watch LiveUSEF NetworkHorse & Country TVEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

11.52 a.m.

11.51 a.m.

11.50 a.m.

 

11.48 a.m.

What’s life like as a Technical Delegate at Kentucky? Find out at the USEA’s Event College:

 

11.47 a.m.

Need a little bit of inspiration? How about some BIG, SHINY TROPHIES:

 

11.45 a.m.

That’s it for the morning session of dressage here at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event! We’ll be back at 1.00 p.m. with live updates from this afternoon’s session. Catch you on the flip side!

11.41 a.m.

One for the Celien fans among us – she and Hallie scored a 32.7 and sit fourth at the moment. This combination will certainly be ones to watch on Saturday!

11.37 a.m.

Felix is quite fanciable, all things considered. Not least because he’s just gone into the lead on 28.

11.35 a.m.

Felix is using his space very, very well – he makes the most of every corner and every last inch of arena to set Colero up for the more difficult movements. Very educational.

11.33 a.m.

We’ve had a morning full of American competitors, but now we have a representative of Switzerland – Felix Vogg and Colero have begun their test.

11.31 a.m.

It won’t eclipse their Pau result, but Hallie Coon and Celien head into provisional third place currently. Standby for score.

11.28 a.m. 

A tiny bit of disobedience as Celien anticipates the upward transition out of walk, but some beautiful work shown in the canter extensions. They aren’t as brave as Buck’s, but they’re safe and accurate.

11.27 a.m.

Celien is one of only four mares in the field this year, and as John Kyle says, she could be one of the very best. Historically, this hasn’t been the easiest phase for this pair, but Hallie has been working hard with David O’Connor to eke out the extra marks – and their spate of recent upper-20s scores prove it.

11.24 a.m.

It’ll be a 44.8 for Mara and Congo. Next into the arena is Hallie Coon and her mega-mare Celien. They delivered a sub-30s score in their first five-star last year – can they do it again?

11.22 a.m. 

It won’t be the result that Mara will have hoped for – Congo bubbled over in the big atmosphere in the main arena, and we saw Mara do very well to keep him on side as best as possible. Onwards and upwards!

11.18 a.m.

Congo is feeling a bit exuberant – he throws his head in the trot half-pass and picks up canter three times. Mara has coaxed him back into trot now, but she’s having to ride him conservatively.

11.16 a.m.

“I didn’t necessarily think I’d ever be back here again,” says Mara DePuy. “And who wouldn’t want to be riding Congo?”

Congo Brazzaville C and Mara are about to begin their test.

11.15 a.m. 

Some expensive breaks in the lateral work for Hannah Sue and Harbour Pilot. They score a 39.6 – off the pace of their five-star PB of 29.8.

11.12 a.m.

11.11 a.m.

Make a wish! Some tension coming through in Harbour Pilot’s test – Hannah Sue will be wishing for clean, calm changes.

11.09 a.m.

Hannah Sue Burnett is in the ring now on Jacqueline Mars’ Harbour Pilot. MARS, Incorporated are one of the key supporters of this year’s event – without fantastic sponsors and partners, competitions like this just can’t happen.

11.07 a.m.

 

11.05 a.m.

Allie Sacksen and Sparrow’s Nio after their dressage, which earned them a PB of 36.7. Check out that Pony Club alumnus badge, too! Photo by Shelby Allen.

10.53 a.m.

Heading to Kentucky this week? Need something to read while you’re waiting for the next test? Check out our must-do guide for the Thoroughbred super-fan.

 

10.47 a.m.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shelby Allen.

An interesting factoid from EN’s Maggie Deatrick – last year, we only saw four tests with a differentiation of 5% plus between judges. Liz Halliday-Sharp’s test with Deniro Z has a 7.69% differentiation, which is bigger than last year’s highest of 7.42%. As of this year, a differentiation of more than 3% in the flying changes will warrant a video review by the ground jury.

10.45 a.m.

A little look at 17.2hh Polaris – we can’t help but think that this horse will produce a seriously smart test one day. #legs4dayz

10.43 a.m.

Here’s your leaderboard from the first half of the first session – you can follow along with live scores here! Our next rider will be Hannah Sue Burnett, who comes forward with Harbour Pilot at 11.08 a.m.

10.40 a.m.

Who needs reins anyway? Polaris is cool and calm – once he leaves the arena.

It’s a 49 for Sara Gumbiner and Polaris, but they’re not here to win this phase. At the first drag break, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z lead on 30.9.

10.37 a.m. 

Oh dear – Polaris looks set to explode in the changes. Really nice job by Sara, who isn’t rising to it at all. Lots of big pats for Larry as they leave the arena. Now, of course, he’s relaxed as anything – typical!

10.36 a.m.

Some tension creeping in in the canter work, but Sara knows this horse so well – she’s gently coaxing him through, and he’s beginning to snort and exhale as he responds to her aids.

10.33 a.m. 

Another gorgeous grey in the ring, and this time it’s the stunning, leggy Polaris, ridden by Sara Gumbiner. We saw this pair deliver a clear round last year on their Kentucky debut – this can be a tricky phase for this sharp Irish horse, but he’s holding it together at the moment. He’s a classic leaderboard climber, but Sara will be hoping to make some early headway.

10.32 a.m.

A personal best at this level for Allie Sacksen and Sparrow’s Nio! They score a 36.5 and enjoy a backstage celebration.

10.31 a.m.

“I thought the trot work was some of the best he’s done – I really tried to ride every part of that test as best I could,” says Liz, chatting to Jenni. “We know the changes are difficult for him – we hoped he could make it into the twenties, but he tried his guts out, and I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Liz’s score has been slightly changed and confirmed as 30.9.

10.26 a.m.

It’s tough, as Marilyn points out, if you’re on a horse like Nio – he can perform the movement as well as a more dressage-y type, like Deniro Z, but he’ll lose a bit for the paces. But, as she continues, the partnership this pair has will be the most important thing on Saturday.

All that said, we’re seeing some lovely, obedient work (and a nice clean change!) from Nio – he’s come on enormously in this phase.

10.23 a.m. 

Next up is Sparrow’s Nio, ridden by Allie Sacksen. Nio is a Connemara/Thoroughbred cross and clocks in at just 15.3hh – and he and Allie so obviously enjoy one another’s company that it’s great fun to watch!

10.22 a.m.

It’s a 30.2 for Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z – some brilliant work in there, but those changes were very, very expensive. This is still a competitive score, but it really opens the door for someone else to lead this morning.

10.19 a.m. 

A bit of trouble in the changes – all four have been a bit hoppy and muddled. These are four scores that will be below five, says Marilyn.

10.18 a.m. 

“It all just flows,” says Marilyn Payne, who wrote this test. That’s one of the things that judges are looking for, she says – does it look like the test is one sinuous, flowing movement, or are horses and riders tackling each section as unconnected blocks?

10.16 a.m.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader. Photo by Shelby Allen.

It’s a 32.1 for Buck Davidson and Park Trader! Now we’ve got one of our real heavy-hitters: Liz Halliday-Sharp’s Deniro Z. This is a very, very consistent sub-30s horse, who finished eighth in his debut five-star at Luhmühlen last year. Let’s see what they’ve got for us!

10.15 a.m.

We’ve gone from a young gun in Islandwood Captain Jack (10) to an established campaigner in Park Trader (17) – but who will the judges prefer?

10.12 a.m.

Wow! Buck and Park Trader really go for broke in the extended canter – at this level, you’ve got to have guts and gumption to get all the marks you need. The risk is that it can be hard to come back from a full-tilt extension, and that’s what we see here – Park Trader’s change at the end is clean, but it’s a bit late. That could prove costly.

10.11 a.m.

This test has longer half-passes than we’re used to – so we’ll see this movement become pretty influential. Balanced, focussed horses who continue to listen to their riders throughout will reap the rewards.

10.09 a.m.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader are in the ring now – Park Trader is looking keen and ready for action!

10.06 a.m. 

Some really solid, consistent canter work from Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack – they score a 40.0, which won’t be the best score we see this morning, but will take the pressure off and give Caroline the breathing room to give her horse an educational week at Kentucky.

10.03 a.m. 

Caroline might be young, but she’s got ice in her veins – she takes her time and establishes the halt before reining back. Islandwood Captain Jack isn’t always the easiest horse, but he’s strolling through the walk section like he’s out for a walk in the park. Very, very nice work from him.

10.01 a.m. 

Our first horse is in the ring! Caroline Martin has just come down the centreline with her first ride of the week, the gorgeous grey Islandwood Captain Jack. A really nice entry from this pair.

9.57 a.m. 

Our very own Jenni Autry is holding down the fort ringside on USEF Network – can we take a minute to fan-girl? OF COURSE WE CAN, THERE ARE NO RULES HERE.

9.55 a.m. 

We’re starting the day with a very dapper looking defending champion chatting about his prospects this weekend. Oliver Townend is looking pretty confident – “it’s exciting to come here with a top-class horse,” he says, praising Kentucky as one of the very best events in the world. Too right, Townend!

9:54 a.m.

It BEGINS. Are we buzzing? We are buzzing. Just a few minutes now until Caroline Martin becomes the first 5* eventer ever. (Okay, sure, the level has only changed in name – but still, it sounds cool!)

8:20 a.m.

Selena O’Hanlon Withdraws Foxwood High from Badminton

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High see a dream come true. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The latest in a spate of withdrawals from next week’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is Canada’s Selena O’Hanlon, who was aiming for a visit with her seasoned campaigner Foxwood High.

Owned by John and Judy Rumble, the sixteen-year-old Canadian Sport Horse (Rio Bronco W x Evita II) finished 24th in his debut at the venue last season, before capping off his season with a clear round at the World Equestrian Games. With wins at Red Hills and Bromont CCI4*-S amongst their prep runs, they were certainly among the crowd favourites for a great placing this year. Selena and her head groom, Anne-Marie Duarte, had been working hard on public fundraisers to offset the cost of the trip.

“Sadly, Woody didn’t feel quite right during his last gallop prepping for Badminton,” Selena told EN. “Although Team Woody is very disappointed not to tackle Badminton 2019, we look forward to bringing Woody out later this year.”

Team work really does make the dream work: Mark Todd congratulates Selena O’Hanlon on a great round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Selena and Woody have once again based themselves at Mark Todd‘s Wiltshire base, Badgerstown, this spring. Their withdrawal means that Ireland’s Michael Ryan and his longtime partner Dunlough Striker have been accepted to start at the prestigious competition. Eleven riders have been accepted from the waitlist so far, while two have opted to withdraw from it. Ten combinations remain waitlisted, including Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack, who are currently second on the list.

The EN team wishes Woody a speedy return to form and a safe journey home.

#MMBHT: Website, Live Stream, Entries, Form Guide, Course Preview, #BadmintonAt70, EN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Friday Video from SmartPak: The Asian Games Hit Ireland

Asian games comes to Ballindenisk – Toshi first come on Kazu

Posted by Jackie Potts Equestrian Services on Friday, April 19, 2019

Have you ever thought that eventing is maybe just lacking a little bit of, well, insanity? That perhaps it’s all a bit too sane and sedate, like the wheels have fallen off the banter bus a wee bit? Of course you haven’t, but just in case, enter eventing in Ireland. As if galloping pell-mell over colossal timber fences and drinking one’s bodyweight in whiskey isn’t enough, the delightfully bonkers folk behind Ballindenisk International Horse Trials have added an extra phase to proceedings. Welcome to the annual donkey race, in which top riders pair up with a different sort of four-legged friend to battle it out for top honours.

Super-groom Jackie Potts shared this action-packed, nail-biting clip of today’s race – we talk an awful lot about how formidable the Japanese eventing team are becoming, and Toshiyuki Tanaka dealt the final blow by cruising to an easy win aboard his donkey. He was followed by Ryuzo Kitajima in second place and Chinese Olympian Alex Hua Tian, who appeared to get lost and then employed some very suspect tactics, romped home in third. Unfortunately, Kazuma Tomoto couldn’t quite find the accelerator pedal on his donkey, and he meandered home in good spirits, but a very definitive last place. Better luck next time, Kazu.

#BadmintonAt70: The 2019 Badminton Form Guide

Gird your loins, chaps: the countdown is ON to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, and we, for one, couldn’t be more excited — not least because this year is a special one. 2019’s competition is the 70th anniversary of the inaugural Badminton, and since its first running in 1949 the sport, the venue, and the characters within this epic story have changed and evolved significantly. To celebrate 70 years of brilliant Badminton, we’ll be bringing you an extra-special inside look at the event and its rich and exciting history every week from now until the competition begins on May 1. Consider the archives your own personal Gringotts, and EN your loyal goblin sherpas. 

We know you’ve been rationing out your lunch breaks for the Big One, that infamous hotbed of madness that is the annual form guide, and we shan’t hold back on you any longer. Here’s your 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials field, and everything you need to know about each and every last one of them, brought to you in partnership with Voltaire Design. See you on the flip side, gang.

Is there anything more exciting than the long-anticipated release of the Badminton entry list? Nothing quite decides the end of winter like it – when it goes live, eventing fans across the globe can be spotted, lumbering out of their dwellings like oddly excitable bears to look, to tweet, to discuss, and to analyse.

And analyse we most certainly have done. Despite some technical malfunctions at Eventing Nation’s UK HQ, Chinch and his team of rodent brethren have been hard at work crunching the numbers and digging out the fun facts. What fun they are, too – in the sultry depths of the form guide, you’ll discover which competitor works as a stunt rider for Game of Thrones, which entrant first had the ride on Arctic Soul, and which stallion enjoys an astonishing dominion over the entry list with five own sons entered.

As always, the form guide will be constantly updated to reflect additions from the waitlist, as well as significant changes in form as we head into the last couple of prep runs before the big day. Keep it locked onto EN, and let us know in the comments who your money’s on this year!

Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

2: Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope 

Twelve-year-old gelding (Porter Rhodes x Brown Sue). Owned by Marek Sebestak and the rider.

“I’m not the bravest rider in the world,” confessed Pippa after storming around Burghley last year. You could’ve fooled us, Pip – that Burghley track was probably the biggest we’ve ever seen, and to blitz around it with just 4.8 time penalties was nothing short of miraculous.

Admittedly, his Burghley result somewhat defied expectations – he had been twelfth at Tattersalls CCI4-L earlier in the season, and eighth at Barbury the year prior, but we hadn’t yet been truly dazzled. Of course, to discount him would be to admit a loss of faith in the ability and rationale of his rider – and as committed fans of the Funnell, we wouldn’t dare. Though he doesn’t have quite the first-phase scope of his stablemates, we can probably dare to hope for a dressage score slightly lower than the 35.2 he delivered at his five-star debut. After all, he posted a 25.5 at his season debut at Tweseldown. Then, we’ll be hoping for another Burghley-style clear – if he can deliver once again, he’s in with a great shout in the final phase. He only toppled one rail, nationally or internationally, in 2018.

OR

Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

3: Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On

Ten-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Billy Mexico x Shannon Line). Owned by Barbara and Nicholas Walkinshaw.

The first-ever Grand Slam winner is back with a bang, with three horses entered for this year’s event. Billy Walk On is a product of Pippa and husband William’s breeding enterprise, the Billy Stud, which has become something of an assembly line for top-class eventers and showjumpers.

This is to be Billy Walk On’s fifth season eventing – he won his first ever international back in 2015, and through his two- and three-star (formerly one- and two-star) career, he was pretty much unbeatable. Then he had some slight learning curves – and a spate of withdrawals – in his first season at four-star, but his 2018 season relit the candle we’ve long held for this stunning horse. He was fourth in the CCI4-S at Hartpury, 14th in Bramham’s CCI4-L, and second in the insanely competitive Chatsworth CCI4-S, which is widely regarded as a great indicator of a horse’s ability to cover the ground across the country. His season finished on a bit of a duff note when he picked up 20 penalties at Blenheim, but he’s since come out and skipped around his first OI of the season to win, so he’ll be interesting to watch in his bigger prep runs. He’s certainly turning into a classic Pip ride in the first phase – most of his scores begin with the magic ‘2’.

Tina Cook and Star Witness. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

4: Tina Cook and Star Witness

Fourteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Witness Box x Drive On Rosie). Owned by Jim Chromiak, Bridget Biddlecombe, Shaun Lawson, and Mr and Mrs Nicholas Embiricos. 

The second entry from Tina Cook is Star Witness, a horse who was bought as a three-year-old, unbroken sales project – who never left. Now, he’s got five five-star completions under his belt, and he’s finished in the top ten in four of them. The fifth was Burghley 2018, where he finished eleventh, delivering one of the only double-clear cross country rounds of the day to climb spectacularly.

This is what Star Witness does best – he might not be the most flash dressage performer, but like Mr Bass, he’s astonishingly good at finishing on whatever he delivers on the first day. He’s only notched up 12 cross-country time penalties in internationals since the middle of 2016, and he’s FOD’d twice at Burghley and once at Badminton. That was in 2016, on his only other trip here – he finished seventh, and could certainly go better if Tina can eke a couple more marks out of him in the dressage. He’s the archetype of a horse who benefits from last year’s scoring revision.

Interestingly, he suffers from kissing spines – but with careful management from Tina and her team, it obviously doesn’t slow him down at all. Tina, for her part, has been happy to discuss this publicly – she hopes, quite rightly, that his success might persuade people to work a bit harder on improving their ‘throwaway’ horses.

Emma Hyslop-Webb presents Waldo III at Blenheim. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

6: Emma Hyslop-Webb and Waldo III – FIRST-TIMERS

Sixteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Faldo x Naomi). Owned by the rider.

Emma has two horses entered – her second ride, Pennlands Douglas is currently waitlisted. Douglas was Emma’s mount for her first five-star at Pau, back in 2016, and also her first Luhmühlen and Burghley, but we’ve only seen Waldo once at this level. He went to that spectacularly tough Pau in 2017, finishing 39th after some problems on course.

Since then, he’s had clear rounds at Chatsworth and Bramham, and finished third in the CCI4-L at Portugal’s Barroca d’Alva early this spring. He’s prone to the odd bit of interpretive dance in the first phase, and as a result, his scores fluctuate from the high 30s to high 40s, but Emma will be here to give him a jolly good run around a nice, beefy track. They’re first-timers by default – Emma was entered but didn’t start with Douglas in 2017 – and you’ll spot them from a mile off as they head out on course in Emma’s signature Barbie pink colours.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

8: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II x Kilderry Place). Owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan.

Ultra-talented but ultra-sharp and tricky, Thomas went from flying completely under the radar to winning Burghley practically with his eyes shut on his five-star debut in 2017.

What’s perhaps most exciting about Thomas is that even after he won here, Oliver admitted that the horse was still ‘babyish’ in many ways — the dressage wasn’t yet quite established, and the atmosphere in the main arena had the ability to slightly pull his focus off his job. His jumping style, too, was still green — he jumped big to make up for the fact that he hadn’t yet learned to jump economically. But discovering your capabilities over a course like Burghley, and then taking the winter holidays to mull over all you’ve learned, is the making of a tempestuous talent like Thomas.

He was fifth at Badminton last year after that astonishing, record-equalling 20.8 dressage test, proving that the first phase is very much established now. He looked to tire on cross-country — leading to, perhaps, one of the bigger talking points of the first half of the season — but looked fresh and well on the final day, unfortunately pulling two rails to drop out of contention for the very top spot. Oliver took a tumble from him at Aachen, but they regrouped and won Burgham CCI4*-S the following week, lest anyone murmur that they’d lost their touch. They were then part of Oliver’s total domination of Blair Castle CCI4*-S before heading to Burghley yet again, finishing second to another Price.

“I’ve had him since the word go, and he’s been tricky — I still gave to be careful with him when he’s fresh! — but with extreme talent come the quirks,” said Oliver after his second Burghley placing with the horse. Oliver, who admits that he’s often guilty of “keeping my head down and staying quiet”, has a special place in his heart for the gorgeous grey.

“He has the main box in the yard. It doesn’t matter which window I’m looking out of; I can always see Thomas, even from the bathroom! He’s the first horse I look at in the morning and the last horse I see at night. He’s as special a horse as I’ve ever ridden.”

This is a very, very safe bet for a top placing, and if nothing else, we can’t wait to see the difference in Thomas over all three phases. The development of a young horse like this is very nearly as exciting as the major victories — we just hope he’s stopped lawn-darting the grooms across the gallops. His win in Burnham Market’s CCI4*-S will set him up nicely for a great run.

OR

Oliver Townend (GBR) and Cillnabradden Evo. Photo courtesy of Equestrian Festival Baborówko.

9: Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (S. Creevagh Ferro x Willow Garden). Owned by Sally-Anne Egginton.

It surprised us to see Gary on the entry list for Pau last year, and it surprises us to see him here now – of all Oliver’s horses, he’s the one who’s proven to be the most consistent and competitive CCI4*-S competitor.

Cillnabradden Evo has been in Oliver’s string since late 2015 — he took the horse on after Andrew Nicholson’s major injury at Gatcombe Park. Before Pau, he hasn’t done a CCI since Saumur in 2016, where he finished fifth, but had been a serious campaigner around CCI4*-S events, contesting five Event Rider Masters legs and coming 1st or 2nd in seven of his previous eleven internationals. The thirteen-year-old Irish gelding won Baborowko CCI4*-S last year after finishing second at Wiesbaden ERM, and he was second at Blair’s ERM finale, too.

He’s a serious low-to-mid 20s dressage horse, although he pulled an incredible 19 out of the bag at Gatcombe’s British Open Championships last year and set a new PB of 18.9 in an Advanced section at Weston Park this month. Gatcombe’s not been a happy hunting ground for the horse, though, and the British Open was no exception — he retired on course. He was withdrawn before cross country at Barbury’s ERM after pulling an exceptionally uncharacteristic five poles — the horse is an out-and-out showjumper normally and hadn’t had a pole since 2014, but since then he’s had three runs and not a single showjumping clear. He also had a 20 at Arville over a tough course, which was a real surprise. And then there was Pau: he led the dressage on a remarkable 22.7 but left a leg at the first of the formidable swans after the final water. Though Gary stayed upright, he swiftly deposited Oliver on the floor, putting paid to his chances of taking another five-star victory with a debutante. This spring, he’s come out all guns blazing, taking an easy win in a CCI4*-S section at Burnham Market on a new record finishing score.

Our verdict? The same as it ever was, really: if Oliver does bring Gary forward, he’ll either win, or they won’t complete. There is no middle ground.

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

10: Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul

Sixteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Luso xx x Dream Cocktail xx). Owned by the Soul Syndicate.

Arctic Soul — known as Spike — has come SO close to a big win, finishing in third place at Burghley in 2017 and third at Badminton in 2016. He’s also been seventh here, two years ago, and fifth at Burghley in 2014. In 2017, he won the ERM leg at Gatcombe, securing Gemma the series title and earning himself the British Open Championship, too. He added just 1.2 time penalties on a day when the time was well-nigh impossible to get. Last year, he was fourth here, and then went on to act as pathfinder for the gold-medal-winning British team in Tryon.

The ex-racehorse has been lovingly referred to as ‘totally crazy’ by Gemma, who has to ask for silence from the audience to get a good test from him, and when he goes across the country, he really goes. But he’s not stupid, and his sense of self-preservation extends to his rider, too — at Burghley 2017, Gemma was battling a serious chest infection all week and Arctic Soul stepped up to the plate. These two have an incredible relationship, wrought from time, patience, and a similar gutsy tunnel-vision, and we can’t help but feel that it’s their time to graduate from bridesmaids to brides.

Izzy Taylor and Call Me Maggie May. Photo by Niamh Flynn/Tattersalls.

11: Izzy Taylor and Call Me Maggie May

Twelve-year-old KWPN mare (Hamar x Marijke). Owned by Tom Strong.

Maggie’s last international run was at Pau last season, and she made it a good one: she finished eleventh, and was the only one of Izzy’s three rides to complete the competition. That was her five-star debut, and a result that becomes all the more impressive when you consider that Izzy doesn’t actually ride the mare every day. Instead, she lives with her owner, Tom, who produced her to Intermediate and still does much of the day-to-day schooling.

The shining star on Maggie’s international record was her win at Tattersalls CCI4*-L last year, which she accomplished with a 28.5 FOD. Pau aside, where she posted an uncharacteristic 37.5, she’s becoming a seriously strong performer in each phase – and now that she’s made her level debut, Izzy will know just how much she can push the mare. Watch out.

Tim Price and Bango at Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

12: Tim Price and Bango

Thirteen-year-old gelding (Garrison Royal x No Sale). Owned by The Numero Uno Syndicate.

“Uno doesnt really mention it much these days, but he comes from a pretty basic Irish bog and clearly spent his early years flogging through the swamp-like mud to forage for food.  This has left him with a fantastic ability to go cross country in the worst of conditions and since he spent a fair amount of time in thick fog as a baby unable to see his mother across the field he also doesnt mind being left on his own in the slightest.”

So reads Uno’s description on the Price’s delightfully silly website, and it’s proven to be true: this is another cross-country machine in the Team Price line-up. Uno has never been better than he was at Burghley last year, where he finished tenth (but got to stand in for stablemate Oz in the prize-giving) after adding just 9.2 time penalties to his 32.1 dressage.

This will be his fourth five-star but first Badminton – he made his level debut at Luhmühlen in 2015, finishing 15th, and clocked up a 20 around his first Burghley in 2016. Since then, it’s been onwards and upwards for the talented gelding – and if we can see him bring his dressage scores a bit closer to his national averages, we could see him run very competitively indeed.

Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury storm around Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

14: Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury

Seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Olympic Lux x Tell Me Sunshine). Owned by the Luxury Syndicate.

Experienced campaigner Cooly comes to Badminton with a, well, unique accolade – he’s the proud owner of perhaps the most-lauded trotters in the biz. That is to say, he’s won the Best Shod Horse prize at Burghley in three of his five appearances there. At Badminton last year, farrier Jim Hayter installed heart-bar shoes without clips, while at Burghley, he wore straight-barred shoes with clips. The more you know, pals.

Burghley has been a real specialty for this very good cross-country horse, and he’s finished in the top twenty there a couple of times. His best five-star result was eleventh there in 2014. Last year, he enjoyed his first Badminton completion, winning Tom the Laurence Rook trophy for being the highest-placed British rider who hadn’t completed Badminton before. A bit of a mouthful, but they finished nineteenth.

Despite his seventeen years, Cooly has begun his season looking – and feeling, by all reports – remarkably well, finished twelfth in a hot OI at Tweseldown, eleventh in an AI at Great Witchingham and 12th in an enormous field in Belton’s CCI4*-S Grantham Cup. Ordinarily, we can expect a low-30s score from Cooly at the five-star level, but he delivered a very creditable 30.8 here last year, and retained firefighter Tom will be riding high on the wave of confidence delivered by his end-of-season success with stablemate Liberty and Glory, so expect him to eke out every spare mark his old friend has to offer.

(Incidentally, if you fancy a piece of the Cooly pie, there’s a final space in the syndicate remaining – so you could go to Badminton as an owner, if you move quickly!)

William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire. Photo by Prime Photography for Tattersalls.

15: William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire

Ten-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Graf Top x Heraldiks Angara). Owned by Jennifer Dowling and the rider.

Lanky Will has totted up a fair few successes in his time – he was the last British rider to win Badminton, for one, taking the top spot aboard Chilli Morning. Beyond that, he’s the only rider to have won five of the world’s six five-star events (Adelaide, for obvious reasons, has eluded him, but we reckon Isabel English would probably come up with a suitably devious plan to get him over there and make it all six). He’s won Burghley an almost ludicrous six times, has had to find somewhere to store 22 medals, and is three-time World number one and seven-time British number one. Phew. Most importantly, though, he breeds Frizzle chickens, which are CHICKENS THAT GROW THEIR OWN TROUSERS and also FUNKY, FUNKY AFROS.

This chicken-fanciers’ website describes Frizzle chickens as “quite the glitzy girls” with “frizzled plumage and short, erect bodies”, and if you want to try to tell me for even a SECOND that this is not the quality content you’re here for, then you’re a dirty great big liar. Not at all like a Frizzle chicken, which is “docile and gentle” and “not just the next starlet to fall from grace”(???).

Anyway, Long Tall William is back with two rides this year (though presumably no chickens). Little Fire will be making his second appearance at a five-star after a seriously smart cross-country round at Pau ended just a few fences from home with a really unlucky rider fall. Known as Aiden, the ten-year-old really impressed at Tattersalls CCI4-L last summer, too, taking second place amid hot competition.

Aiden posted a 30.5 dressage at Pau, and we should expect to see the same, roughly, again – he tends to be in the high 20s at four-star, but five-star is that touch harder, and there’s an atmosphere to contend with, too. Then, we’ll have to just hope for the quality of that Pau round, without the unfortunate addendum. The horse is certainly capable, and we guess the rider probably is, too.

Christopher Burton and Graf Liberty at Blair Castle 2017. Photo by Event Rider Masters.

16: Chris Burton and Graf Liberty

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Limmerick x Lisheen Star).Owned by the Graf Liberty Syndicate.

We last saw the experienced Graf Liberty at Badminton in 2017, when he posted an impressive dressage score of 21.9 – the best we’d seen in fifteen years at the event. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be his weekend — he picked up 20 penalties at the skinny log coming out of the Hildon Water Pond, scuppering his chances of a win.

We’ve seen him in three Event Rider Masters leg since then, and he’s not been out of the top three in any of them – those were Blair and Blenheim in 2017, and Blair again in 2018, which he won despite the, um, ‘trying’ conditions. It would be easy to dismiss him as a short format specialist, but he finished fourth at Luhmühlen in 2015 — okay, it’s not quite Badminton, but we know the ability is in there. Expect a competitive first-phase performance and, based on the form of the last eighteen months, a Saturday to remember.

Camille Lejeune and Tahina des Isles at Burghley. Photo by Peter Nixon.

17: Camille Lejeune and Tahina des Isles

Twelve-year-old mare (Calvados x Elan De La Cour). Owned by Virginie Jorissen and rider.

Tahina Des Isles made her four-star debut in 2018, finishing 14th at Luhmuehlen after an international personal best of 29.6 was slightly hampered by 18.8 time penalties and two rails down. Then, they came to Burghley, where the plucky mare and her expressive rider finished 16th, adding 13.6 time penalties to their dressage of 33.9. Notably, they were also the first combination to jump clear on the final day – before that, we played pick up sticks for a long, long time.

Lejeune has competed at four-star twice before last season, both with R’Du Temps Bliniere – they were 19th at Pau in 2015 and 26th at Badminton the following year. Expect a low 30s dressage but a quicker cross-country than we’ve seen from them at this level – they’re certainly ready to step up to the plate and ride for the top ten, which is where we saw them finish at Belton.

As Camille (who is, I should note, NOT a woman) said every day at Burghley, “it is the dream of a kid, no?”

18: Jim Newsam and Magennis

Seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Limmerick x Inishkea). Owned by Carole Hawthorne and the rider.

Jim and Magennis have won the CCI4-L at Ballindenisk twice now – they took it in 2010, when the horse was just eight-years-old, and they won it again last year. That’s great and all, but what’s even more interesting is that Jim spends his off-season working as a rider and actor double on the set of Game of Thrones (no word yet on whether he was Jon Snow’s bum double. YOU KNOW NOTHING, JIM NEWSAM).

When he’s not slashing up White Walkers and, I don’t know, crossbowing prostitutes to feed to dragons, Jim enjoys notching up surprise wins and zooming around cross-country courses. This will be a seventh five-star for this pair, who have two completions at the level under their belt, both at Badminton. Their best result was 45th here in 2017. Their aim should just be to log another clear round – then we’ll be cornering Jim in the mixed zone to gossip about Daenarys.

Nicola Wilson and Bulana take Barbury. Photo by William Carey.

20: Nicola Wilson and Bulana

Thirteen-year-old KWPN mare (Tygo x Sulana). Owned by James and Jo Lambert.

The gorgeous Berry is indubitably talented, but she hasn’t always been an easy ride – early on in her CCI4* (formerly three-star) career, she was a bit of a tearaway, and the general consensus was that once she was manageable, she’d be damn near unbeatable. True enough, she’s picked up a slew of very respectable results since deciding to play nice, including a win in Barbury CCI4*-S last season and individual bronze at the 2017 European Championships at Strzegom, where they contributed enormously to the British team’s historic gold medal.

But even now, Berry isn’t the most straightforward horse – she was taken off the long list for a spot on the WEG squad after a minor injury put her out of action last season. In fact, we haven’t seen her in an international since that Barbury win, and she’s only had one national run in that time: she finished fifth in an OI at Oasby last month, but was subsequently withdrawn from her two AI entries.

This will be a third five-star for the mare, who finished second in her debut at the level at Luhmühlen in 2017. She revisited the event last season, delivering a great first-phase score of 27.5, but was retired on course after two stops. Her dressage is consistently competitive, but it would be fair to expect her to be a bit rusty across the country – but on her day, Badminton’s beefy track is well within her capabilities.

Emily King and Dargun at Bramham. Photo by Pat Cunningham.

21: Emily King and Dargun

Eleven-year-old KWPN gelding (Vaillant x Nandalite). Owned by Jane del Missier. 

Who can forget Emily King’s first appearance at Badminton? At just 20 years old, she was the youngest competitor in the field, and she’d made her five-star debut the year prior an impressive one, finishing fourth with Brookleigh at Pau. No one would have blamed her if she’d cracked under the pressure of riding down the centreline at Badminton – after all, her mother is two-time winner Mary King, and what 20-year-old finds it easy to cope with the weight of that amount of media and spectator attention?

But she didn’t. Her dazzling test put her into second place, just 2.4 penalties behind eventual winner Michael Jung. On cross-country day, she rode like someone who had grown up around the Badminton parkland – which, we suppose, she sort of did. Disaster struck at the penultimate fence from home, when Brook twisted to the right and Emily hit the deck. In a cruel irony, this had actually happened to Mary, too – she fell at the very same fence when in the lead in 2005.

That was back in 2016, and while top horse Brookleigh has been enjoying a long holiday to recuperate from a tendon strain, Emily has been working on producing a string of exciting younger horses. Head of the pack is Dargun, known at home as Dre. He’s been a funny character at the four-star level – his career is made up of enormous highs and crashing lows, and he can be just as mercurial in the showjumping as he is across the country. But there’s no doubt that he’s talented – he stormed to the win in Bramham’s tough under-25 CCI4-L class, beating Thibault Fournier and Siniani de Lathus. They, of course, went on to win the five-star at Pau. But they’ve actually only got four clear cross-country rounds at the four-star level out of nine completions, and they’ve failed to complete at five four-star events. In the interest of clarity, though, one of those was a showjumping elimination, and two were withdrawals. The other two non-completions were retirements – they’ve not had an cross-country falls at this level.

Emily seemed confident at Bramham that Dre’s ups and downs were behind him – but even so, this will be a big test. Expect them to be competitive early on – they should post a high-20s dressage – and then, we’ll all be keeping our fingers crossed for a little bit of King magic on Saturday.

Simon Grieve and Drumbilla Metro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

22: Simon Grieve and Drumbilla Metro

Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Metropole x Colleens Touch). Owned by Merna Merrett, Catherine O’Connor, and the rider.

15.3hh Splash may be one of the smallest horses in this year’s field, but that’s never slowed him down before — he’s already notched up completions and Badminton and Burghley. That Badminton completion last year was actually Simon’s first, too – he’d made his debut at this event in 2016, but until last season, it looked like Burghley was a far more favourable five-star for him.

Splash was originally produced through the Novice level by Debbie Edmundson, the Suffolk-based rider and dealer with whom Simon worked after leaving school. She sourced the horse from Vere Phillips, and in 2014, he and Simon partnered up, culminating their first season together with a trip to the seven-year-old World Championships.

Expect a 35 to 37 dressage and a slow clear across the country from this pair. They’re pretty reliable in the final phase, but do occasionally have one down.

‘Mister Cool’ Ben Hobday and Harelaw Wizard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

23: Ben Hobday and Harelaw Wizard

Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Endoli xx x Arnloss Fairy). Owned by Charles Robson. 

We all heard the whoop of joy that descended from Northumberland when Ben and his Wiz-kid made it off the waitlist – it’s the same ineffable whoop of joy that we’ve come to associate with most things that Ben’s involved with. Although we’ll miss the V8 Supercob Mr Mulry, who retired last year, Harelaw Wizard is certainly following in his oversized footsteps. By the Thoroughbred Endoli and out of a half-Clydesdale mare, he’s certainly not the typical stamp of an event horse, but that’s never stopped him – nor his determined rider – before.

Ben is a master at fitness for these heavier, unlikely types, and makes great use of the beach near his yard for fastwork and therapeutic splashes in the surf. Sourced as a youngster from Ian Stark, Harelaw Wizard was produced to the five-star level by Emily Parker, before Ben took the reins in 2018. The horse hasn’t had a cross-country jumping penalty since 2016, and jumped a slow clear around Burghley last year for 30th place. He tends to be a mid-30s scorer, though he delivered a fantastic PB of 28.9 last year at Hartpury CCI4*-S. He’s not the fastest horse in the field, nor is he the best showjumper – he flits between clear rounds and sixteen-faulters, but it’ll be great fun to watch him around this tough track.

Merel Blom and Rumour Has It NOP (NED). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

24: Merel Blom and Rumour Has It NOP

Sixteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Esteban xx x Onara). Owned by Merel Blom.

This enormously experienced pairing can boast two WEGs, an Olympic Games, two European Championships, and six five-stars together. This will be their fourth Badminton — their best result here was thirteenth in 2014, and they come into 2019’s edition off the back of a sixteenth place finish at last year’s WEG, representing the Netherlands. To say he came out of Tryon feeling well is, perhaps, an understatement: Merel tried to give her horse a well-deserved holiday, but had to cut it short when he expressed his displeasure by ‘exercising’ himself in the paddock every day.

Merel events alongside studying for her Masters in tax law at the University of Rotterdam, which I assume is just as jam-packed with adrenaline as her sport of choice. I don’t know for sure, mind you, because I didn’t do anything as sensible as go to law school, and now I write about horses for a living. Either way, she’s one of the Netherlands’ most successful riders and the enormously brave Rumour Has It has been a spectacular horse for her. While they won’t compete for the very top spots, they’ll aim to climb the leaderboard after posting a low-30s mark and will likely sit in the top twenty.

 

Simply Clover and Hazel Towers. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

26: Hazel Towers and Simply Clover

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (by Farney Clover, dam unknown). Owned by the rider.

Yorkshire lass Hazel used to be the brand manager for a novelty umbrella company (no, we’re not sure, either), but gave all that up a few seasons ago to focus on eventing. With Badminton entrant Simply Clover, she jumped around her first five-star last year at Burghley, finishing 33rd with a clear cross-country round. Badminton will be a chance for them to build upon what they learned last year – Simply Clover is an impressive cross-country performer, but can get stressed in the first phase, leading to high-30s scores. Hazel’s mum competed at Prix St Georges, so Hazel will have been working hard on this phase over the winter. The final phase, too, can be a tricky one – Simply Clover tends to go clear or take three rails out, with very little middle ground.

28: Louise Romeike and Wieloch’s Utah Sun – FIRST-TIMERS

Fifteen-year-old Holsteiner mare (Limbus x Imperial I). Owned by the rider.

Louise is another of the strong Swedish opposition turning out for Badminton this year – but if you’re looking at that surname and wondering about its origins, you’re not totally misguided. Louise is married to German eventer Claas Romeike.

This will be a debut five-star for both horse and rider, who were eleventh in the seriously tough 2017 European Championships at Strzegom. In their last six internationals, they’ve never been out of the 20s after the first phase, and they’ve only had four cross-country jumping faults in their 41 international runs. Their last rail was at Strzegom. Yes, they’re debutantes, but they’ll be exciting ones – if all continues on current form, they could be our best first-timers this year.

Harry Meade and Away Cruising jump the egg boxes at Clarence Court, the final combination on Burghley’s 2018 course. Photo by Peter Nixon.

29: Harry Meade and Away Cruising

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cruise On x Parklands Princess). Owned by Charlotte Opperman.

‘Spot’ has been orbiting the stratosphere of superstardom for a while now, but his upper-middling results never quite pushed him over the threshold – until Burghley 2018, where he proved that he was a remarkable force to be reckoned with. Though previously not considered a quick horse, he motored around the enormous track, adding just 1.6 time penalties to his dressage of 29.5. Though he dropped a rail – and a couple of placings – on the final day, he still finished sixth with one of the rounds of the week.

This will be his second Badminton, and his fifth five-star: he debuted at Luhmühlen in 2017, finishing fourteenth, and then added fifteenth at Burghley to his resume later that year. Last spring he tackled his first Badminton, where he was sixteenth. Four top twenties in four runs is rather good going, and he’s only getting better: the dressage marks have dropped, as have the time penalties, but if anything will preclude a top placing here, it’s his final phase. He’s gone from being a consistent twelve-faulter to being a four- or eight-faulter, but still – the faults are there. If Harry has figured out the secret to a clear showjumping round, this pair will be a serious threat to the leaders at Badminton.

Becky Woolven and Charlton Down Riverdance. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

30: Becky Woolven and Charlton Down Riverdance

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tullibards Shakespeare x Shady Queen). Owned by Julie Record and the rider.

Becky and her rangy Irish gelding made their five-star debut at Burghley in 2016, where they finished in 17th place, and Becky took home the prize for best first-timer. They started here in 2017, where they posted a 52.4 in the first phase and added 18.4 time in the second, but unfortunately, they were spun at the second horse inspection. Last year, they returned but again, they didn’t complete – they suffered a horse fall on course.

They ran well – though slowly – in their prep run at Burnham Market CCI4*-S, which will hopefully set them up well for another try here. Third time’s the charm – and Charlton Down Riverdance is nothing if not charming.

Ciaran Glynn and November Night. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

31: Ciaran Glynn and November Night

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Bonnie Prince xx x Coolnalee Kate). Owned by Susanna Francke and Peter Cole.

Named for the rather boozy November night on which she was bought at Goresbridge sales, Ciaran Glynn’s talented mare has never had a cross country jumping penalty in any of her four five-stars so far. Her best result came at Burghley last year, when she finished 14th after adding just 7.2 time penalties and a single rail to her dressage score of 33.6. At Badminton she was rather slower and finished 25th, but the time and the showjumping had both improved considerably from 2017, where she finished 36th. That final phase is still a bit of a pesky one, though – they ordinarily have at least one rail. After that impressive round at Burghley, we may be about to see November Night on her best form yet – and with the European Championships looming, a peak performance could spell big things to come.

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira at Burghley 2018. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

32: Piggy French and Vanir Kamira

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Camiro de Haar Z x Fair Caledonian). Owned by Trevor Dickens. 

We can’t help but feel that Piggy is almost due a five-star win by now. After all, she’s been fifth and second at Burghley with the marvellous Tilly, and her performance at Tryon with Quarrycrest Echo was a joy to watch from beginning to end. She’s one of those riders, too, who you just hope you don’t end up in a section with at a one-day – not because she’s not lovely (she is!), but because you know she’ll walk away with every single rosette on offer. She’s just, well, rather good.

Fittingly, this year is the Chinese year of the pig, and it could well be the year of the Pig indeed. This pair were eliminated here last year after an incredibly unfortunate tumble in the pond, but they narrowly missed the win at Belton a few weeks prior. Piggy comes into Badminton brimming with confidence after a top five finish at Kentucky last week with her WEG mount, Quarrycrest Echo.

Previously piloted by Paul Tapner, Tilly is one of those horses we talk about with real veneration, despite the fact that she’s not yet had a major win. In this way, she’s a lot like Jonelle Price’s ‘supahmeah’ Classic Moet, who, until last spring, had cruised her way into living legend status without a title to back it up. We can’t help but think that it’s only a matter of time before this indomitable mare follows in Molly’s footsteps and takes a big one.

Jesse Campbell and Cleveland. Photo by Jenni Autry.

33: Jesse Campbell and Cleveland

Twelve-year-old KWPN gelding (Watermill Swatch x Rielone). Owned by Kent Gardner and rider.

The lanky, handsome Cleveland will be attempting his third five-star here: he went to Pau in 2018, but it didn’t quite go to plan: Jesse opted to retire him after a couple of issues on course. Earlier in the season he went to Luhmühlen, but fell on course. To head to Badminton now is a bold choice, but the horse is plenty talented – he’s been eleventh, fourth, and fourth in his last three four-star (former three-star) runs. His record is a bit chequered, so expect to see an educational – rather than a competitive – run. If he conquers this track, Jesse could find himself sitting on a horse with an enormous amount of renewed confidence.

34: Louisa Milne Home and King Eider

Nineteen-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Toulon x Pearle). Owned by the rider.

As the oldest horse on the entry list, King Eider – previously called Quattro van de Kwakkelhoek – has been around the block a few times. Nine times, to be precise, at the five-star level, and three times at Badminton, completing cross country every time at the level. They’ve been clear six of the nine times, and were 19th at Luhmühlen in 2011 on their five-star debut.

Louisa will join Wills Oakden in representing the Scottish contingent this week, and although she and King Eider aren’t the fastest pair, they can certainly deliver across the phases – they’ll aim to put a very low-30s mark on the board, a clear round on Saturday, and one of their regular clears on Sunday. Depending on how tough this year’s course ends up riding, that could see them finish in the top 20 – a fitting end to this tough, game horse’s career.

Tom Jackson and Carpa du Buisson Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

35: Tom Jackson and Carpa du Buisson Z

Eleven-year-old Zangersheide mare (Calvaro Z x Unique du Buisson). Owned by Suzie Jenkins.

Gorgeous Katya is one of those catlike, clever little mares you’d love to have a sit on yourself. Twinkly-eyed and intelligent, she comes into her second four-star brimming with promise: her first, at Pau last year, saw her finish 13th, adding 18.8 time penalties to her 36.7 dressage. It was a great start to this topmost level of her career thus far, and a great addition to a resume which includes 4th in the tough Under-25 CCI4-L at Bramham, where she produced an impressive 28.7 dressage and then quite simply flew around the stinker of a track. Her 2.8 time penalties showed just what this exceptional mare will soon deliver at the five-star level – now that Tom’s given her a suitable first run at Pau, we may see her really produce the goods here. A great shout for a dark horse top fifteen finish.

Richard Jones and Alfies Clover produce a career best at Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

36: Richard Jones and Alfies Clover

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tajraasi x Clover Hill). Owned by Sandra Martin, Dinah Saunders, and the rider.

Everyone loves a comeback kid, and good-humoured Jones has, perhaps, one of the more unusual comeback stories in this year’s field. In 2017, he and Alfies Clover were on track to achieve the best result of Jones’ career in the CCI3* at Bramham, where they posted a 35 and one of the top cross-country rounds of the weekend to sit in 11th place going into the final phase. After their round, however, disaster struck – Jones slipped while stepping out of the living area of his lorry and caught his wedding ring on the way down. He ended up losing his finger.

But he’s not stopped easily – this is a man who, the year prior, had to have a foot completely rebuilt – and we saw the pair at Burghley a mere three months later. They finished in 22nd place, despite the constant pain and lack of grip in Jones’ left hand. That was the 11-year-old gelding’s first five-star, and Jones’ first since 2014.

The pair retired across the country at Badminton last spring after clocking up 20 penalties, but they then went on to put their Bramham demons firmly to bed — they finished 7th in the CCI4-L, adding nothing to their 31.9 dressage. Then they went on to Burghley, where they did the same again: the determined duo finished seventh, adding just 2.8 time penalties across the country to their dressage of 34.2. They’ve always been a cracking combination, but last season we saw Richard and Alfie hit their stride – you’d be silly to take your eyes off them for a moment at Badminton.

37: Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by the rider.

This promising pair made their five-star debut last season at Pau, rounding out the top twenty with a 34 dressage, a clear cross-country with 28.8 time penalties, and a clear showjumping round with two time penalties. They began their 2019 season proper by finishing 32nd after two clear rounds and with just 11.6 time penalties across the country. It was their 40.1 dressage that precluded them from placing any higher –  this has historically been a bit of a tricky phase for them.

MGH Bingo Boy was sourced from Padraig McCarthy’s Devon sportshorse empire, and Nicky has produced him from the (former) one-star level, taking over the ride from Megan Cummings. They went to the CCI3*-S Europeans in 2017, finishing ninth, though they’ve had a couple of blips across the country this season, so we’ll see a steady run from them on Saturday. Their dressage can range from the mid-30s to the mid-40s, and they often have a rail, but it’s all part of the learning curve for a talented young horse like this one.

38: Millie Dumas and Artistiek – FIRST-TIMERS

Fourteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Numero Uno x Lilian NW). Owned by Ellie Guy and the rider.

Marvellous Millie rode fifty cross-country rounds in 2018 and didn’t fault in a single one of them – in fact, she’s the only Brit to do so last season. We’ve not seen her at this level in a while, but she’s not a debutante – she rode around Luhmühlen in 2014 with Action Packed, finishing 31st. The year prior, she partnered Artistiek, or Artie, around the Young Rider European Championships and finished 20th.

Though Millie has since been out of the very topmost echelon of the sport, she’s certainly not been slacking – she competes a broad string of talented horses through the four-star (formerly three-star) level, and she’s earned herself a reputation for producing a seriously well-educated horse. One example? The Duke of Cavan, ridden by Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa. That’s a Millie horse, and he’s done alright for himself.

Artie enjoyed a couple of trips to Ireland last year, and successfully – he notched up top-ten finishes in CCI4-S classes at both Tattersalls and Millstreet. In fact, in his six full runs at both national and international levels, he was never out of the top 20. He’s been a consistent mid-to-high 20s scorer in the first phase, so expect a good performance here, and a clear round with 20 or so time. He’s not necessarily the fastest horse, but he and Millie have more than proven themselves over some seriously tough tracks in the lead-up to their biggest ever.

39: Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight – FIRST-TIMERS

Eleven-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Goldmine xx x Duva). Owned by the rider.

Multitalented Malin has been part of the Swedish national team since 2017 – an accolade that she’s balanced with attending vet school. Pretty impressive stuff, especially when you consider that she’s fit in stints working for Anna Nilsson in Sweden and Malin Pedersen in Germany, too.

Malin and Golden Midnight, originally produced by fellow Swede Elvira Stafverfeldt, were silver medalists in the 2017 Nordic-Baltic Championships. They were fifth in the horse’s first CCI4-L, too, at Sopot last year, and they jumped clear for top-twenty finishes at both Waregem and Boekelo to cap off their 2018 season. This will be a first five-star for both horse and rider – and Malin, who is currently 56th in the world rankings, is hoping to nab a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

Expect a mid- to high-30s dressage, and what ought to be a clear cross-country – though they’ve not got the experience at the CCI4-L level that some of their competitors do, they’ve been quick and consistent in their runs. They’ll probably have a couple of rails on Sunday, but that’s to be expected – this’ll be the biggest test they’ve faced so far (although we hear the vet school exams are a bit hard, too).

40: Julia Norman and Carryon Bobby Boy – FIRST-TIMERS

Fourteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Lauriston x Guldet KLT). Owned by Diana Wethered.

It’s a first Badminton and a first five-star for both Wiltshire-based Julia and her top horse. They had intended to head to Burghley last year, but instead stormed around a strong CCI4*-L track at Millstreet for fifth place. Since then, we’ve seen them deliver a slow clear around an OI at Tweseldown last month on a good dressage score of 28.9, and then withdraw after a rocky showjumping phase in an AI at Gatcombe. They tackled Belton’s CCI3*-S, too, finishing 46th after another slow clear cross-country and two rails down in the showjumping.

Dressage has historically been a tricky phase for this horse, but his scores are steadily improving – he’s dropped from the 40s to the 30s over the last year, though Badminton’s atmosphere is a big one, and we could see a bit of a spike. Really, though, he’s coming for the cross-country.

Clara Loiseau and Wont Wait. Photo Tilly Berendt.

41: Clara Loiseau and Wont Wait – FIRST-TIMERS

Fifteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Starborough xx x Impatience xx). Owned by the rider.

Pau 2018 was a seriously happy hunting ground for French young guns, and Clara and her beloved gelding were right up there with the very best of them. They finished third, delivering one of only four double-clears on Saturday – in the end, a solitary rail kept them from finishing on their dressage score at their debut five-star.

Clara is a stylish, positive, very French sort of rider, and a perfect match for her elegant Thoroughbred, who cruises down to forward distances seamlessly. They’ve never had more than 12 time penalties at the four-star level and above, and in fact, they finished a stonking 22 seconds inside the time at their one and only five-star. Their dressage scores are creeping ever closer to the 30 mark (although let’s not talk about that first-phase elimination at Jardy last year!). Their showjumping is the one weak link – they tend to have a pole or two, and at Aachen, they were eliminated for a rider fall in this phase.

Clara and Wont Wait were one of our standout pairs at Pau, but the course was made for them – it rewarded the forward riding they find so natural. Badminton is a different course with different tests, but if they can dig deep and adapt on the fly, we could see them look very impressive indeed.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser (GBR). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

42: Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser

Twelve-year-old Selle Français gelding (Diamant de Semilly x Ariane du Prieure II). Owned by Jane Inns, Alison McEwen, and the rider.

A freak of a horse, really: Toledo de Kerser is one of the hot favourites for a top placing in this year’s field, and for very good reason.

He stormed into the spotlight back in 2016, when he partnered Tom to a win in Bramham’s hotly-contested Under-25 CCI4-L. Then, he jumped clear around his five-star debut at Pau that autumn, finishing 22nd because Tom opted to run him slowly. A jolly good tactic it was, too – they finished eleventh at Badminton the following spring, fourth at Burghley that autumn, and seventh at Badminton last year. Then, they popped over the pond to Tryon, where they helped the British team to a gold medal and finished 12th individually.

Toledo is consistent and flashy in the ring, scoring in the mid-to-high-20s reliably, and he’s only faulted three times across the country in his 22 internationals. If we were being picky, we could have said he’s not the speediest horse – but then he went clear inside the time at Tryon, so really, what do we know anyway?! On Sunday, you’ll really see Toledo shine – he’s probably the best showjumper in this list, and has only ever knocked two rails in his international career. Don’t let this pair out of your sight.

Michael Ryan and Dunlough Striker at Badminton. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

43: Michael Ryan and Dunlough Striker

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Maltstriker x Beau Rua). Owned by Tom and Carol Henry.

Mike is a familiar face on the Irish squad – he’s been to the WEG, the London Olympics, and four European Championships. He’s also a familiar face at Badminton, and will come forward aiming for his seventh completion.

It’ll be a second run at Badminton for Dunlough Striker, who went to Luhmühlen and Burghley last season. He went clear and finished 23rd at the latter, but at the former, he was caught out by the old flag rule, which was then worth 50 penalties. His Badminton run came the season prior, and he clocked up a twenty on course to finish in eventual 38th place.

We can expect a low-to-mid 30s score from this pair, and we ought to see a clear round on Saturday, too – although it won’t be quick. On Sunday, they’re likely to knock a rail or two.

Typically ‘weeeee’: Clare Abbott and Euro Prince at Badminton in 2018. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

44: Clare Abbott and Euro Prince

Sixteen-year-old ISH gelding (Lougheries Quiet Man x Miss Tullydraw). Owned by John and Cormack McKay.

Longtime partnership Clare and ‘Sparky’ are one of those pairs that’s just great fun to watch across the country, purely because they always look as though they’re really, truly enjoying themselves. But they come to their fifth Badminton with plenty of experience under their belts, too — they made the step up to five-star (then four-star) in 2014, making their debut with a very creditable 24th place finish. Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength, despite facing separation when the horse was entered into the Goresbridge sales. Their best five-star result was ninth at Pau in 2015, and in 2017 they produced 14th and 13th place finishes at Badminton and Burghley, respectively.

Their 2018 Badminton didn’t quite go to plan, with a surprise horse fall at the Bullfinch just five from home. They had a quiet season thereafter, running at Mallow CCI4-S in June with an uncharacteristic 20, and starting, but withdrawing after dressage from, Millstreet’s CCI4-S in August. Clare, who balances eventing with working part-time as a maths teacher in a secondary school, has ridden her sixteen-year-old Rio partner for eleven years, and though they can certainly be competitive, neither has anything to prove. We’ll be watching their prep run at Burnham Market CCI4-S with interest to see how they’ve started 2019.

45: Hanna Berg and Quite Survivor – FIRST-TIMERS

Fourteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Quite Easy x Flickan). Owned by Mathilda Berg.

It’s a real family affair for Sweden’s Hanna Berg and her top horse, who was bred by Hanna’s mother Anette and is owned by her little sister, Mathilda. Known as Little-Man at home, the gelding is an out-and-out showjumper with a heart of gold, and throughout the process of producing him, Hanna has found him brave and wise enough to tackle any challenge she’s offered him. Now, she hopes, that scope and sensibility will help to guide them both around the biggest test of their lives.

In order to prepare, Hanna and Little-Man have made the (temporary) big move from their family farm in Sweden to Austin O’Connor’s Attington Stud, which, based as it is on the cusp of the Cotswolds, offers the perfect setting for them to do their crucial final fitness work and fine-tuning. They’ll be working with trainers Fredrik Bergendorff and Yogi Breisner to help them realise the dream that Hanna has held onto since her very first event back in 2004.

This isn’t just a Badminton debut, but a five-star debut too for both Hanna and Little-Man, who have racked up some impressive rounds – they were clear at Aachen, Bramham, Boekelo, Strzegom, and Houghton in 2018, and have only had two cross-country jumping faults across their thirty-one internationals. They’re not the speediest across the country, but they won’t need to be – their goal as first-timers will be to complete without faults, proving they deserve more team appearances.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Libby Law.

46: Kitty King and Vendredi Biats

Ten-year-old Selle Français gelding (Winningmood x Liane Normande). Owned by Diana Bown, Sally Eyre, Samantha Wilson, and Sally Lloyd-Baker.

Vendredi Biats is yet another horse sourced by Padraig and Lucy McCarthy’s MGH Sporthorses, and what a supermodel stamp he is. Though he started his 2018 with an elimination at Belton for accumulated refusals, we’re choosing to chalk that one up to the poor spring conditions, which meant few horses were able to run adequately in preparation. This feels pretty justifiable, to be honest, because he then went on to finish third at Chatsworth, fourth at Bramham, and fifth at Blenheim, absolutely demonstrating his quality from beginning to end.

‘Froggy’ is a bit of a cheeky character – he’s certainly fond of the odd buck at home, and he likes nothing better than to sink his teeth into his stablemates. Originally produced by France’s Tom Carlile, he was then sold onto William Fox-Pitt. William, tired of the horse’s naughty streak, decided to sell him on again.

Since then, Kitty has had to experiment a bit with his tack, trying to balance the need for some extra control with allowing the horse to feel as though he can run and jump freely. 2018’s results hint that perhaps, just maybe, this balance has finally been struck. He’s a five-star first-timer, sure, but make sure you catch Froggy in action – he’s such a cheeky little monkey that he might just decide to win the whole thing from pillar to post.

Pietro Sandei and Rubis de Prere (ITA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

47: Pietro Sandei and Rubis de Prere

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Fedor de Seves x Cina du Logis).

Dishy Italian policeman Pietro made his Badminton debut in 2017, finishing 40th with Mouse after two slow clear jumping phases. Now, the former Pony, Junior, and Young Rider team member is back, this time with the horse he contested the WEG and Strzegom’s European Championships with. Both of those were clear rounds, and the horse’s trip to Luhmühlen’s CCI4*-S last year showed that he can really perform in the first phase on his day – but he’s still learning how to go fast, and he tends to have a rail, too. Expect a solid clear, but no waves made – unless they really commit to the clock.

Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello. Photo by Louise O’Brien Photography.

48: Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello

Eighteen-year-old gelding (Ricardo Z x Ring of Ford). Owned by Alison Schmutz, Andrew Tinkler, and Jill Andrews.

Little Franky (not to be confused with Big Frankie, the stable name of barn-mate Fernhill Frankie), is a real stalwart campaigner these days. He jumped around three five-stars in 2018 alone, finishing 13th at Badminton, 22nd at Burghley, and then adding a rare 20 at Pau.

His dressage is what lets him down — he’s a clear machine, with just a handful of cross-country jumping penalties on his 52-strong international record, and though he’s less than 50% blood and a trick horse to get fit, his natural cruising speed is fast — but they’re unlikely to score below 35 on the first day. Still, they’re perennial climbers, and firm favourites for the Glentrool trophy, which is awarded to the biggest jump up the leaderboard through the week. A fast clear will be rewarded on the leaderboard, and then they’ll just have to try to avoid their customary two rails on Sunday to protect their hard work.

Little Franky, who’s probably feeling a bit emasculated by his rubbish nickname, is an out-and-out athlete, but when he gets four-star fit he can be quite aggressive in his stable, so Joseph has started using an interesting innovation to keep him happy. Franky’s gimp mask — not its official name, obviously — was developed to alter the breeding season for Thoroughbred mares, used blue LEDs to simulate longer daylight hours, and Joseph started using it prior to Burghley to stabilise his top horse. It seems to have worked, though it looks a bit fruity, all things considered.

 

52: Katie Preston and Templar Justice – FIRST-TIMERS

Twelve-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Weston Justice x Welton Vivat). Owned by the rider. 

2018 saw TJ and owner Katie, a full-time equine vet, make their five-star debut at Luhmühlen, where they finished eighteenth. Then, they went on to Burghley, once again jumping clear, and this time finishing 24th. It’s rare that we see a true amateur rider take on the big guns these days, but for Katie and TJ, this has likely been an instrumental part of their success – Katie’s veterinary skills certainly helped her to bring her horse back to his best after a major injury a couple of seasons ago.

Dressage is the trickiest phase for 15.2hh TJ, who will likely be the smallest horse in the field this year. Expect a score in the high 30s, which won’t be competitive in the early days – but watch him climb with a quick, gleeful clear on Saturday. Unfortunately, Sunday’s competition will drop them back down a few places – TJ likes to take a few poles for the road.

Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky at the WEG. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

53: Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky

Fourteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Jumbo x Avin Fun Bar). Owned by Lucy McCarthy, Huw Lloyd, and Christopher and Sarita Perkins. 

An analytical form guide is not the place for personal opinions. It is not the place for conjecture (okay, debatable). It is not the place for me to start openly weeping, like Debbie who wants to hug every cat. BUT YET.

I would love Mr Chunky even if he was a bit rubbish, because Mr Chunky is called MR CHUNKY. However, Mr Chunky is not a bit rubbish. The Chunkiest Monkey of them all is a bit of a freak, actually, and his rider is pretty darn impressive, too, despite being one of the British eventing scene’s most tragic dancers. (Sorry, P-Dawg, I’ve committed to reminding everyone every year.)

Mr Chunky was bought as a four-year-old by Padraig’s wife, Lucy Wiegersma. She produced him through to five-star before Padraig took over the ride in 2016. Padraig, for his part, only took up eventing a few years ago – in fact, he contested his first one-star (now two-star) in the latter half of 2013. By the end of 2016, he was an Olympian. Some people, eh?

Prior to picking up eventing, Padraig rode and trained showjumpers in Ireland, around Europe, and in the States, working with Rolf Goran Bengtsson, Max Hauri, and Hans Horn. Then he took a break to earn himself a first-class degree in Economics and Finance (with German on the side), before pursuing a PhD on Ireland’s business insolvency laws. Though an academic career beckoned, Padraig knew he needed to get back into horses. A chance meeting with Lucy, who had flown to the Emerald Isle to try one of Padraig’s sales horses, turned into a fully fledged romance, and she persuaded him to give her sport a go. Less than two years later, Padraig represented his country for the first time.

Last year, Padraig and Mr Chunky delivered Ireland’s first individual eventing medal in decades when they took silver – both team and individual – at the WEG. They were eighth in their first Badminton last year, adding just 9.4 total time penalties across the jumping phases to their 28.9 dressage, and they were seventh at Blenheim the year prior. Another top ten finish is exceptionally likely; something rather more exciting than that is not at all improbable.

Matthew Heath and The Lion.

54: Matt Heath and The Lion

Seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ricardo Z x Cartron Countess). Owned by Emma Clarke, Clare Davis, and the rider.

It’ll be a seventh five-star start for this combination, who have tended to favour Burghley over Badminton. They’ve run there five times, while their sole entry at Badminton back in 2015 ended before it began when they were eliminated at the first horse inspection. Their best finish at the level is 22nd at Burghley in 2014; they were 26th last year after a good, clear cross-country run, but they’ve been eliminated twice and picked up a 20, too, at the level.

This is the twilight of this horse’s career, and Matt knows him inside-out – he’s aware that his old friend’s mid-to-high 30s dressage won’t put them in contention in the first phase, and the horse isn’t the quickest across the country either, so he’ll be here to have another solid performance and, hopefully, crack the top 20.

New Zealand’s Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

55: Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau

Fifteen-year-old mare (Goldstar x Fiesta Star). Owned by Elaine Butterworth, Anthony Quirk, and the rider.

Thompson and Star Nouveau finished eighth in their first four-star at Adelaide in 2017, before 26-year-old Thompson sold her entire string and business back home to be based with fellow Kiwi Blyth Tait in the UK. They contested Badminton last spring, finishing in 40th place after a broken pin and 22 showjumping penalties knocked them down the order. But they were relatively speedy — they only clocked up 15.6 time penalties on the Saturday, which shows that there’s plenty more to come if they can polish the first and third phases.

The duo has completed four international competitions since Badminton, with promising progress shown – they’ve dropped their dressage scores by a fair few marks, as evidenced at Burghley, where they produced a 36.5, well down from their 43.6 at Badminton. But Burghley was an early finisher for them: they withdrew after a cross-country in which they clocked up twenty penalties. They’ll be out for redemption this spring.

Will Furlong and Collien P 2 in their Badminton debut in 2018. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

56: Will Furlong and Collien P 2 

Twelve-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carentan x Compita). Owned by the Acorn Syndicate.

It’ll be a second Badminton and fourth five-star for 23-year-old Will and ‘Tinks’, who he bought from German eventer Josephine Schnaufer in 2016. Their first attempt last year might not have gone quite to plan – they finished 43rd after clocking up 49.2 time penalties and tipping three rails on the final day. But they jumped clear around the formidable cross-country track, and Will, who has been the under-21 national champion, the under-25 national champion, and a double gold medalist at the Young Rider European Championships, is no dummy. He’ll have been planning for the future with his talented but tempestuous mare.

Unfortunately, the rest of the 2018 season was a bit of a let-down for Will and Tinks – they withdrew before the second horse inspection at Haras du Pin, and Will took a tumble across the country at Waregem. At Pau, the pair’s second five-star, Will put his hand up after a couple of issues. They ran well but slowly at their season opener at Poplar Park, and they went to Belton to skip around the Advanced, as they did last year, before running in the CCI4-S at Burnham Market. That extra bit of prep could make all the difference – last year, of course, we saw Burnham Market fall victim to the horrific spring weather.

57: Alicia Hawker and Charles RR

Twelve-year-old AES gelding (Verdi TN x La Di Dah). Owned by Robert Hawker.

This will be a third five-star for Lici and her top horse Charles, who made their level debut at Pau in 2017. There, they finished 37th after a slow cross-country with a 20 – but that was a year in which it was practically a victory to even finish. Then they went to Badminton last year, where they notched up another 20 and finished 49th. They’ve certainly got the goods at the four-star level – their career-best result is third in Bramham’s Under-25 CCI4-L – but it’s not quite come together for them at the top yet. The goal this year will be to add a clear round to their resume – notions of competitiveness can wait for now.

Mark Todd and NZB Campino. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

58: Mark Todd and NZB Campino

Seventeen-year-old gelding (Contendro x Pinkus). Owned by Sir Peter Vela.

Unusually, Toddy brings forward just one horse this year, and it’s the gorgeous NZB Campino who gets the honour. We last saw him at Burghley last year, where he finished eighteenth in a hot field. The year prior he tackled two five-stars – Pau, in October, was a bit of a bust, and he retired on course, but at Badminton that spring he was fourth. He’s also been ninth at Burghley, tenth at Pau, and fifth at Luhmühlen – and in the twilight of his competitive career and, perhaps, the twilight of Toddy’s, we could be treated to something wonderful.

Five-time Burghley winner, four-time Badminton winner, and FEI rider of the 20th century, Toddy is no slouch – but his recent foray back into racing proves that he has his fingers in a few pies, and it may be that he’s pushing for a top finish on which to wrap up his eventing career. (Or, you know, we could be wrong, and Toddy might just keep going and going – we’d be delighted to be proven wrong!) He’s come close a few times – if nothing else, expect another masterclass in classic cross-country riding. Hopefully with both stirrups.

Swallow Springs and Andrew Nicholson. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

59: Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs

Twelve-year-old gelding (Chillout x Cult Hero). Owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon.

“Could this be the next Avebury?” asked a journalist at Bramham last year, where the horse finished second. “Well, sure – he’s the right colour,” grinned Andrew, who doesn’t ordinarily go in for sentimentalities, but who quite rightly holds a certain fondness for the gorgeous ‘Chill’. And who wouldn’t? He came out on his five-star debut last season at Burghley and finished third, easily delivering the only FOD of the entire event.

After the catastrophic neck injury that nearly ended Andrew’s career a few seasons ago, he’s rightfully gotten pickier and pickier about the horses he chooses to ride, sending many of them – including entry Ulises – the way of close friend Oliver Townend. When Andrew keeps the ride on a horse – and puts all his eggs in its lone basket – that should tell you something very important.

Named by the rider for Swallowhead Springs, a “holy well” located in the Wiltshire village of Avebury, Chill is on the cusp of something enormous – even more enormous than coyly teasing out the old softy residing within Nicholson.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet at Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

60: Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet

15-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Balou du Rouet x Onassis Queen). Owned by Brett Bullimore and Christopher and Susan Gillespie.

The consummate heartbreaker, Reve du Rouet is the sort of guy you’d match with on Tinder knowing, even through the brain fog of that third glass of Savvy B, that for better or for worse, this one would change your life. For a while, you’d imagine he’s changing it for the better – he’d show up unannounced with your favourite takeaway, looking sickeningly handsome with his crooked grin and slightly-too-long hair. He’d make you feel like he really got you, and he’d know lines of Pablo Neruda poems by heart, which is either lovely or incredibly cringe-worthy, depending on the sort of person you are. Then, you’d be sure he’s changed your life for the worse when, fuelled by his commitmentphobia and one too many whiskeys, he’d call you a very rude name in a bar and end up snogging some girl you’re pretty sure you sat behind in high school Trigonometry. Eventually, he’d grow up and get over himself and settle down with you, but he’d never quite lose the air of sheepishness for having been such a committed knobhead once upon a time. But you’d love him nonetheless.

That’s Reve du Rouet all over – gorgeous, crazy talented, and sometimes, well, just plain crazy, he’s spent years putting us all on the edge of our seats wondering which side of the Jekyll and Hyde coin we’d be given today. His flightiness is down to a genuine fear of crowds, which has seen his tension boil over dramatically in the past but – dare we say it? – seems to be under control these days. This is largely due to some seriously tactical riding – Sarah sneaks most of his schooling into her hacking and fast work, so he never realises the pressure that’s being put on. As a result, he finished his 2018 season with a first-phase PB at Burghley, posting a 27.3. That beat their previous PB of 28.5, delivered the previous season at Pau, and on both occasions, he backed up his impressive starts: he finished second at Pau by just a tenth of a point and was fourth at Burghley. Sarah, who has compared her partnership with ‘Blou’ to that of a battered wife, will be hoping to match her clear cross country of Badminton 2018 with a slightly faster time (and another one of those stunning tests) – then, it’s just a case of not taking two poles as a souvenir.

Bill Levett and Lassban Diamond Lift (AUS). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

62: Bill Levett and Lassban Diamond Lift

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Easy Lift xx x Lassban Chow Bella). Owned by Elisabeth Murdoch and Jenny Levett.

Monart graduate ‘Sparkles’ is a classic 7/8 blood horse, and he’s been a firm favourite of Bill’s wife, Jenny, from the day he arrived at their yard. He had a frustrating end to 2018 – he went to the WEG but came out of quarantine feeling under the weather, and his competition ended abruptly across the country when Bill took a tumble. Otherwise, though, he was never out of the top twenty in his other five internationals last year, and he finished third in hot classes at Tattersalls (CCI4-S) and Bramham (CCI4-L).

In his nineteen internationals, he’s only ever faulted across the country twice, and he’s getting quicker and quicker. His dressage tends to be in the high 20s, which means we can probably expect something around the 30 mark at Badminton. His last pole was nearly a year ago, and he’s a super young talent – but his final placing will likely come down to whether Bill thinks he’s ready to really push for the time. He may decide to give the gelding a confidence-boosting run instead.

Jenny Caras and Fernhill Fortitude. Photo by Jenni Autry.

63: Jenny Caras and Fernhill Fortitude – FIRST-TIMERS

Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II x Misty Matilda). Owned by the Fernhill Fortitude Syndicate.

Jenny is the sole US representative currently off the wait list, and she and her long-time partner ‘Forty’ will be hoping for a repeat of their success the last time they came to the UK, when they finished ninth in the Bramham under-24 CCI4-L in 2016.

Jenny bought Forty from Ireland in 2011, where the then-seven-year-old had done some showjumping but was yet to tackle his first event. Since then, they’ve gained an enormous amount of experience together, culminating in their first ever win – national or international – in Bromont’s CCI4-L in 2018. They made their five-star debut at Kentucky in 2017, and although they retired on course, they’ve had a string of promising results since then (including that Bromont victory, which certainly counts as something more than ‘promising’!). This season, Jenny is basing herself and Forty with World Number One Oliver Townend, so she’ll have set herself up well to go into Badminton with the best possible preparation. They’re likely to hover around the low thirties after the first phase, and their showjumping can be a bit hit-or-miss, but they’ll be here to storm around the cross-country in true (pseudo) Irish fashion.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that Forty shares a sire with some notable five-star horses of recent years – Ringwood Sky Boy, Ballaghmor Class, the Duke of Cavan, and Cooley Rorkes Drift are all Courage sons.

David Britnell and Continuity impress on their five-star debut at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

64: David Britnell and Continuity – FIRST-TIMERS

Fifteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contender x Mensa I). Owned by rider.

This will be a second CCI5*-L for David and his best mate Brad, who made the long journey south to Pau for their debut last season. It was well worth the 50-odd hours spent in the lorry – they finished tenth, climbing up the leaderboard after two impressive performances in the jumping phases. Now, they’ll face the biggest challenge of their lives – but it won’t be their first time contesting Badminton. David is set to be the second rider ever to compete at both the Badminton grassroots championship and the five-star – Ben Way has already done so, competing at the former in 2011 and the latter for the first time in 2015. But this will be the first time someone does both on the same horse, and they’ll certainly be hoping to replicate the performance that earned them 5th place in the BE100 championship here in 2013.

David, who is a BHS Senior and UKCC 2/3 Coach, has been working hard on the first phase over the winter: he and Brad scored a 33.2 in the OI at Tweseldown despite some first-party-of-the-year exuberance. They’ll be aiming to be in the upper half of the pack after dressage – with their six run average of 33.1, it’s just about doable. Then, they’ll be well set up to go and enjoy their first spin around Badminton proper – if Pau is anything to go by, they’ll have great fun tackling Eric Winter’s smorgasbord of challenges.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb. Photo by Peter Nixon.

65: Alex Bragg and Zagreb

Fifteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Perion x Renera). Owned by Phillip and Sally Ellicott. 

There are some horses who just set you to dreaming — somehow, they manage to open the floodgates and make their staggering trajectories a communal effort, something owned and coveted as much by the fans as they are by the rider and the team surrounding these brilliant animals. Tall, dark, and impossibly hunky Zagreb is one of those horses. When he made his Badminton debut in 2017 with the enormously likeable family man Alex in the irons, he stopped being “that nice-looking bay in the collecting ring” and immediately became something to take very seriously indeed, despite – or perhaps, even because of – the fact that he didn’t complete. Though the pair were sitting in fifth place after cross-country, Alex opted to withdraw his top horse before showjumping, spotting that he wasn’t feeling 100% himself and that there would be bigger things to come for the Dutch-bred gelding, known at home as Rhett. Yes, like that Rhett. Ugh, delish, right?!

BUT WE DO, RHETT. WEEEE DOOOOO.

Since then, Alex and Rhett have enjoyed top ten finishes at Aachen, Gatcombe, and Blenheim, as well as Pau five-star in 2017, a win in 2018’s Jardy ERM and third at Blenheim CCI4-L, and another clear around Badminton, though 40 time penalties and a knocked pin proved expensive. They took a tumble at Burghley but recovered well to perform beautifully at Blenheim, and Alex, who excelled in mounted games as a child and then started a successful farriery business, is a firm crowd favourite. Many are putting their money on him and Rhett to take this year’s title, and this fantastic partnership will certainly offer up a jolly good show while they try to do just that. A six-run average of 27.5 (and a five-star dressage average of 30.2) should put them well in contention, but they’ll need a quicker run than last year to challenge. On the final day, they’re pretty reliable – in two of their three five-star completions, they’ve jumped clear.

Kazuma Tomoto and Tacoma d’Horset (JPN). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

66: Kazuma Tomoto and Tacoma d’Horset

Twelve-year-old Selle Français mare (Sandreo x Palm Beach d’Horset). Owned by the Japan Racing Association.

Japan’s eventers aren’t just phenomenally talented – they’re also savvy and resourceful, as well as being endlessly hard-working. We’re now just a year and change away from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which ought to be where we see them peak – but that doesn’t mean you should take your eyes off any of them now.

Kazuma, who has been based with William Fox-Pitt since mid-2017, is the second of Japan’s two entrants at Badminton this year, and he’s one we’ll be watching very closely indeed. His aim this year is to qualify all four of his enviable string of top horses for Tokyo, and although new ride Vinci de la Vigne might be the biggest talking point of the four, it’s WEG mount Tacoma d’Horset that we’ll get to enjoy at Badminton. Tacoma blazed around that tough Tryon track last year, adding absolutely nothing in the influential cross-country phase, and ultimately finished just outside the top twenty. Not bad, frankly, for a horse with only four CCI4*-S events and a single CCI4*-L under her belt. This year, she’s come out and made easy work of Belton’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S. Her dressage is a little bit of a weak spot at the moment – she can get high-20s scores, but tends more towards the low-to-mid 30s – but she’s a real cross-country machine, with no faults on her record above the CCI3*-L level. Kazu, too, just keeps getting better and better – lest we forget, he only picked up eventing less than four years ago, on the prompting of his national federation.

Georgie Spence and Halltown Harley. Photo by Jenni Autry.

67: Georgie Spence and Halltown Harley

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Harlequin du Carel x Cummer Beauty). Owned by Suzanne Doggett.

Georgie took the ride on Halltown Harley over from Kiwi Caroline Powell at the end of 2016, and they quietly got to know one another through the 2017 season.  They won the Nations Cup — Georgie’s first — at Wiener Neustadt and came in 14th in the Nations Cup at Waregem, as well as finishing 12th at Bramham’s CCI4-L. Then, they went to Badminton in 2018, jumping a slow clear for 33rd place. They followed this with second place in the Nations Cup at Great Meadows, VA and then won CCI4-L at Millstreet.

A mid-30s score is about right for these two, and while they added a fair amount of time last year, we’ll likely see Georgie take her foot off the brakes this time around. Harley is proving to be a really solid team horse for Georgie, and a good performance here could see her step up from Nations Cup appearances to the Europeans long-list.

Arianna Schivo and Quefira de l’Ormeau (ITA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

68: Arianna Schivo and Quefira de l’Ormeau

Fifteen-year-old Selle Français mare (Iolisco de Quinhon x Isabelle du Brulot). Owned by Thomas Bouquet and the rider.

The daughter of an Olympian high-jumper, Arianna, too, has flown her country’s flag on the biggest stage: she competed at the Rio Olympics, finishing 34th with her Badminton entry. They also contested the European Championships in 2017, but withdrew from the second horse inspection. At last year’s WEG, they jumped clear to finish 31st.

They’ve been to Badminton once before, in 2017, though their week ended early when Arianna took a tumble at the inauspicious second fence. They rerouted to Saumur, finishing 12th, and haven’t had any cross-country jumping penalties in the seven internationals they’ve contested since – but even so, Arianna will be returning with a point to prove.

    Laura Collett and Mr. Bass. Photo by Jenni Autry.

69: Laura Collett and Mr Bass

Eleven-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Carrico x K-Jeunesse). Owned by Keith and Louise Scott, Nick and Lyn How, and the rider.

It feels like we’ve been waiting for this moment for years, doesn’t it? Mr Bass – known at home as Chuck, after his Gossip Girl namesake – was entered for Badminton last year, but Laura opted to withdraw him as he wasn’t feeling 100% in the lead-up. Then she – and we – were dealt another disappointment when the freakishly talented young horse wasn’t called up for the WEG at Tryon. All’s well that ends well, though – in his five internationals in 2018, Chuck only finished outside of the top five once. On that occasion, he was ninth at an early season CCI4-S at Belton. He won the Nations Cup CCI4-S at Houghton in May and then went to his first five-star at Luhmühlen. There, he made a joke of the entire level, skipping around as though it was a Pony Club rally, and finishing second on his dressage score of 29.9.

Impressive results indeed – and those are just less than one season’s worth – but what is it that makes the former seven-year-old World Champ one of the most talked-about horses in eventing? Basically, he’s an FOD machine, the likes of which we’ve seldom seen before. He’s finished on his dressage score in just shy of 60% of his 22 international completions, which, when you consider the calibre of competition he’s been entered in, is pretty astonishing. He’s started his season on form, too: he finished second in an OI section at Lincoln after delivering a dressage score of 22.5, and finished fourth in the extremely competitive Grantham Cup CCI4*-S at Belton, too. Yummy stuff indeed.

A fun, if slightly irrelevant fact: Chuck is one of two ‘Mr’ horses entered. Padraig McCarthy’s Mr Chunky is the other. Two horses competing with the same level of formality have won at this level – those were Mr Smiffy and Mr Cruise Control, who both won five-stars with Andrew Nicholson. The ultimate Mr Man.

71: Caroline Clarke and Touch Too Much – FIRST-TIMERS

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Imperial Heights x Touch of Dutch). Owned by rider.

We last saw Caroline and her best pal Possum in an international at Blair Castle CCI4-L last August, where they withdrew before showjumping after a 20 across the country. This came as a bit of a surprise to everyone – Blair has been a pretty happy hunting ground for the pair, who won the CCI3-L there in 2016 and finished third in the CCI4-L in 2017. Otherwise, they had two four-star (then three-star) top twenties in 2018, including one in the tough Bramham Under-25 class, so they should be well set up to contest their first five-star this spring.

Caroline has produced her top horse while studying dentistry – interestingly, she didn’t keep Possum at university with her, so an enormous amount of dedication (and mileage) went into making both dreams happen. Although Possum isn’t, perhaps, the archetype of a classic event horse, he’s a good jumper and should lodge a completion this year. Then, it’s onwards and upwards from there.

72: Sam Griffiths and Billy Liffy

Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Billy Congo x Shannon Line). Owned by the Viscount and Viscountess Jonathan and Claudia Rothermere and the rider.

Produced by Liv Craddock, ‘Whiskers’ made the step up to five-star in 2017 at Burghley. Liv had had the horse from a five-year-old – at the time, she was helping the Billy Stud’s Donal Barnwell to produce some young horses, and she mentioned she was on the lookout for a nice prospect for herself. Two weeks later, Donal dropped Whiskers off at her yard for her to try.

She wasn’t impressed – at 16.3hh, he was oversized, and he had a mean buck on him. But Donal told her to keep trying. So she did, and then decided to sell him anyway, but nobody – not even Pippa Funnell, who had been deposited on the ground by the horse in a four-year-old class – would have him. So Liv kept him, despite being bucked off in the dressage at his first intermediate, and clocked up a number of impressive results, including a team silver at the Strzegom Nations Cup in 2017 and sixth in Bramham’s under-25 CCI4-L in 2016.

They didn’t make it around that first Burghley – Liv put her hand up on course, and their week ended early. But they finished their partnership with a clear round at Blenheim, and then former Badminton winner Sam took the reins in early 2018. This will be their first five-star together after a season of getting-to-know-you hiccups – they were eliminated in an OI at Bicton and a CCI3-S at Barbury, but they rounded out 2018 with a clear at Boekelo. Sam won’t be riding to win at Badminton, but will be looking at the week as an essential element of Whiskers’ ongoing education.

Emily Philp and Camembert prove their worth once again at Blenheim. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

73: Emily Philp and Camembert – FIRST-TIMERS

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II x Skehanagh Diamond Lass). Owned by Nigel and Mitchell Philp. 

Talk about being good over the poles: the uber-talented Bert hasn’t had a rail down, nationally or internationally, since 2015 – and that was his first since 2013. He’s becoming more and more impressive across the country, too – he finished third at the Event Rider Masters finale at Blair Castle last year after adding just 2.4 time penalties in terrible conditions.

This will be a first five-star for both Bert and Emily, who didn’t finish outside of the top twenty once last season, closing out their year with seventh place at Blenheim. This season, they’ve had two runs: they were fourth in an OI at Poplar Park, and 15th in Belton’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S. A dressage score of 36.5 precluded a higher placing there; their 4.4 added time penalties were very respectable indeed. If they can keep their dressage closer to their normal low-30s, expect them to be a real dark horse combination – though Badminton, of course, isn’t a dressage show, and it should play to all their considerable strengths.

74: Louise Harwood and Balladeer Miller Man

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Stormhill Miller x Kintara Pride). Owned by Alli and Ian Haynes.

Harwood is known for piloting her homebreds around the upper levels, but Balladeer Miller Man bucks the trend. He was bought as a four-year-old from Ireland, but nonetheless, he grew and grew to fit in with diminutive Harwood’s stable full of oversized stars.

Miller’s 25th place finish at Burghley – his five-star debut – capped off a great 2018 season for the horse. He had jumped clear around Bramham’s CCI4-L and finished twelfth at Camphire CCI4-S in Ireland, proving his considerably ability. He’s finished in the top five at Blair Castle CCI4-L, too – that’s generally considered one of the toughest competitions of the level, and it’s a real test of fitness.

Expect a high-30s dressage, which will be off the pace competitively. That said, this pair should go clear across the country – and they totted up a creditable 18.4 time penalties at Burghley which, all things considered, isn’t bad for a first-timer. On the final day, they’re prone to a few rails – as many as six, in the case of Barbury last summer.

Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden. Image courtesy of Tim Wilkinson.

75: Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden

Twelve-year-old gelding (Young Convinced x Ballybrohan Diamond). Owned by Aivar Ward and MS Team.

When we look at Ivar Gooden, known by his friends as Sir Charles, we get a glimpse of the ‘golden era’ of eventing – that heady heyday in which the Ians, and the Lucindas, and the Ginnys of the world matched wits and willpower over enormous timber fences. Sir Charles is a classic cross-country machine, and he’s proven that several times over with his brilliant results at both Badminton and Burghley.

Charles was one of only two horses to jump clear around both British five-stars in 2017, a fact made all the more impressive when you realise that it was his first season at the level. They also made their Nations Cup debut at Haras du Pin, finishing in 10th place and best of the Brits. He’s quick — he added just 10.8 time penalties at Burghley that year — and he’s reliable across the country, too. He looked very impressive when finishing in 11th place at Belton’s CIC3* that year, with the second-fastest time of the day on a course that saw no one make the optimum. This year, we enjoyed watching him tear around again, this time for ninth.

At Badminton last year we saw both Imogen and Charles really come into their own, adding just 4.8 time penalties and a rail to finish in 11th place after a colossal climb up the leaderboard. They then had an uncharacteristic 20 penalties at both Barbury and Aachen, but went clear and finished on their dressage score of 37.8 at Haras du Pin. They finished their season with 19th at Burghley.

Dressage has historically been this duo’s weak point, but they tore up the form guide at Great Witchingham last month when they won the AI after posting an enormous PB of 23.9. If they can carry that form through to Badminton, they’ll be frightening.

Tamie Smith and Wembley. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

76: Tamra Smith and Wembley – FIRST-TIMERS

Sixteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Lester x E-Vip). Owned by Kevin Baumgardner and the rider.

Although he’s clocked up his very best results stateside with rider Tamie, Wembley has a pretty illustrious back-catalogue of riders: he was originally produced by France’s Sidney Dufresne, who then passed the ride along to Jonelle Price – or Richards, as she was then. Before the end of the 2010 season, though, he’d become Tim’s ride, and he would campaign him until the end of 2013. Then, Kevin Baumgardner purchased the 17hh gelding and competed him through CCI4*-S before passing the reins to Tamie in early 2017.

Since then, the California duo have picked up some very respectable results: they’ve been second and third in Twin Rivers’ CCI4*-S, tenth and sixth at Galway Downs CCI4*-S, thirteenth at 2017’s Fair Hill CCI4*-L, and fourteenth in the horse’s five-star debut at Kentucky in 2018. Tamie has competed at Grand Prix dressage, too, so it was perhaps no surprise to see her in the top three after the first phase. Wembley’s finishing score of 41.5 is competitive by any standards, but this will be the biggest test of his life — and we’re looking forward to cheering him on every step of the way.

78: Wills Oakden and Cooley Ramiro – FIRST-TIMERS

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ramiro B x Ordela Royale). Owned by the Balcarres Eventing Syndicate.

Debutante Wills is a promising first-timer from Scotland who has totted up some quietly impressive results over the last year or so, including 8th at Chatsworth, 9th at Tattersalls, 11th at Blair, and 16th at Blenheim. Wills, who previously worked for Ian Stark, has represented Great Britain on the world stage a couple of times, too – he was the highest-placed British rider at the 2018 Strzegrom Nations Cup, where he finished third and helped steer the team to second place.

Wills made his five-star debut back in 2013, when he and McFly headed down to Pau. A retirement on course ended their week early, and Wills has waited a long time to get another chance to prove himself at the top. Cooley Ramiro’s dressage results continue to creep downwards, with recent scores trending around the 30 mark, but it’s the cross-country that you’ll want to watch: this duo have only ever had one jumping fault across the country in their seventeen runs together. Wills is a real under-the-radar talent in this phase.

79: Harry Mutch and HD Bronze – FIRST-TIMERS

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Limmerick x Northern Medera xx). Owned by Caroline Mutch.

Young Harry and his top horse managed to scoop their Badminton qualification by the absolute skin of their teeth, clinching it with a great second place finish at Barroca CCI4-L in Portugal. Entries closed just a few days later. Talk about living life on the edge!

Harry might only be 21-years-old, but he’s chock-full of determination – despite only having ridden for eight years, he’s proved a dab hand at producing young horses, and set up his own yard even after a crashing fall and subsequent leg hematoma benched him for a chunk of a season. Based in Newcastle, Harry has trained with Oliver Townend, and has jumped clear around Bramham, Blenheim, and Burgham with HD Bronze. Five-star is a big step up, and they’ve only got fourteen internationals on their record, but Harry is determined and gutsy. He won’t win it, but he could notch up a nice clear round to start off the most exciting part of his career.

81: Isabel English and Feldale Mouse

Seventeen-year-old Connemara/Thoroughbred gelding (Glenormiston Praise x Zoe). Owned by the rider.

24-year-old Isabel hails from Biddaddaba on Australia’s Gold Coast, and you should probably know that I misspelled that town name FIVE times before I finally got it right. Now, I’m weeping into my keyboard, the red autocorrect squiggle on my screen dancing mockingly in my tears.

Anyway, my impending emotional breakdown aside, Bella and Mouse should be a fun combination to keep an eye on this year. Isabel was one of those child prodigies who had to (impatiently) wait for her eighteenth birthday to arrive so she could pop a five-star entry in as soon as possible – that entry ultimately led to a twelfth-place finish at Adelaide. The next two years, again riding Feldale Mouse, she finished eighth. Apparently bored of kicking ass and taking names at Adelaide, she and her Connemara x Thoroughbred moved to Europe to be based with some guy called Michael Jung, who I guess runs some sort of academy for kicking ass and taking names? Await confirmation, dear readers.

The pair have tackled thirteen internationals since the move in 2016, and they’ve finished in the top 20 nine times. They’ve tackled another five-star, too, although that didn’t go quite to plan – Isabel took a tumble at Pau in 2017. But they’re a strong cross-country combination, and pretty impressive in the final phase, too – it’ll be a mid-to-high 30s dressage that stands in their way, but we could see this scrappy duo climb. Bonzer, Kumpel.

The incomparably pretty Sarah d’Argouges nails the smoky eye at Pau’s final trot up. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

82: Sebastian Cavaillon and Sarah d’Argouges – FIRST-TIMERS

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français mare (Quite Easy I x Uranie des Halles). Owned by Michel Lancelot. 

Successful five-star debutantes abounded for the home front at Pau in 2018, and Sebastien and his stunning Selle Français mare were no exception. They’ve been partnered since 2013 and moved up to CCI4-L  in 2015, so they’ve gotten to know one another well over the challenge of the level.

And there have been a few challenges – they’ve had a few 20s, have been spun at two horse inspections, and they’ve had a horse fall and a showjumping elimination, too. But they’ve also had their successes – they’ve finished ninth at Saumur and tenth at Haras du Pin. That all came together just in time to allow them to finish 15th at their first five-star last season, although they were one of several combinations whose last-minute change of plans at the influential combination near the end of the course almost looked like a run-out.

James Sommerville and Talent at Badminton 2017. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

83: James Sommerville and Talent

Thirteen-year-old AES gelding (Eurocommerce Toulouse x Rozalina). Owned by Jennifer Sommerville and the rider.

Yorkshire-based James worked for both Nicola Wilson and Oliver Townend before setting up on his own, and if you’re easily charmed by a bit of Northern twang, this one will certainly tick a few boxes for you. If quirky, clever jumping horses are your bag, his horse will take care of that.

James and Talent made their five-star debut at Badminton in 2017, but their campaign ended early when James took a tumble mid-course. They came back last year and finished 45th, though a knocked pin somewhat marred their score. This year, they’ll be aiming to make it a clean sheet, and hopefully Talent will produce the low-30s mark he’s capable of without letting the big atmosphere overcook him.

Kai Ruder and Colani Sunrise (GER). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

84: Kai Rüder and Colani Sunrise

Thirteen-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Chico’s Boy x Larissa). 

Clear around both the WEG (33rd) and the 2017 European Championships (6th), Colani Sunrise is not a horse you should write off, even if he comes into Badminton under the shadow of another German favourite.

Capable of a very low-30s dressage, and almost guaranteed a clear round on Sunday, Colani Sunrise’s one weak spot is his speed – we’ve only seen him finish inside the time in seven of his 42 internationals, and never at the CCI4*-L level or higher. He was at his quickest at Luhmühlen in 2016, where he made his five-star debut – there, he added just 4.4 time penalties on Saturday and finished ninth. This will be Kai’s first Badminton since 2010.

85: Toshiyuki Tanaka and Kelecyn Pirate – FIRST-TIMERS

Thirteen-year-old gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by Riding Club Crane.

Based at Angela Tucker’s Gloucestershire yard, Toshi must have had a fondness for the magic of Badminton instilled in him from his first forays into the British eventing scene in 2012. As part of the Japanese team’s formidable forward guard of Tokyo hopefuls, he’s made great strides with both Kelecyn Pirate and his WEG mount, Talma d’Allou, with whom he finished 15th in Tryon.

Kelecyn Pirate made light work of his five-star debut last season, which saw horse and rider make the long journey down to Pau. They added just 3.2 time penalties and two dropped rails to their 35.3 dressage to finish ninth, and there’s no reason to suspect they couldn’t be just as stealthily successful here.

An interesting, if slightly irrelevant, fact: most of the Japanese riders’ horses are sourced through members of the French team, largely due to the fact that their chef d’equipe is former French coach Laurent Bousquet. But Kelecyn Pirate is a rare exception: he was produced, competed, and sourced in Japan after being bought from Australia as a young horse.

87: Ellen Cameron and Hanleen Crown Jewels – FIRST-TIMERS

Thirteen-year-old British-bred Sports Horse mare (breeding unknown). Owned by the rider.

It’s a first Badminton – and, indeed, first five-star – for both Ellen and her mare, who she’s produced through the levels herself. They’ve enjoyed clear rounds over the last couple of seasons at Blenheim, Blair, Houghton, Burgham, and Barbury, although their first-phase score tends to put them out of contention – they’re upper-30s to low-40s scorers. They ran into a couple of problems last season, resulting in a rider fall at Chatsworth and an elimination at Barbury, but they know one another well, and they’ve proven they can be reasonably quick, too. Their goal for this year will be an educational completion – then, armed with new knowledge, they can aim to be competitive at their next five-star appearance.

89: Nick Lucey and Proud Courage – FIRST-TIMERS

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II x Coolmore Panther). Owned by the rider.

Another Courage baby, and another five-star start for this partnership, who were our first combination to come off the waitlist, and who first notched up a completion at this level in 2017. That was at Luhmühlen, and although they picked up a 20 across the country, they finished the job to end up 32nd.

Last year, we saw this duo take on Burghley, and they weren’t quite so lucky there: they had a 20 and ultimately a rider tumble to end their week early. Undeterred, they rerouted to Blenheim CCI4*-L, where they ran into some minor cross-country trouble but finished 52nd out of over 100 starters. On their day, they can be a great cross-country pair – they were 7th in the under-25 CCI4*-L at Bramham last year over a seriously beefy track, and they were inside the time, too. The previous year, they were twelfth in the same class. Nick has been working hard on Proud Courage’s dressage, and the results are showing: they posted a 34.4 at Bramham last season, well down from the 43.2 they scored in their first CCI4*-L run back in 2015. A clear completion will be the goal for this duo.

Michael Owen and Bradeley Law at Badminton. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubish Motors.

90: Michael Owen and Bradeley Law

Fifteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Mill Law x Scarlet Lady). Owned by the Jenning’s Syndicate.

This will be Bradeley Law’s fourth attempt at the level — he was eliminated in his four-star debut at Badminton in 2016, but finished 35th last year. Then, we saw him notch up a career-best result at Burghley last season, where he finished 15th after adding just 7.2 time penalties to his 40.1 dressage.

Michael Owen produced Ludwig Svennerstal’s King Bob to four-star before the Swede took the reins, and also enjoys dabbling in amateur racing in his presumably limited spare time. He’s flown under the radar, but make sure to watch Michael and his game little horse on Saturday – they’ve got a lot to give, as Bradeley Law duly demonstrated in 2016, when he decided to jump several five-star fences backwards after unseating his rider.

Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

91: Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack – FIRST-TIMERS

Sixteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Numerous x Lady Malone). Owned by the Full Moon Farm Syndicate.

As this year’s recipient of the Wilton Fair Fund Grant, kindly provided by David Lenaburg to help up-and-coming US riders further their development, Woodge has relocated to Germany to base with Dirk Schrade. This event has been a huge goal for her after notching up three clear rounds out of three starts at the five-star level – she and ‘Cappy’ were impressive at Kentucky in both 2017 and 2018, and at Burghley in 2017.

The 23-year-old rider and her ex-racehorse ARE CUT from much the same cloth – they’re both scrappy in a vintage sort of way, gutsy, and ineffably positive, which allows them to thunder around the biggest of tracks and make gains up the leaderboard. Cappy struggles in the first phase, usually scoring in the mid-to-high 40s, but as a first four-star horse for his very promising rider, he’s been perfect. They were slow at their first two five-star runs, but came home clear inside the time last year at Kentucky – so they’ll be exciting to watch here. Look out for Woodge’s signature red-and-yellow skull cap – it might look a bit tatty these days, but that’s only because her mentor, Buck Davidson, gave it to her when she was eleven.

A fun fact: Captain Jack, who raced as Captain Frank, was nicknamed ‘Captain Destroyer’ when he was on the track for his unsavoury habits in his stable.

Tom Rowland and Possible Mission in Belton’s CCI4*-S Grantham Cup. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

93: Tom Rowland and Possible Mission

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Temple Clover x Bahrain Supreme). Owned by Robin and Bunny Patrick. 

The aptly-named ‘Hunter’ was purchased from a hunting yard in Ireland when he was five, by which point he already had two years’ experience jumping colossal drains, banks, and gates. Unsurprisingly, he’s a reliable cross-country horse, although he finds showjumping a bit spooky. The pair tackled their first five-star last year at Burghley, finishing a very creditable 27th after a slow clear. That was enough to qualify them for Badminton, and now that Tom knows his horse – and himself – that much better, we could see them show us what they’re really capable of. An uncharacteristic 20 at Belton may well have served to sharpen them up ahead of the big day.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

94: Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy

Sixteen-year-old gelding (Courage II x Sky Lassie). Owned by Verenna Allen and the rider.

Oz’s Burghley win last year was the final jewel in a seriously well-decorated crown for the Price family, and much like stablemate Classic Moet, Oz took the win whilst flying the flag for the underdogs. Okay, well, not underdogs, so much – after all, both the horses in question are supremely talented – but I don’t think either rider would mind me calling their horse unconventional, in the best possible way.

Oz first came to Tim as a resale project. Costing only £3,000, and possessing a pretty gnarly buck, Tim thought he’d be able to turn the gelding around pretty quickly and make himself some pocket money. As it turned out, he couldn’t get rid of him, no matter how hard he tried.

But all’s well that ends well: Oz has become a stalwart part of Tim’s string, finishing second at Burghley in 2015, fourth in 2016, fifth last year, and he’s been fifteenth, ninth, and twelfth at Badminton. He’s ultra-capable in the first phase, scoring 25.8 at Badminton last year, and he’s proven over the track here, with the ability to go very close to the optimum time at five-star. In fact, he’s won the William Miflin trophy at Badminton twice for being the closest to the time. Like Classic Moet, showjumping had always been his weak spot – but last year proved to us that the second you tell a Price – or a Price horse – that they’re not the best at something, that’s when they’ll suddenly become exceptionally good at the thing in question.

“He’s a character around the yard, and he’s the first horse I go and say hello to every morning,” he told us after his Burghley win. “He’s got his special scratches, where he does this giraffe thing with his neck. He’s just been here so long, and he’s so happy, but that’s not necessarily the sort of horse that goes and wins these things.”

Oliver Townend brings forward a new star in Ulises. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

96: Oliver Townend and Ulises

Twelve-year-old Spanish Sport Horse (Fines xx x Emeraude du Pontet). Owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon.

The fourth of Townend’s myriad entries is young gun Ulises, who is a half-brother to Nereo and came from the same Spanish farm as his Badminton-winning relative. Oliver’s great friend Andrew Nicholson also produced this horse through to the CCI4*-L level, giving the ride over after this accident at Gatcombe. Since then, Oliver and Ulises have totted up nine internationals together, and have finished in the top ten in six of them.

Their best result so far was a win in a CCI4*-S section at Chatsworth last season, but they looked impressive at Blenheim CCI4*-L, too. They added nothing to their 28 dressage on cross-country day, and it looked as though they might win the whole thing – but three rails down put paid to that idea, and they finished 19th overall.

This interesting horse is ready for his step up to the big-time, and probably would have made it earlier if it weren’t for the fact that Oliver is currently enjoying his best ever string of horses. With every chance to be enormously competitive at the big events, the ‘second string’ will be taking a back seat – but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll choose to chance it with Gary or give the debutante a run instead.

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97: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class

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98: Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo

A freak of a jumper: Tom Crisp’s Liberty and Glory at Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

100: Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory

Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Caretino Glory x Little Runnymede xx). Owned by Robin and Patricia Balfour and Sophie Crisp. 

Liberty and Glory, or Lori, is our dark horse pick of the week: she is, after all, quite literally a dark horse. But she’s also one of those classic, feisty little mares, fuelled by rage and opinions, and frankly, her first-phase performances don’t even MATTER when she produces the goods on Saturday. We saw her at her very best at Pau in 2018, where she climbed an absolutely ridiculous 54 places to finish sixth, delivering an emotional five-star best for Tom.

Lori is truly a family horse, ridden by a family man: she’s out of a full Thoroughbred mare who Tom’s wife Sophie competed through Advanced, and Sophie’s parents Robin and Patricia not only bred the mare, but continue to part-own her. The Crisp family at large – including sons Hugo and Harry, and new baby Hermione – can be seen out in force at events, with everyone chipping in. Hermione, who was only born in January, doesn’t have an official role yet, but we imagine it won’t be long before she’s pinching the ride on her dad’s mega mare.

Born on the fourth of July and given a patriotic moniker to match, Lori probably won’t dazzle in the dressage – her six-run average is a 37.1, although Tom has been working hard on her flatwork this spring. It’s Saturday that’ll really have you paying attention – despite the fact that she spent her early years enacting elaborate protests that included lying down in start boxes, 16hh Lori is yet to face any course she considers difficult. Her penalties at her five-star debut at Luhmühlen came as a result of enthusiasm and a subsequent genuine inability to get herself to the next element. Watching her take on Eric Winter’s course will be as fun for fans as it is for the mare herself.

Tina Cook and Billy the Red (GBR). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

101: Tina Cook and Billy the Red

Twelve-year-old German Sporthorse gelding (Balou du Rouet x Simply Red). Owned by Elisabeth Murdoch and Keith Tyson.

British team stalwart Tina has three horses entered – her third, Calvino II, is 22nd on the waitlist currently. The West Sussex-based rider is one of the most experienced in the field, and she comes from good horsey stock, too – her brother Nick is a leading racehorse trainer, while her father Josh was Champion Jockey on four occasions and her mother, Althea, was a top showjumper. She’s competed at two Olympics, five World Equestrian Games, and seven European Championships, and basically, we are not worthy.

Billy the Red, for his part, stormed around the WEG last year as the Team GB individual, finishing in ninth place after he added just 2.4 time penalties to his 29.1 dressage. He also finished fourth at the 2017 European Championships, and will likely be campaigned with another team appearance in mind later this year. He’s a funny thing, really – his eventual selection for Tryon was met with some controversy, largely because he went through a phase of being seriously unpredictable in the first phase. He posted a 40 at Aachen and then, less than two weeks later, won Hartpury after putting a 25.6 on the board. His six-run average is 30.4, but his early-season runs at OI and AI have seen him sit right around the 28 mark. If he comes out ready to play nice between the boards, he’ll be formidable – he’s never been out of the top ten at five-star level, and that streak should continue.

William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio II. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

103: William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio II

Ten-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Oslo Biats x Cinnamon Brulee). Owned by The Oratorio II Syndicate.

Naughty Rio really came good at Blenheim last year, where he so narrowly missed out on the win in the enormous CCI4-L class to Bella Innes Ker. William Fix-Pott (as my totally non-horsey college boyfriend called him) joked about being one of the old-timers at the event, a competition he first contested eighteen years prior, and affably accepted defeat at the hands of Bella, very much a ‘young gun.’

“Most of the field wasn’t even born when I first rode here,” he laughed. More importantly, though, it was at Blenheim that we got our first hints that Rio might grace us with his presence at Badminton. Out of a racing mare and by William’s former five-star winner Oslo, Rio is “absolutely blood, and he doesn’t know the meaning of ‘hard’ in any phase, on any day, ever. It’s exhausting at my age,” William went on. “I’m quite looking forward to the day when he says, ‘right, okay, let’s go onto the bridle a bit now!’ At my age, I quite like them to purr around a bit, but he’s a double handful. Sometimes the ‘woah’ can take 25 strides!”

But for all that, Rio had a great season, which included finishing eleventh at Bramham. His two rails there were costly, and they’ve been a pretty regular occurrence – William told us at Blenheim that on his day, the horse would eat Badminton up, but he could still be a heartbreaker on Sunday. With his high-20s dressage and a gallop that’ll make your mouth water, he’s certainly one to keep a very close eye on, whichever way he goes.

Izzy Taylor and Springpower jump a double clear at Blenheim. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

104: Izzy Taylor and Springpower

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Power Blade xx x  April Imperator). Owned by Andrea and Jeremy Brereton and Linda Mars.

Originally produced by Lucy Jackson and then passed along to Jodie Amos, Springpower joined Izzy’s string in mid-2017 and quickly made the step up to CCI4*-S, debuting at the level in Blenheim’s hot eight- and nine-year-old class. He finished seventh, adding just three time faults to his dressage score of 33.8. He went a few better in the same class last year, finishing a close second to Laura Collett’s winner London 52. Then, he went to Boekelo CCI4*-L, where he was eighth.

But it hasn’t all been fun and games, necessarily – the talented young horse can be quite cheeky in the dressage, and the buzzy atmosphere at Badminton could exacerbate this. He’s proven to be tough and fast across the country, although he did fall at Bramham last season. His showjumping is a bit of a weak point; he’s likely to have a rail. But for all that, he’s an exciting horse for Izzy, and will be very interesting to watch around his first five-star.

Pippa Funnell and Billy Beware make a welcome return to Badminton in 2018. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

105: Pippa Funnell and Billy Beware

Fifteen-year-old British-bred Sports Horse gelding (Kannans Gold x Dollar Day). Owned by Jonathan and Jane Clarke.

It’s set to be a vintage year for Pippa Funnell – and, indeed, for Pippa Funnell fans, who were delighted to see their hero return to Badminton last year. This year, she’s got four horses entered, of which she’ll be able to run two. Billy Beware was initially waitlisted, but has made it onto the accepted entries.

This will be a third Badminton for the gelding, who is a product of Pippa’s Billy Stud sport horse empire. He first competed here in 2014, finishing sixth, but he then missed the entirety of the 2015 season and the majority of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, too. He returned in 2018 and began his week with an impressive 25.7 dressage, but was then retired across the country.

Billy Beware is a reliable low-to-mid 20s performer in the first phase, and a consistent showjumper, but Saturday will be the big question mark for him. He’s certainly talented – that sixth-place finish proves that – but his lack of match practice won’t help him. He didn’t run in the latter half of last season, but has produced two clear national runs this spring.

OR

106: Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope

OR

107: Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On

Christopher Burton and Cooley Lands (AUS). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

108: Chris Burton and Cooley Lands

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Cavalier Land x Clover Light Girl). Owned by Kate Walls. 

Cooley Lands sizzled his way into our collective consciousness in 2017 when he won the Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old class on his debut at the level. Not only did he take an easy victory, finishing on his dressage score of 28.4, he did it having been produced and competed almost solely by owner Kate. He was also the only horse to make the time, and he did so by finishing an impressive four seconds within it. When he sauntered into the prize giving, he looked as though he knew he belonged there – and since then, he’s enjoyed a fitting career trajectory.

He was eighth at Boekelo shortly after that Blenheim win, and spent much of the 2018 season contesting CCI4-S competitions with both Kate and Chris. Then, he got the big call-up: he represented Australia in Tryon. Although it was very much a competition of two halves for him – he scored an impressive 28.6 in the first phase, but was one of several good horses to have a run-out at the water – it’ll be interesting to see how the experience has shaped his education. This could be a very, very good first-timer, or Chris could opt to run him slowly. Remarkably, even the fastest man in the world knows when to take his foot off the gas.

 

 

 

 

 

Emma Hyslop-Webb and Pennlands Douglas. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

109: Emma Hyslop-Webb and Pennlands Douglas

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (ARD VDL Douglas x Currabawn Cavalier). Owned by the rider.

Emma’s had the ride on Douglas, the last horse accepted from the waitlist, since he was six, and together, they went to their first five-star in 2015. That was at Pau, and since then, Emma’s entered Badminton twice but never actually started, so she’ll be hoping that the third time’s the charm. They’ve had four five-star runs together, but since that 21st place finish at their debut, they’ve failed to complete any of the rest – and the horse’s cross-country record is patchy, at best. Two confidence-giving clears at Barroca earlier this season may be just the ticket, though.

 

 

 

The 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is brought to you in partnership with the team at Voltaire Design United Kingdom. Going to Badminton? Head to Voltaire Design on Stand 253 on Somerset Way and meet the team of Sports Saddle Specialists, arrange a free, totally no-obligation fitting for you and your horse, or indulge in the Deal of the Day. Looking for a bargain? Head to Voltaire Design’s sister stand, EquiTack, to check out their premium pre-loved saddles at rock-bottom prices.

All Hail the King of Burnham Market: Townend Makes it Twelve

Cillnabradden Evo proves once again that he’s unstoppable in a CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In Burnham Market’s game of thrones, you’re Townend or you lose, to coin (steal) a (slightly cumbersome) phrase. And after all our talk about Oliver Townend‘s incredible record at this event, he went one better today by not just taking the win in both CCI4*-S sections, but by breaking his own record twice over. All in a day’s work when you’re the world number one.

Racking up the B’s: Burghley winner and now Burnham Market winner Ballaghmor Class prepares for a second visit to Badminton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver previously held the record for the lowest-ever finishing score in this class on his Kentucky winner Cooley Master Class, with whom he finished on a 25.7 when taking the win for the second consecutive year in 2017. Today, both Ballaghmor Class and Cillnabradden Evo surpassed this – the former crossed the finish line just one second over the optimum time to win section B on a score of 22.2, while the latter finished on his incredible dressage score of 21.3 to take section C. It’s a new record that will take some serious work to beat – and if it can be done, we can only expect it to be done by Oliver himself once again.

In the meantime, though, there’s a certain big event in Gloucestershire to look ahead to, and both of Oliver’s winners hold spots in the line-up. Though he can only bring forward two of his four entries, today’s results will have offered him an enormous amount of useful insight ahead of the final decision.

Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo head for home, en route to setting a new Burnham Market record. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Both were fantastic in all three bits, both were very professional in the dressage – calm, and nice, and established,” he says. “In showjumping they both jumped very, very good rounds, very safe rounds, but it was on the cross-country, really, that I was most impressed with how they did it. They were both on the bridle, and both had their ears pricked, and not once did I even have to squeeze – they just took me round there. They both had a great run, and neither of them were blowing as they came across the line. Neither of them broke a sweat, either – though whether it’s just because it’s freezing cold, I don’t know! They’re very different horses to manage and ride, but both are top-class in their own right – I wouldn’t mind a yard full of them.”

Oliver capped off his successful weekend with a second-placed FOD of 30.3 in the Advanced aboard Badminton entrant Ulises.

“He couldn’t have performed any better in all three phases,” says Oliver, who was pipped at the post by Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. “He was beaten by an exceptional horse, and he was very, very good.”

Alex Bragg’s Zagreb made light work of a tough track at Burnham Market ahead of his forthcoming Badminton run. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Foot-perfect performances across all three phases catapulted Badminton-bound Alex Bragg and Zagreb into second place in section B. They finished on their dressage score of 26.2, and the fifteen-year-old gelding showed that he’s still getting better and better.

“He’s felt really good – I actual feel like after the winter he’s stronger and more supple, and still improving,” says Alex. “I think we both are, in all honesty, so maybe it’s a bit of each of us. The last few years, we’ve really learned how to prepare him and what works for him at the higher levels. For personal reasons we never made it to Belton, so with Badminton looming, I needed to figure where I was with him. So this was quite a significant result for him, not just for the result, but for how he felt throughout and after. He’s fresh as a daisy. After cross-country I gave him another twenty minutes work to check his stamina and make sure he was still responding well – it was a way to test if can he still carry himself after running that distance. Because in a minute, he’ll need to run another five! Everything I’ve wanted from this weekend, I’ve got.”

Shared weather grumbles aside, Alex enjoyed the track built by Alec Lochore.

“For me, it’s quite a nice, inviting course,” he says. “There was a question with a double of gates that I didn’t get – it didn’t promote nice riding, but then, I  suppose, it’s cross-country. I had to work a bit harder with the first-timers to help them read the question. Other than that, it rode really nice and really smooth. That you had to go from a left-handed to right handed corner near the end of the course really tested the rider, and I liked that question. It was a good test for riders, whereas the gates were almost there to trip the horses up.”

Tom McEwen and Figaro van het Broekxhof add another sterling result to the horse’s record. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen‘s Belton winner Figaro van het Broekxhof demonstrated consistency in form, finishing third in section B after adding just 1.2 time penalties to his 27.4, while Piggy French piloted the exciting Cooley Monsoon to fourth in his CCI4*-S debut. The eleven-year-old son of Ramiro B is owned by Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders, who braved the worst of British weather to cheer her horse around the track.

Cooley Monsoon steps up a level – and up to the plate – with Piggy French in the irons. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Despite his relative inexperience, ‘Eddie’ looked confident and supremely capable around the course, though 2.8 time penalties dropped them down a placing. Fifth place went to Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal and his WEG mount Stinger, who delivered one of three FODs in the section to finish on 29.9.

Laura Collett and London 52 sail the last. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett took second place to Cillnabradden Evo in section C, adding 3.2 time penalties to her 23.1 dressage to finish on 26.3 with her Blenheim CCI4*-S winner London 52. Though she was initially awarded a handful of erroneous time penalties and a 15 for missing a flag at the corner at 22B, she was successful in her appeal, giving the phenomenally talented London 52 another excellent result on his record sheet. She joins a vocal majority in opposition to the FEI’s revised flag rule, which has proven contentious at a number of international fixtures worldwide since its inception this season.

“It’s just not fair for the horses or the owners,” she explains. “I was 100% adamant that he hadn’t bulged off the line; I felt the flag on my foot, so it was me that knocked it. You know when your horse is a bit off the line, when you’re trying to hold them and they’re thinking about running out, but if they jump the jump, then they jump the jump. I think it’s overcomplicating things – it’s confusing for the spectators, confusing for the riders, and stressful for the owners.”

Top riders are rallying for a change to be made prior to the forthcoming five-stars at Kentucky and Badminton – we’ll be bringing you more on this in the next few days.

Dacapo skips into the water with Laura Collett. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura also enjoyed success in section B aboard Dacapo, who finished ninth on 33.7 after adding 9.2 time penalties across the jumping phases to his dressage score of 24.5.

“They’re such super horses – they’ve both come along so much since last year,” says Laura of her talented geldings. “They both made big steps up last year and finished the year really well, so it’s really exciting.”

Dacapo finished third to London 52 in last year’s Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old class, though has largely flown under the radar in comparison to his headline-making stablemate.

“He’s holding his own, bless him!” laughs Laura. “He’s come on an awful lot – he’s always been brilliant, jumping-wise, but he seems to really have cottoned on now. In the dressage, it’s like you just press ‘go’ now – he’s disgusting in the warm-up, because he hates other horses, so you sort of have to just go in, but that’s where he’s so good. You’d watch him warm up and think it’s going to be a disaster, but it’s like he gets on the centreline and thinks, ‘oh, thank god, there are no other horses here!’ He was foot-perfect at Belton, and foot-perfect again here, and he genuinely feels like he’d jump anything I put in front of him.”

Dacapo will head to his first CCI4*-L at Tattersalls this summer, while London 52 will be aimed at Bramham in June.

Showmasters: Jörn Warner and Vicco Pop sail home in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Jörn Warner may have only moved to Chris Burton’s yard a month ago, but he’s already obvious absorbed much of the lightning-fast Aussie’s innate ability to ride to the clock. He added just 0.4 time penalties in the showjumping to his 26.5 dressage, finishing third in section C with Vicco Pop. Jörn, who previously trained with Bettina Hoy, first came to the UK several seasons ago to base with fifth-placed Bill Levett and contest his first CCI2*-S. Now, he has six horses in the UK and big plans for the season ahead. Remarkably, he and the fifteen-year-old Vicco Pop have tackled the sport together from the ground up.

“I bought Vicco Pop as a five-year-old – he was qualified for the German young horse championship and also Le Lion d’Angers,” explains Jörn. “We really did it together – our first cross-country fence was together. He’s a diva – he knows that he’s a good one, and he likes in the dressage if there are a lot of people, then he’s looking a bit more smart, like a show master. He likes shows; he likes a lot of people to see him.”

Jörn, who also competes in pure dressage up to Intermediare, spent five years working in this discipline before making the switch to eventing. Now, he hopes to aim his top horse for the European Championships after runs at Chatsworth CCI4*-S and Tattersalls CCI4*-L.

Bramham under-25 winners Emily King and Dargun finished fourth on 29.4 ahead of the horse’s five-star debut at Badminton, while Australia’s Bill Levett enjoyed a redemption arc after falling foul of the flag rule at Belton. He and Shannondale Titan finished fifth on 29.5.

Bill Levett and Shannondale Titan get their just rewards with a fifth-place finish in section C. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’ve seen sun (sort of), we’ve seen snow (seriously), we’ve seen seriously top-class horses, and now I, for one, am seeing the inside of a service station KFC on a nondescript section of motorway  – so with stars in my eyes and possibly a faint trace of hypothermia, I bid you a sleepy adieu from Burnham Market. It’s been real (cold).

Burnham Market: Website, Entries and Ride Times, Live Scoring, EN’s Coverage

Final results – CCI4*-S section B:

Final results – CCI4*-S section C:

Burnham Market, Day Two: Townend Topples the Leaderboard – Three Times

Cillnabradden Evo and Oliver Townend march into Burnham Market’s record books. Photo by Laura Butcher.

Every year at the Barefoot Retreats Burnham Market International Horse Trials, we invariably end up talking about one thing: the Townend phenomenon. Oliver Townend has a remarkable track record at the venue: he’s won more CCI4*-S classes here more than any other rider, and by no small margin. The venue first held classes at this level back in 2005, and since then, there have only been five runnings at which he hasn’t won one of the CCI4*-S sections: in 2005, he didn’t compete, in 2006, he finished fourth, in 2011 he withdrew one horse and ran into problems with another, in 2013 he was sixth, and in 2018, the event was abandoned due to inclement weather. So that’s nine years in which he’s been a winner here, but that’s not the total tally – he won both CCI4*-S sections in 2014, and finished first and second in the sole section held in 2015 and 2016. It’s an astonishing track record, particularly when you consider the quality of field this event hosts and the wide variety of horses he’s piloted here in that time period. Each year, he runs his top string of horses here, often choosing to use the neighbouring spring CCI4*-S at Belton as a combined test. But what is it that he loves so much about Burnham Market?

“They’ve got very honest ground here,” he explains. “We’re always concerned about the ground heading into the big ones, and you soon find out, with the number of horses that we run, which horses come out of which events well. They always seem to come out of here really well.”

That faith in the ground, plus a penchant for Alec Lochore’s bold, positive tracks means that Oliver trots out his top horses here each year and usually runs them all competitively – and when Oliver is running competitively, he’s a formidable beast indeed.

Today, we’ve seen him laugh in the face of leaderboards across the classes. Arklow Puissance won an Intermediate section on just his second run at the level (he won his first run at the level too, so we’ll be keeping an eye on this one), recording the only FOD in his class. Badminton entrant Ulises lost out on an Advanced win by less than a point, but again recorded the only FOD of the class. Kentucky-bound Cooley Master Class was given a planned slow run, which dropped him out of the placings in a hot OI section, but he jumped double clear and scored an incredible 21.4 in the dressage. Then, his Badminton entrant stablemates Cillnabradden Evo and Ballaghmor Class followed suit – the former delivered a 21.3 to lead section C of the CCI4*-S, while the latter put a 21.8 on the board to leap to the top of section B. The incredible thing? Not a single one of those scores was a personal best. Even so, they both managed to beat the former Burnham Market dressage record of 22.7, held by Pippa Funnell.

Ballaghmor Class is “as special a horse as I’ve ever ridden”, according to Oliver Townend – and he proved why once again today. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Much has been written about Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class, the tricky, tempestuous talent who took the title in his first-ever five-star. He was just ten at the time, and although he’d been supplementing his fitness work by playing frequent games of lawn darts with Team Townend’s hardy grooms, he came good in all the right ways on the day it counted. As he headed into Badminton last season, Oliver told us that a horse’s second five-star is usually its toughest, especially when the horse is as clever as Thomas – he knew he was a superstar by then, and would stride into the atmosphere in the main arena with, perhaps, too much confidence in himself. But Thomas proved him wrong – he remained perfectly balanced on the cusp between submissive and expressive, and laid down one a 20.8, one of the best scores we’ve ever seen at the venue. He finished fifth, ultimately, and then second at Burghley, and now he heads back to Badminton as one of the odds-on favourites for the win. To see him edging towards his peak performance here, three weeks before the main event, is incredibly exciting.

The feeling we all want after dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Less, perhaps, has been said about Cillnabradden Evo, and so we headed straight to the source to find out a little bit more about the former Andrew Nicholson ride.

For a long time, we’ve considered Gary a CCI4*-S specialist – the thirteen-year-old gelding has contested plenty of Event Rider Masters legs, and thirteen of his seventeen internationals with Oliver in the irons have been at the level. They’ve won three, been second in three, and finished in the top ten in two others, and after a two-year stint without a single three-day entry, we began to suspect that Gary had found his career niche. We were wrong.

Gary’s surprise entry at Pau last year left many eventing fans scratching their heads but, as Oliver put it, the trip was a ‘finding-out’ mission. The pair led the dressage there on a 22.7, and flew around two-thirds of the cross-country course up on the clock, before a small mistake on the approach to a reasonably uninfluential combination saw Oliver hit the floor. But he had found out what he needed to.

“It was a very good feeling that he gave me – we made a mistake, and it was a bit of a dumb mistake, but at the same time, he felt like he was getting the trip comfortably to that point,” explains Oliver. “He was on the minute markers and had his ears pricked and was still jumping good, so we were very happy with that. So we shall see!”

Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo. Photo by Laura Butcher.

Now, ahead of what could be his first-ever Badminton in three weeks’ time, Gary is making good on his reputation as a well-nigh unbeatable first-phase performer.

“He’s getting very established; obviously the ERMs have done him the world of good, because he’s used to going in every couple of weeks and having to perform a good international-standard test,” says Oliver. “So he’s just gotten better and better. He’s established, he’s very nice in the brain, and he’s very amenable – he concentrates and takes his job seriously.”

Leggy London 52 produces poetry once again with Laura Collett. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett‘s impressive up-and-comer London 52 was second in Belton’s Grantham Cup two weeks ago, and he came back out on great form today, posting a 23.1 to equal his international PB. This will only be his third full season of eventing – the ten-year-old gelding showjumped before Laura bought him, and has enjoyed an astonishing career trajectory, which saw him take the title in Blenheim’s eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S last year. They sit second overnight in section C, just ahead of Badminton-bound Emily King and her Bramham under-25 CCI4*-L winner Dargun.

Emily King lands a spot in the top ten of both CCI4*-S sections – here, she pilots Brookleigh to a 27.2 and eighth in section B. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Behind her is another young gun – Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden enjoyed a career-best performance at Belton, and yesterday’s score of 25.8 stands them in great stead to repeat the feat.

Bill Levett and Shannondale Titan make a great start to their redemption song. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In fifth place, Bill Levett‘s Shannondale Titan makes good headway in pursuit of some consolation, after a disappointing Belton saw them miss out on a placing due to the new flag ruling. They sit on 26.3 as they head into tomorrow’s jumping phases.

In section B, yesterday’s leader Pippa Funnell holds onto second place with MGH Grafton Street, sitting on a very competitive score of 22.7. In third place is Will Furlong, who, like Pippa, heads to Badminton next month with his entrant, the talented mare Collien P 2. Their score of 23 is a significant personal best at any international level.

Laura Collett proves her strength in depth with a competitive first-phase performance aboard Dacapo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett made an impression in this section, too, riding Dacapo. Third in last year’s Blenheim CCI4*-S, the Diarado gelding might be in the shadow of stablemates Mr Bass and London 52 for now – but we suspect he won’t be for long. He delivered a consistent, expressive test today to put a 24.5 on the board, allowing him to sneak ahead of fifth-placed Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around, who are on 25.3 as they head into showjumping.

Tomorrow brings us an action-packed day of showjumping and cross-country action for both CCI4*-S sections – keep it locked on EN for all the thrills, spills, and burger van bills you could possibly want!

Burnham Market: Website, Entries and Ride Times, Live Scoring, EN’s Coverage

CCI4*-S section B dressage leaderboard:

CCI4*-S section C dressage leaderboard:

Burnham Market, Day One: The Dressage Debrief

 

The second four-star of the British eventing season is upon us and, hot on the heels of Belton, it’s packed to the rafters with top talent. The Barefoot Retreats Burnham Market Horse Trials is one of our classic early-season pipe-openers, and each year, it jockeys for pole position with Belton. This year, it’s drawn the second slot, giving us the chance to keep a close eye on the form and preparation of some very, very interesting horses. Many of these are Badminton-bound (and, indeed, Kentucky-bound), while others still will be looking ahead to potential European Championship team selection later on this summer. Others still represent some of the most exciting up-and-comers in the country – and today, we saw one of those make a brilliant impression.

Burnham Market is situated on the north Norfolk coast, and arriving at the venue always feels a little bit like crossing the threshold into another world. Whichever direction you look in, there’s nothing but horses, jumps, and then sprawling vistas of farmland and open sky – it’s rather like an eventing snow globe, which is a concept we like very much indeed, frankly. After a brisk climb up the hill, it’s possible to see most of the cross-country action – and, if you’re lucky, you can see the sea, too. There’s a shanty in there somewhere, my friends.

Exciting landscapes aside, Burnham Market also offers a heaping helping of competitive opportunities for riders at all levels. After the big boss rejected my idea of ignoring the eventing in favour of in-depth reports on the Ferretworld Roadshow, I headed upwind to see what was going on between the boards. As it turns out, there was rather a lot.

There are two CCI4*-S sections on offer here, a CCI3*-S, two Advanced classes, four Intermediates, five Novies, and four BE100 sections, and an entry into any of them is so coveted that even today, waitlisted competitors were appearing, hopeful of a last-minute drop out.

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street once again find themselves top of the pack. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The two CCI4*-S sections got off to a seriously competitive start today, with some familiar faces throwing down the gauntlet early on. Pippa Funnell holds the overnight lead in section B riding MGH Grafton Street, after the pair delivered an incredible 22.7. This score equals the best-ever CCI4*-S dressage score at this venue – a record that Pippa set herself back in 2011, riding Billy Landretti.

The flamboyant Monkeying Around is dressage-bred to the hilt – and it shows in his performances between the boards. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Trailing behind by a couple of marks is Monkeying Around, the 2017 six-year-old world champion. He produced his first test at this level two weeks ago at Belton, leading after the first phase with rider Izzy Taylor – but we never got to see whether he’d hold that lead until the end, as he was one of a selection of horses to be withdrawn before the cross-country. Today, he sits in provisional second on 25.3, proving that his performance a fortnight ago was no fluke.

Alex Bragg and his stalwart campaigner, Zagreb. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Badminton-bound crowd favourites Alex Bragg and Zagreb dazzled in the ring, showing off the horse’s powerful paces to score 26.2. They sit in third place overnight, closely followed by a CCI4*-S debutante who is, perhaps, one of the most exciting young horses in the country. Cooley Monsoon is proving to be a bit of a freak: ably piloted by Piggy French, he’s contested seven internationals, and he’s never finished outside the top ten. He’s got four international wins to his name among that number, and he’s never scored above a 30 in an FEI event. Four of those seven runs resulted in FODs, and he’s only added time penalties across the country twice – 4.4 in his first ever international at Chatsworth, where the time is tricky across the levels, and 3.2 in his first CCI3*-S. Today, he planted a 26.5 firmly upon the leaderboard, popping him into fourth overnight. Owned by comedian Jennifer Saunders, Cooley Monsoon is a horse we’ll be watching very closely this week – and we’ll be bringing you some insider info on him, too.

The remarkable Cooley Monsoon makes a step up with Piggy French. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Rounding out the top five in section B is Tom McEwen and his Belton Grantham Cup-winning Figaro van het Broekxhof, who offered up an accurate, pleasant test for 27.4 and fifth. Though the big gelding doesn’t have the natural pizazz of a horse like Zagreb, he’s certainly proving that he can blossom through consistency.

Jenny Caras, Fernhill Fortitude, and some silos, because Norfolk. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We also saw Jenny Caras and Fernhill Fortitude come forward in section B, where they delivered a flowing test that was rewarded with much-improved marks in comparison with Belton. They’re currently sitting in 23rd place on 33.4.

We spoke at length about the young superstar-to-be that is Mollie Summerland when she finished third in the Grantham Cup two weeks ago, and today we saw her deliver the goods again. She and Charly van ter Heiden sit atop the CCI4*-S section C leaderboard after posting a 25.8 earlier today. Izzy Taylor sits second again, this time on Direct Cassino, whose 26.8 nudged him just ahead of third-placed Sam Ecroyd and Davinci III.

Kazuma Tomoto and Brookpark Vikenti take steps towards Tokyo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In fourth place is the Japanese supremo Kazuma Tomato, who brings forward Brookpark Vikenti. In 2017, we saw Kazu and Vikenti come achingly close to a win in Blenheim’s eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S – they ultimately slipped into second place by a tenth of a penalty and Kazu, who hopes to qualify all his top horses for Tokyo this year, will be hoping to give the horse the victory he so narrowly missed. Today, they scored a competitive 27.8, giving them a great start to the weekend.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer tie for fifth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Behind him, Will Rawlin and VIP Vinnie share fifth place and a score of 28.9 with Kentucky-bound Tim Price and Xavier Faer. The latter, known at home as Hugo, can sometimes lose marks in this phase due to tension, but today he looked cool, calm, collected – and ready to conquer some bluegrass.

There’s plenty more to come tomorrow, including the arrival of the undisputed king of Burnham Market, Oliver Townend. This will be our first chance to see his horses in an international run – they were all withdrawn after the showjumping at Belton, in favour of using this happy hunting ground as a prep run. This is an event that, it’s fair to say, Oliver is rather adept at winning.

We’ll be bringing you a full report of both days’ dressage action tomorrow, including insight from our leaders, a preview of what’s to come on cross-country, and – we can only hope – more profound reports on Zara Tindall’s outfit choices. From windy Norfolk, I bid you adieu.

Burnham Market: Website, Entries and Ride Times, Live Scoring, EN’s Coverage

CCI4*-S Section B:

CCI4*-S Section C:

 

Friday Video from SmartPak: Mark Todd, the Multidisciplinary Man, Myth, and Legend

An Equine Master – Sir Mark Todd

💬 "I have an empathy with animals, particularly horses"The great Sir Mark Todd reflects on his career, racehorse training and the possibility of competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics 🙌

Posted by World Horse Racing on Thursday, April 11, 2019

Sir Mark Todd would be quite cool enough if all he’d ever done in life was event. After all, he’s proven to be rather good at it — he won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in ’84 and ’88, he’s won Burghley five times, Badminton four times, he’s a two-time gold medallist at the World Championships, he was named the FEI’s rider of the 20th century, and he’s been freakin’ knighted. So he’s doing alright for himself, all things considered.

But Toddy, who turned 63 last month, is no layabout, either — he’s the sort of person who’s determined to fit as much fun as he possibly can into the life he’s been given. So, in pursuit of that fun, he’s turned back to his original love: horse-racing. Alongside preparing for a little event in Gloucestershire in three weeks’ time, he’s been flying back and forth to Australia to train New Zealand Bloodstock’s He’s Eminent, who finished second in his first race under Toddy’s auspices. Now, he’s set to take on the incredible Winx this weekend in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney — and if it goes well, we might not actually see him at Badminton at all. 

“Plans seem to be changing quite rapidly at the moment. I am supposed to be going back to ride at Badminton, which is the first week of May,” he told HorseTalk.co.nz. “But, if the horse runs really well on Saturday, we might now be going to Hong Kong in two weeks’ time. It is a case of one run at a time with He’s Eminent.”

Whichever way he decides to go, one thing’s for certain: we’re incredibly lucky to have been able to enjoy a sport with Toddy in it.

Winter Is Coming: The 2019 Badminton Course, Unpacked

Gird your loins, chaps: the countdown is ON to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, and we, for one, couldn’t be more excited — not least because this year is a special one. 2019’s competition is the 70th anniversary of the inaugural Badminton, and since its first running in 1949 the sport, the venue, and the characters within this epic story have changed and evolved significantly. To celebrate 70 years of brilliant Badminton, we’ll be bringing you an extra-special inside look at the event and its rich and exciting history every week from now until the competition begins on May 1. Consider the archives your own personal Gringotts, and EN your loyal goblin sherpas. 

Hot off the back of a flying visit to Badminton, where your loyal British correspondent got to check out the new course and only embarrassed herself in front of a duchess once, we’re bringing you a comprehensive look at the challenges set on this year’s course. We’re delighted to welcome Voltaire Design to the EN team, too — they’ll be partnering with us to bring you all the content you could want and need from this year’s event. 

Bend the knee.

It’s nearly time, my friends: in just three weeks’ time, it’ll be Badminton cross-country eve. Dreams will come true, dreams will fall apart, and we’ll be preparing ourselves for a day chock full of thrills, spills, and terrific horsemanship. Excited? So are we.

This will be the third year of course designer Eric Winter‘s residency, and he’s certainly established his preferred style of design – his main aim across the course has been to test the adaptability of riders. This hearkens back to a rather more old-school way of riding – a type of cross-country manoeuvring that’s best learnt on the hunting field, where terrain can change in an instant, jumps can come up fast and without warning, and riders must be prepared to work with, rather than against, their horse’s natural inclinations. That formative education in the hunting field is reflected in some of his fence choices, too.

“There are no new ideas – some of these types of fences have been around for a very long time,” he laughed, citing the new combination at 17ABC and 18 as an example. Inspired by years of hunting with the harriers in Weston-Super-Mare, it features a sprawling, water-filled ditch with banked edges. It’s not a question we often see on five-star courses, but it’ll be a familiar site to anyone who’s ever ridden to hounds – and it’ll take the sort of gutsy, intuitive riding that Eric wants to promote to get the job done here.

“It all really comes back to that knowledge of your horse, and that’s what I’ve tried to do since I’ve been here – I try to look at those relationships between horses and riders, and their ability to train the horses,” he says. “Actually, I don’t build to a specific stride pattern so much – I do a lot of different things to disturb that stride pattern, so I can see how good the riders are at adjusting the stride, how good they are at utilising that intimate knowledge of their horse.”

The best cross country riders, he tells us, jump a few fences every day, rather than twenty once a week. “That builds up a relationship, and that takes time. But horses who come to Badminton should have that relationship.”

From beginning to end, this year’s rustic course puts that to the test. It’s not a course that’s all about rider control – instead, it reward instinctive reactions from both horse and rider, and encourages competitors to put more trust in their horse, affording them more responsibility.

This year the course will run clockwise, as it did in 2017 when Eric first designed the track. With a measured distance of 6,789 and a provisional optimum time of 11:55, it’s nothing to be scoffed at: this is a thinking man’s Badminton, but that thinking man had better be in possession of a rather indiscreet set of metaphorical you-know-whats, too.

Want a closer look at the challenge this year’s entrants will be facing in just three weeks? Let’s head out of the startbox…

The first fence sits, as usual, in the main arena, allowing horses and riders to start the course in a blaze of glory. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Fence one, the ASX Starter, remains fundamentally unchanged – it’s still the big, colourful floral box in the main arena, which gives horses and riders a nice, straightforward pop (and an enormous cheer from the crowd) to start them on their way.

“This is the culmination of a lot of people’s dreams, to jump this first fence and start at Badminton, so there’s a lot of nerves riding down to this,” says Eric.

This table is where I sit to eat my nightly meal of meat and two no-thanks. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Once they’ve galloped out of the arena, riders will head to fence two, the Keepers Question, which is an imposing table and ditch. We saw this fence appear as the third on course two years ago, and now, with a new, slightly ascending profile, it should be reasonably straightforward. Well, as straightforward as a three foot, ten-inch table with a six-and-a-half foot spread can be, anyway.

The third fence is Little Badminton Gate, and if the idea of anything about Badminton being ‘little’ makes you do one of those choked sob-laughs, then you can take comfort(?) in knowing that this is actually one of the many nods to the event’s history that we’ll see throughout the week. By 1959, the event had become so enormously popular that the organisers were swamped with entries, and so they opted to host two sections – Great Badminton and Little Badminton. Though both sections jumped the same course, they were grouped with similarly experienced horses based on points accumulated. In 1966, this format was abandoned, and instead, the two-day dressage phase, as seen today, was introduced. Little Badminton is also the name of the chocolate box village the estate sits in – go for a walk in the sunshine during the event and you’ll see perfect Cotswold stone cottages, rambling herbaceous borders, and your childhood heroes, casually hacking out as though they’re on a break at Pony Club camp.

Two gates, one question: riders can choose whether to head left or right here. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Anyway, for all that, the Little Badminton Gate is about the size of the whole village – it’s a very upright 1.20m (3’11), though its bright red and white rails make it easy for both horse and rider to read. Upright gates like this are prevalent on top-level cross-country courses, but they, too, are a hunting remnant – when hounds are in full cry, you either jump the five-bar gate or face the long walk home. There’s no time to fuss about with opening and closing the bloody things.

There’s a pretty significant undulation on the approach to this question, which certainly ups the difficulty of it – it’s not a galloping fence, like we’d expect to see this early on. Instead, riders will have to push forward up the slope without letting their horses lengthen. They’ll want to be sitting and pushing from behind to pop this cleanly.

The first element of 4ABC, the Savills Staircase. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

After a jolly gallop away from the gate, our competitors will head to the first combination on course, and it’s a significant one. The Savills Staircase at 4ABC/5 tests boldness and accuracy, and though we’ve seen it make use of skinny questions in the past, this year it’s all about big, Burghley-esque timber.

The B and C elements, plus the direct route at 5. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

The first element at 4A is a table with obvious front and back elements. It’s 1.20m (3’11) tall, with a top spread of 1.70m (5’10) and a base spread of 2.10m (6’10), but it should read well – with its chunky timbers, it presents an easy-to-read question to the horses. The trouble here is that they won’t see what’s to come – just a couple of strides later, there are two 1m (3’3) drops to tackle, so riders will need to make sure they have sufficient power to jump the A element, but that it’s contained enough that they can land and arrange themselves for the B and C. Then, upon landing, there’s a curving line to another whopping great big oxer at 5 – though there is an alternative here for those who lose too much power negotiating the steps.

The blue line shows the quick, direct route through 4ABC and 5, while the green demonstrates how much time can be lost in seeking the alternative. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

After tackling their first combination, competitors will be glad to see fence six, the Worcester Avenue Table. I mean, we wouldn’t be glad to see it, but then, we’re not leaping around Badminton.  This 1.17m (3’10) timber table is imposing and just as wide as the oxers at the Staircase, but it’s been built with a very helpful groundline and a couple of options for riders to choose from on the approach.

The Worcester Avenue Table offers a breather (laughable) after the first combination on course. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

There’s a straight shot over, followed by a reasonably sharp left-handed turn, or there’s the option to angle the approach and gallop straight away from it on landing – with its straightforward profile and groundline, this is one of those seemingly innocuous fences that can allow for a crucial second or two to be gained or lost.

The first of the Joules corners at 7. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

We’re heading past the house now, but there’s no time for sightseeing: the Joules Corners at 7 and 8 come up reasonably quickly, and this question is one that we’ve seen break hearts in the past. There’s a beefy 1.45m (4’9) left-handed brush corner, and then a curving left-handed turn takes you down to another one, this time right-handed. They’re big, they’re wide, and we’ll see more than one horse glance off at the second – particularly because there’ll be an unjumpable element between the two, which will affect the line and could cause a momentary lapse in focus. Interestingly, though, this is the first time we’ve seen the Joules Corners as separately numbered questions – usually, this is an ABC+ combination.

Dimensionally, these corners are impressive – with a 1.45m (5’6) top spread and a 2.10m (6’10) bottom spread, they’ll require serious commitment to whichever line the riders choose. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Just shy of the three-minute marker, we reach fence 9AB – the Countryside Log Piles. This can either be a single jump or a two-fence question, if the long option is taken – the single fence is a whopper, at 1.20m (3’11) and with a 2.60m (8’6) base spread, but it’s not a trappy or tricky question.

The single fence option at fence 9 is one of the biggest fences on course, but shouldn’t cause any problems to horses and riders at this level. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

The alternative route features two smaller fences, but setting up for a combination will cost valuable seconds, and most riders will likely prefer to preserve their horses’ energy for the tough tasks ahead.

The redesigned Shogun Sport Hollow at 10AB is an interesting question for a couple of reasons – firstly, there’s an unjumpable pagoda element to canter through, which could back horses off, and secondly, it’s likely going to bring the flag rule conversation to the fore once again. 

This combination comes after a long gallop and, indeed, a pretty open first section of the course – we’ve seen a much more forward staircase than usual, and those separately numbered corners. So far, the horses have been encouraged to seek and maintain a forward rhythm. Now, they’ll need to really change their way of going to negotiate this question.

The Shogun Sport Hollow begins with a pagoda element designed to keep horses straight and make the question trickier. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

The first – unmarked – element is the barn pagoda, which is designed to keep horses straight and to stop them from angling the question and making it easier.

“The barn is a little bit just to set the horses up, but you’ll have to feel what they do when they come through it,” explains Eric. “It’s not often that you go underneath a roof without a fence under it. Some horses might slow up a bit or trot a bit, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do. Then they’ve got a little narrow ditch [1.40m or 4’8] at the bottom – the barn stops you coming diagonally across the ditch, which would give you much more space. Because they land onto quite a steep bank, it’ll kill their stride a bit – their first stride will probably only be about three yards long.”

Once they’ve landed from the ditch, they’ll have a choice of two perpendicular logs to tackle. The route they take will have no effect on their time, but it’s designed to test how well they know their horse – the left-handed route is very slightly more obvious, but a bigger 1.20m (3’11) effort, while the right is smaller (1.16m or 3’9) but will come up fast on a directional turn. It’s a serious accuracy question, and one that will inspire a few glances off – and, we fear, many confounding, on-again, off-again judgements of the flag ruling.

The first jumpable element is a narrow ditch – then, it’s up to the rider to make a plan that suits their horse. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

“They’ll have to jump within where the flags were originally placed,” says Eric. “There won’t be that ability that riders have had within the last, well, forever, where they can lean on the flag and shift it out as they jump it. They’re going to use camera technology to say, actually, that’s where the line was placed. If the horse’s shoulder is slightly outside of that, they’ll get 15 penalties. Technically, you can collect as many 15 penalties as you want to on the course. It wouldn’t surprise me to see horses have three, four, or five fifteens on the way round. It adds a different level to this question.”

If this sounds like the worst game ever to you, take heart in knowing that both Eric and director Hugh Thomas agree.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if I, as event organiser and technical delegate, spend hours into the evening reviewing the footage. I’m not a fan of the new rule, as you might gather,” quips Hugh.

The new flag ruling is something we’ll be discussing in more depth soon, and it’s a rule that top-level riders are working hard to see amended. We saw it cause controversy at Belton – particularly as 15s were taken off and re-added multiple times throughout the day – but this will be a very public-facing competition, and one which is shown live to homes around the country. The decisions will have to be quick, and they’ll have to be clear, or we risk – at best – alienating the casual viewer.

The imposing KBIS Footbridge is one of the classic ‘rider frightener’ fences on course. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Next up, we meet vintage Badminton in the form of the imposing KBIS Footbridge at 11/12. This whopping great angled oxer and ditch combo always takes committed riding but this year, the approach is slightly downhill, so riders will need to know their line and stick to it. Taken directly, it’s a single element question, but there is a long route here too, which consists of two elements – a ditch and an upright rail, on a long and circuitous route.

Element 13A is a significant step up, which will require power and push. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Then, it’s on to a new-look Outlander PHEV Bank at 13AB. Again, there are two options: the first is a big 1.18m (3’10) step up with a small ditch in front of it, then a couple of strides down to a skinny but small brush. On the take-off side, this measures about 1.10m (3’7) – but there’s a bit of a drop on landing, and it’s skinny enough that it’ll certainly take some riding. As Eric puts it, “they’ll have to be careful with their feet … they’ll need to sneak up to the brush.”

Again, this is a very Eric test of adjustability, and here, he’s also looking for a bit of a fifth leg.

Element B might not be massive, but it’ll take some riding. The direct route is shown on the right, while the long route’s B element is visible on the left. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

“It’ll go to a clever horse that can think for itself and a sympathetic rider that allows it to adjust its stride pattern before the fence.”

The long route will see horses and riders jump a step up on the right-hand side of the bank before arcing back around to another brush.

There’s no time to think before our competitors will meet another rider frightener, the Rolex Grand Slam Trakehner at 14. This shouldn’t cause problems, but it might cause a few sleepless nights – the ditch beneath it is capacious enough that Genghis Khan would probably try to conquer it, if he was alive and, you know, into eventing.

Not pictured: the goblins that jump out and shout ‘BOO’ at riders on approach. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

The first aquatic question on course comes at 15AB, where we find the Hildon Water Pond. This has had a bit of a redesign – last year, it was a three-part question with a log pile, a water trough in the pond, and a steeply angled brush out. This year, there’s a waterfall drop in at the A element, which will see competitors pop a little (70cm/2’3) log with a hefty drop in of 1.80m (5’10).

The not-insignificant drop in at 15A. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Then, they’ll make a left-handed turn to the B element, the trough we saw last year. This is 1.14m (3’9) tall, but it’s not the dimensions that could cause an interruption – it’s the waterfall element, which will require positivity to conquer.

Fence 15AB, the pond, will test riders’ ability to pick up and ride on positively after a colossal drop. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fence 16, James’s Brush, is one of those fences that’s hilariously considered a ‘let-up’ and a ‘confidence-builder’, despite being one of the biggest on course. But with its sloping roll-top profile and its smattering of brush along the top, it’s an easy read and will give competitors the chance to find a forward rhythm again. This is a chance, Eric says, for horses to be able to just run and jump without anything mentally taxing to work out.

James’s Brush – 1.45m (4’9) high, with a base spread of 2.30m (7’6). Yikes. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

After the confidence-boost of fence 16, we head straight back into the thick of it – and this time, it’s to a completely redesigned Mirage Water at 17ABC and 18. This incredibly tricky question could easily end up being one of the most influential questions on course this year, and it’s a great example of Eric using his hunting roots to bring old-school eventing questions back to relevance.

For those brave souls who go straight, the first element is a left-handed, right-angled timber corner with a height of 1.20m (3’11), a top spread of 1.80m (5’10), and a base spread of 2.10m (6’10). This is marked as an AB element, which means that once a rider has committed to it, they can only change their plan and go long if they have a stop or run-out at the C element, the water-filled ditch. This colossal effort is 2m (6’6) wide, with banking on both the take-off and landing side.

The yawning water ditch at 17C brings Somerset hunting country to Gloucestershire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It’s not something you often see in eventing,” says Eric. “What makes it tricky is that the more you accept the angle of the first corner, and come over it diagonally, is the more you have to arc over the second fence to find a line to the third. These are unpredictable fences to jump – you never know where they’ll land. You’ll have nothing, or there’s a chance you’ll land with your horse flying and running through the bridle.”

The tough line from 17C to 18 can be walked a couple of ways – for a horse who’s landed in trot, it walks as five on a curving line, but for a horse that’s running away a bit, it can be ridden as four. Many riders, posits Eric, won’t have jumped anything like this before, and so they’ll struggle to make a concrete plan – here, we see him at his best (or, perhaps, most devious), testing that ability to make and re-make a plan based on the raw elements they’re given to work with in the moment.

“There are no new ideas,” says Eric. “Forty years ago, this is what you did all the time.”

Tried to take a photograph that showed an obvious line through this question; gave up and had a little cry instead. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The corners here are fitted with swinging MIMS clips, allowing for an additional degree of safety. Unjumpable decorative elements will be installed after the ditch to prevent riders from turning back on themselves to get an easier line to the separately-number corner at 18.

For those who prefer to take the long option here, there’s another corner, an upright rail into the pond, and then the final corner at 18 to pop. Though it’s a longer loop, it won’t necessarily be that much slower – and the arc to the final corner is considerably kinder.

The first element at 19AB requires horses to trust their riders and take a leap into space. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

After the second water there’s an opportunity for another good gallop before 19AB, the Nyetimber Heights. The first element is an airy, upright brush of 1.20m (3’11), set atop a mound. The horses won’t be able to see what’s to come until after they’ve launched themselves into space – then, as they canter down into the hollow, they’ll be presented with four more brushes, each set nearly perpendicular to the A element. Three of these are left-handed options while the fourth – ostensibly the long option, but with no conceivable difference in time – is right-handed. This is another test of commitment to a line – riders will need to establish where they’re going while they’re still in the air, or they won’t have time to get their horses’ eyes on the fence they’ve chosen, nor to create a more jumpable corridor. This could be another place in which we see the influence of the flag rule.

While the second tests line and conviction. The ‘long’ route on the right-hand side could add a second or two, as the track turns left after the fence, but it won’t be a significant time waster. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Just after the seven-minute marker is another breather fencer, the traditional Feedmark Haywain at 20. It’s wide and welcoming, and allows for a run-and-jump after the intensity of the last section of the course. Our competitors will need it – there are some big questions to come.

Fence 20, the Feedmark Haywain. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Fences 21, 22, and 23 are a trio of brushes set on related distances. The YoungMinds Brushes, named for this year’s chosen charity, are a bit of a mental primer for tiring horses and riders before they head to the Lake. There are two options here – a straight line through, which will require forward riding and a commitment to the line, or a slower, snaking route, which allows horses to meet each question more directly. At 1.45m (4’9), they’re certainly not small fences – but they’re not overly technical, either.

Looking down the line at the YoungMinds Brushes at 21, 22, and 23. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

From the brushes, our competitors will skirt alongside the infamous Lake, popping a brand new table at 24 along the way. The World Horse Welfare Lakeside is 1.20m (3’11) tall with a base spread of 2.30m (7’6), but the most interesting thing about it is that it’s a water feature, too. Water is pumped across the table from a small hut alongside, and it flows along the top before dropping off into the lake.

The new water-feature table at the Lake. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Eric tells us that he was inspired to create this fence after a romantic meal out in Oxford with his wife, Lizzel – there, he was obviously fully focused on the romance, because he spotted a similar   (though one would presume smaller) water feature in the restaurant, and decided it would make a marvellous fence. It’s straightforward, and shouldn’t be particularly spooky, but it’s at maximum width, so won’t be a total let-up fence.

The A element at the Lake is a familiar one, but it’s been readjusted slightly. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nor should it be, really – the next question, after all, is the Lake proper. 25ABCD, The Lake with L200s, is an absolutely iconic fence – and this, of course, is the last time we’ll see our competitors leap the trucks in front of a roaring crowd. There’s a lot to look at and an awful lot to do here, so horses and riders both will need to be on their game. The first element sees the return of last year’s beefy log, although it’s been moved back a jot, so horses will land just before the water. Then, they canter through on a curving right-handed line to one of two steps up – if they take the left, they then flow down to a big, wide brush mound at C and around to a D element. If they take the right, they only have one fence to jump, and much less ground to cover to get back on track – but this mound comes up much sharper and sooner.

The B and CD elements of the direct route at the Lake. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

Remember the absolutely epic quad bar from last year? The one that made every photo look a bit like the bad Photoshop jobs that we all attempted when we were about eleven and wanted people to think we’d jumped a six-foot upright in our last lesson? This year’s final question at the Lake, the Wadworth Lower Lake at 26, sees a similar sort of question – but coming out of the water and with a jolly big drop on the landing side. This, says Eric, is a “let-up.” Ha. Ha. Ha.

Big, big, big, but with an inviting profile – the final question at the Lake should produce some incredible images. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

As we head towards one of the last major questions on course, Eric has popped in a big, straightforward brush at 27, the Trade Stands Hedge. Again, this serves a dual purpose: it gives both horse and rider a mental breather, and it keeps them both thinking forward and aiming for a good, clean jump.

Fence 27 is a breather and a wake-up call at the same time: such is the magic of Badminton. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

The Voltaire Design Huntsman’s Close at 28AB might be near the end of the course, but it still poses a significant question. Though the big, airy oxers are relatively straightforward and the lines, comparatively speaking, aren’t enormously technical, the site itself appears through the trees like a veritable spiderweb of silver birch rails. Riders will need to make sure they have a solid plan of action, so they can show their horse what they’re jumping nice and early – otherwise, they could lock on to the wrong thing, and an otherwise good round could unravel here.

The sea of silver timber that heralds horses into the Voltaire Design Huntsman’s Close. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

The long option at Huntsmans sees a slightly different, wider entry point into the trees – those looking to save valuable seconds will eschew this for the straight route. Located by the site of the new glamping area, we assume all the spectators here will be impossibly well-coiffed from using the beauty rooms, and also presumably inhaling champagne like it’s orange juice.

One of the Eclipse Cross Chicane elements with its sprawling ditch. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

One of the final combinations on course is 29AB, the Eclipse Cross Chicane. These two whopping brushes stand at 1.45m (4’9) with a base spread of 1.80m (5’10), and they can be ridden in one of two ways: either straight through on acute angles, or by swinging wide and tackling both more directly. There’s a big ditch in front of each, but these should help, in a way – they’ll act as groundlines. But they’re also angled slightly differently to the hedges themselves, so some decisions will need to be made – is it more important to be straight to the ditch, or to the jump?

The HorseQuest Quarry uses terrain to its advantage to beef up an otherwise straightforward combination. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

At 30AB, we come to the penultimate combination on course – but Eric hasn’t thrown in an easy one here. The HorseQuest Quarry features steep terrain and big stone walls on angles. There’s a significant drop on landing from the first of the two walls, and horses will be tired at this point, so it’ll be crucial not to try to angle the fence too much lest they leave a leg. Then, once they get to the bottom of the quarry, they’ll need to hook right and head back up the slope to the second wall. They’ll need plenty of engine to get it done.

One for the rollercoaster fans among us: HorseQuest’s formidable quarry question. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

For those horses who are really tiring, there’s a long route here: it also features two stone walls, but doesn’t use the terrain. This will be useful if there’s a risk of hanging a leg, but it adds another circuit on, so riders will need to weigh up which option is likely to expend less of the remaining petrol in the tank.

The first Hayrack fence is wide, but it’s an easy read. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

From the quarry we gallop on to 31AB, the final combination on course. The Hayracks are pretty straightforward and feature two wide sheep-feeder fences on a curving line. At the A element, there are two almost identical options to choose from, and at B there are three, with varying widths – this could come in handy if it’s a particularly wet week and the riders want to choose fresher tracks to travel along at this late stage of the course.

After the A element, there’s a chocolate box of choice for B. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

After clearing the final combination, the red and white livery of the arena is in sight – here, you know you’ve very nearly done it. But there’s still two fences to come, and it would be a crying shame to come off at one of them, so there’s a bit of a weaving approach to keep you awake into fence 32, the Rolex Trunk, which is a big, straightforward hanging log. Then, it’s time to kick on and fly back into the arena, where the appreciative crowd will be waiting to welcome you home. All that’s left is fence 33, the Mitsubishi Final Mount – once you’re over that, you’ve jumped the fence that every eventer in the world most wants to get to the other side of. Welcome home.

This is what eventing dreams are made of: the final fence at Badminton. Photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials, CrossCountry App and Jill Martin.

If you want to learn even more about the course, hear insight from Eric Winter and eventing legend Lucinda Green, and enjoy drone flyovers of many of the combinations, check out the CrossCountry App’s comprehensive guide to Badminton 2019.  We’ll be bringing you much more Badminton coverage over the next few days, including our infamous jam-packed form guide and another #BadmintonAt70 throwback piece. Stay tuned!

Badminton Links: WebsiteEntriesCourse Map, EN’s CoverageLive Stream, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram, #BadmintonAt70

The 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is brought to you in partnership with the team at Voltaire Design United Kingdom. Going to Badminton? Head to Voltaire Design on Stand 253 on Somerset Way and meet the team of Sports Saddle Specialists, arrange a free, totally no-obligation fitting for you and your horse, or indulge in the Deal of the Day. Looking for a bargain? Head to Voltaire Design’s sister stand, EquiTack, to check out their premium pre-loved saddles at rock-bottom prices.

Monday Video from Total Saddle Fit: Michael Jung v2.0? Caroline Martin Goes Grand Prix

 

Multi-talented people, eh? You’d love to hate them, but it’s SO much more fun to head up their cheerleading squad. That’s just what we’re doing today as the enviably brilliant Caroline Martin casually shows off her skills in her first Grand Prix jumping classes at the Wellington Equestrian Festival. Cristano Z and Islandwood Captain Jack each jumped around an, um, meaty track, proving that Caroline is no one-trick pony, and neither are her horses.

As if being a five-star eventer isn’t a busy enough job (Caroline has three horses entered at Kentucky: Islandwood Captain Jack, Danger Mouse and The Apprentice), she has been training hard with Queen of the Coloured Poles Ann Kursinski. Clearly, it’s paying off! View WEF results here.

Friday Video from SmartPak: Rescued Horse Events Against the Odds

Are you guys ready for some Friday feels? Meet World Horse Welfare Lucas, a gorgeous coloured gelding who was rescued by the charity as a foal and rehabilitated. Now rehomed with caregiver and rider Colleen Macrae, the seven-year-old Thoroughbred cross has proven to be multitalented – but there’s nothing he loves quite so much as cross-country. This season, he’ll be aiming for BE90 (US novice) – and we reckon he’s set to make a bit of a star of himself.

Not content with just leaping cross-country fences like it ain’t no thang, Lucas has also become the muse for a new series of sculptures, which will help to raise awareness of the charity’s work. These sculptures will be placed in multiple locations, and have been designed by 40 different artists. You can learn more about the trail, and see some of the stunning artwork chosen, here.

We want to know about your rescues who have gone on to enjoy a career eventing – so show us, and shout out the charity you sourced them from, if applicable, in the comments!

Go Lucas, go World Horse Welfare, and GO EVENTING!

Dogs of EN: Basking at Belton

Sometimes people tell me that my job seems incredibly glamorous — after all, I flit from country manor to country manor, surrounded by blokes in slightly fruity top hats, and sometimes I even drink champagne for breakfast. (I don’t really recommend that, if I’m honest. Bit abrasive.) When they tell me this, I always have a little laugh to myself, because being an equestrian journalist is mostly cobbled together of 14-hour days spent photoshopping away indiscreet bulges and getting so distracted by cute puppies that I miss the leading dressage test.

But honestly, guys, the puppies. Eventers — and eventing fans — really do have the best collection of dogs. So without further ado, here are some of the truly exceptional dogs of Belton.

The smallest members of Team French. One of them is a Very Good Boy (or Girl. It could be a Very Good Girl.) The other one…?

…well, maybe not so much…

…but her karate skills are absolutely on point.

This cocktail sausage, who walked an entire cross-country course on four very small legs, and will not put up with your mockery if she would like to be carried now, thank you VERY much.

This OAP (that’s Old Age Pup, of course) who’s forgotten more than most of us will ever know about eventing. Can tell you the best cross country fence to widdle on at every event north of East Anglia.

Pretzel Crisp, who has a sneaking suspicion that she might not be her dad Tom’s primary focus today. She’d call the RSPCA on him, but she just can’t get the iPhone to recognise her bean toes.

This lanky lurcher, who spent hours in front of a Huda Katan tutorial with her Urban Decay smoky-eye palette, but is now a bit worried that it’s all … just too much. 12/10 for enviable fierceness.

This little chap, whose future’s so bright that he needs shades (or maybe just bushier eyebrows).

Ted Brown, whose mum is commentary queen Nicole – but that don’t impress Ted much. He’s far more interested in food criticism. Wild beaver pie, anyone?

This army of smols, who understand the importance of a jolly good nap and are happy to nibble the ankles of anyone who dares disturb your slumber.

This teeny tiny pup on his first adventure, which he’s finding rather windy but which he’s determined to enjoy, thanks for asking.

This bored boi, who’s slowly turning himself into a chocolate lab as an act of protest. He doesn’t even LIKE cross-country – he’s much more interested in the intricacies of dressage.

Transformation: complete.

The smallest member of Team Collett, who’s PRETTY sure this whole prizegiving thing is just a complicated means of recognising her cuteness.

“RIGHT, mum?”

Nutz Upton the terrierist, who’s taking his job as guardian of the lorry VERY seriously…

…while Ted the Jug is quite happy for you to come in, if you’d like. But if you’re going to steal the lorry, can he request a trip through the McDonalds drive-through?

This little guy, who planned his outfit meticulously, only to discover he’d got the wrong ‘B’ event. Terribly embarrassing.

And this 15/10 Happy Boi, who pretty much sums up how we all feel about a sunny day of cross-country.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an enormously frivolous #DogsOfEN post without a poll. Who’s your pick for the top dog of Belton?

British Eventing Announces 2020-2025 Fixtures List

Britain’s major internationals will remain in situ for the 2020-2025 seasons. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

On Wednesday afternoon, British Eventing announced the finalised list of international and championship events for the 2020-2025 seasons, with eight losses and six new additions to the calendar. This announcement follows a length Strategic Fixtures Review.

The review, which received 60 applications from eligible events, scored and evaluated each of the competitions on a number of objectives, before delivering a final percentage score to each. These objectives, according to a source within an organising team, were split into Sporting and Commercial criteria, with the former allocated a higher weight. Sporting criteria included event layout, event features, provision of permanent and temporary facilities, proposed timetables and team, financials, ground care plans, course development plans, soil type, and availability of all-weather surfaces, while the Commercial criteria focused on sponsorship, the presence of a designated marketing team, marketing and sponsorship plans, and current media output. Events were also scored for transport links and accessibility, and the security of the event — ie., whether the venue was likely to be put up for sale during its tenure. A stakeholder panel then created a provisional fixtures list before opening up the appeals process for any events that weren’t selected.

“The overriding objective was to provide a balanced fixtures calendar, giving the greatest opportunities for members to compete and reflecting the changing needs of the sport,” reads the organisation’s statement, posted on Facebook yesterday. “In addition, key considerations included sustainability, financial viability and geographical spread.”

Each venue is now only allowed to run one international event per season, and must host at least two international classes.

Alongside the final list, British Eventing released a map-based view of the approved fixtures. This map also shows the portion of the country with the highest density of BE members.

The 2020-2025 international and championship fixture map.

The loss of several popular fixtures — including most of those in the south-east and south-west of England — and a perceived lack of transparency about the review and appeals process has already proven controversial, with riders, organisers, and owners alike calling for a major change in the fixture allocation process.

“In order to respect the organisers and the sensitivity of the information provided, BE have kept the details of this process confidential,” the statement continues.

Chair of the BE board Fiona O’Hara commented, “I would like to thank all the organisers and their teams for taking the time to apply to host international and BE Championships fixtures. We were delighted to have received so many high-quality submissions.

“As a result of a final review, we identified a geographical gap in the South West, and have therefore taken the decision to rectify this for the benefit of our members by an adding one additional fixture [Bicton International] in this region. The fixtures calendar will remain under constant review in order to ensure that we continue to maximise the opportunities for our members to compete.

“We are really excited by the calendar and the introduction of new international and championships venues. This gives our members the unique opportunity to compete at a choice of familiar and much-loved venues along with some exciting new additions.”

Among the fixtures lost are Hambleden International, which previously ran classes from BE100 through Intermediate, alongside a CCI2*-S (formerly CIC1*). Hambleden fell victim to a fixtures clash in 2018 and wasn’t reinstated on the fixtures list this season. The south-east region has lost all bar one of its former internationals — Chilham Castle in Kent will host its final CCI2*-S this July, and Brightling Park will no longer run a CCI2*-S or CCI3*-S after June. South of England International in  September will continue to host CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S classes, including sections for ponies and juniors.

The popular Bicton International in Devon will no longer run its CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S in April, but will host a CCI2*-S and CCI2*-L to run concurrently with its BE100 three-day in October.

Shropshire’s Brand Hall will no longer host international classes, nor will it remain the home for the British Pony Championships. Its early July fixture loses a CCI2*-S, a junior CCI2*-S, and the pony CCI2*-S. The pony championship will move to Belsay Horse Trials in Northumberland. The under-eighteen championship will move, too — it leaves Frickley Park in South Yorkshire and heads to Bishop Burton in West Yorkshire. The under-21 championship will remain at Houghton International, and the under-25 championship, too, remains in situ at Bramham.

September’s Gatcombe International — not to be confused with August’s Festival of British Eventing, held at the same venue — will no longer run its CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S class after the retirement of its primary organiser and the loss of its main sponsor. Norfolk’s Great Witchingham International also loses a CCI2*-S in late June.

Little Downham will make the leap up to international status from 2020. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There are some new additions to the international calendar, too: Little Downham in Cambridgeshire will regain international status and host a CCI3*-S and CCI4*-S in October, while Bedfordshire’s multi-purpose venue at Keysoe College will add CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S classes in early July, filling out a calendar for the College that already boasts well-attended international dressage and showjumping fixtures. Cornbury in Oxfordshire is another new addition, and will host CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S classes in September. Kelsall Hall in Cheshire will make the step up to international status, hosting a spring CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S. June’s Alnwick Ford fixture in Northumberland will add the same classes, as will August’s Wellington Horse Trials in Hampshire.

“For Keysoe, this completes the collection,” said organiser Simon Bates. “We now run internationals in all three major disciplines and we see this as a testament to the team’s hard work and dedication and also as a result of the significant — nearing £1m — investment over the last 12-18 months. With good transport links and enhances facilities we now look forward to welcoming eventers from across the country to join us.”

The news of additional fixtures, too, has been marred by some frustration with the fixtures process.

“Little Downham are delighted to have been successful in their application to host a new CCI3*-S and CCI4*-S,” said Sarah Skillin of EquiConsulting, who organises sponsorship and media for the event. “However, that delight is tinged with frustration at still being made to run against Osberton, who are both geographically close and will also run 3* level classes. When our tender was submitted we applied to run in a four-week window on the assumption that we would not be conflicting with another UK event. Our tender was one with the rider at its heart and the sport as the focus of the event.”

Are you an organiser or competitor who has been affected by the fixtures list? Do you think the changes made are positive, or would you like to see more transparency from the board? Let us know what you think in the comments — remember, keep it kind and keep it productive!

[BE ANNOUNCES INTERNATIONAL AND BE CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR FOR 2020-2025]