Badminton Horse Trials: Yorkshire rider shares his hopes for this weekend's event
the Irish-bred Milchem Eclipse and hoping to better last year’s 43 rd place on the first appearances at
Badminton, the sport’s most famous three-day event, for both horse and rider.
“Most riders are lucky to get around the cross-country course on their first run at Badminton. I was
delighted to finish the competition and be placed,” explained Rushbrooke.
“To compete at Badminton was fulfilling a childhood dream, next time I want to be more
With Milchem Eclipse, a 16.3hh bay gelding, still only 11 years old, a relative babe for a five-star
eventer, Rushbrooke is confident they will be able to improve on last year’s result which was a
massive achievement on a rookie.
“To get into the top 20 would be lovely, but the goal is to finish once again and get back safe, sound
and happy which is the priority,” he explained.
“You can hope and dream, but it is a lot to do what happens on the day and the weather can play its
part and can ruin it for you.”
Rushbrooke, who runs a livery business in tandem with his eventing horses, believes he has learned
much from his first Badminton visit 12 months ago when he and Milchem Eclipse racked up a costly
number of time penalties on the cross-country course which relegated them down the standings.
He said: “We will hoping to go quicker this year and to cut down the time penalties.
“Last year was a case of both of us making our five-star debuts and it was a case of taking it all in.
There was no benchmark as to fitness and I did not know how he would deal with 12 minutes on the
cross-country course, so we went took it easy.”
Rushbrooke, who has produced Milchem Eclipse since the age of four, explained he started the
preparations for Badminton earlier than last year with work beginning back in January and building
But it has not been straightforward due to the unseasonably wet March, when the eventing season
gets under way, which resulted in a swathe of cancellations.
“I had four runs planned for Milchem Eclipse in the build-up to Badminton, but we managed only
two,” he explained.
The pair completed the four-star event at Thoresby and advanced section at Kelsall Hill, doing well at
“It wasn’t ideal doing a four-star for the first event of the year and I didn’t chase too much. I put the
foot down more at Kelsall Hill but still wasn’t at full speed,” he explained.
Rushbrooke, who is a Master of Fox Hounds (MFH) with the Badsworth and Bramham Moor,
believes the experiences of the last 12 months have helped Milchem Eclipse develop.
“He feels a different animal, stronger and fitter. Our preparations have gone well other than the lack
of runs which has affected all riders,” he continued.
Rushbrooke arrived at the iconic venue on Wednesday to give Milchem Eclipse time to settle before
their dressage test on Friday, cross-country on Sunday and the showjumping finale on Monday.
He said: “You hear riders saying their horses know when they are at Badminton or Burghley, and it is
“We have been on a couple of hacks and he knows he is back. He thinks it is great to be here in a
lovely hotel for a week.”
Rushbrooke has been brushing up on the dressage routine which he admitted is not their strongest
“We have run through the test and practised the dressage which is getting better. We want to a
correct test and hopefully there is nothing for the judges to mark us down,” he said.
He has also walked the cross-country course to get a feel for the 30 obstacles they will face on the
Rushbrooke said: “It looks like a typical Badminton course with some impressive new fences and the
water will be quite challenging.
“There are some intense sections when a few fences come on to you quickly, but there are also
some good gallops.
“Milchem Eclipse is a genuine horse with quite a lot of experience for his ag and he shows braveness,
agility and adaptability on the cross-country phase.”
Milchem Eclipse is Rushbrooke’s only five-star horse, but he has another one which he is hoping to
be “the next special one”.
The seven-year-old Alvaranti, which Rushbrooke bred, is being targeted at three-star events this
And the 12-year-old Zelandnew BK is in line for an appearance next month at Bramham. He had
huge promise aged eight, but the last four years have been plagued by injury.
Huddersfield raised Oliver Townend, who is now based in Shropshire, will again be one
of the favourites, to be crowned Badminton champion as he was in 2009. Last year he
was third on Swallow Springs and fifth riding Ballaghmor Class and he will be riding the
same combinations this weekend.