I managed to catch up with Badminton Horse Trails on Saturday night when I finally sat down to eat tea and watch the cross-country phase just before midnight following a busy day at the races.
The ex-racehorses were out in force dominating the top ten. It’s great to see thoroughbreds back in fashion in eventing circles. Badminton provides a valuable platform to show what this breed are truly capable of.
Best of the Brits was third-placed Arctic Soul ridden by Gemma Tattersall, a horse who, on the racetrack, failed to bother anyone in all of his five outings, but at Badminton he’s found his niche.
My pal Ms Sturgis jumped a fabulous clear round on Lebowski who is nicknamed ‘Rotter’ at home since his bucking antics have dispatched many a rider in the past. They flew over the Vicarage Vie and other obstacles making the course look easy. Next day she went clear show jumping pulling them up 48 places to 11th. This secured my friend the Glentrool Trophy for the highest improvement from their dressage score. She was also named top local rider, which was an added thrill.
Rotter was out on hound exercise before trot up. Beanie decided to take a calm approach after a 2015 season disrupted by her 16-year-old gelding’s suffering in his joints. Like my arthritic racehorse Urban Gale (Herbie) neither perform trot on a bad day.
Last Autumn my friend got Herbie and Rotter included in a drugs trial for a revolutionary new joint supplement created by her vet. The results were astounding. Herbie went on to win two races and Rotter qualified for Badminton.
The real fairy tale of the meeting goes to a Yorkshire horse and his Lancashire rider Ben Hobday. The popular Mulry’s Error, a Clydesdale cross thoroughbred nicknamed Super Cob. He is owned by Sally Ryle from Ilkley - who spent her youth grooming for Harvey Smith.
Ben and Mulry completed Badminton last year finishing 28th. In June, Ben announced he’d been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy.
Throughout his aggressive treatment the prospect of returning to Badminton in 2016 with Mulry was something he always saw as a reality rather than a dream, and he proved his steely determination when returning to the saddle in September, weak but keen. What followed was a long journey of rehabilitation. Last weekend he and Mulry set off across the Badminton turf to the deafening sound of a crowd who had followed his story and willed him to do well. He flew round the cross country course, recovering from a nerve-racking stumble in the water and was full of emotion as he crossed the finish line clear.
A spotless round in the show jumping pulled them up to 32nd. Ben punched the air to a media frenzy. Sally and her family were overjoyed.
The humble Lancastrian rode the course with ‘Willberry Wonder Pony’ strapped to his back to raise awareness for a charity set up by 17-year-old eventer Hannah Francis who he met in hospital. Hannah was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer a year ago and was given Willberry as a get well gift. It gave her the idea to start the Willberry Wonder Pony charity, which has already raised £11,000 to fight bone cancer and grant wishes to terminally ill children.