Badminton Horse Trials: Yorkshire rider shares his hopes for this weekend's event

THREE-DAY eventer James Rushbrooke believes he is better prepared for the Badminton Horse Trials than he was when making his five-star debut at last year’s event in Gloucestershire.

The 26-year-old from Weeton, which is between Otley and Harrogate, will again be competing on

the Irish-bred Milchem Eclipse and hoping to better last year’s 43 rd place on the first appearances at

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Badminton, the sport’s most famous three-day event, for both horse and rider.

James Rushbrooke, on Zelandnew BK. The horse has been injured recently and is hoping to make a return to action at Bramham next month.James Rushbrooke, on Zelandnew BK. The horse has been injured recently and is hoping to make a return to action at Bramham next month.
James Rushbrooke, on Zelandnew BK. The horse has been injured recently and is hoping to make a return to action at Bramham next month.

“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

competitive.”

James Rushbrooke from Weeton, which is between Otley and Harrogate, will again be competing on the Irish-bred Milchem Eclipse and hoping to better last year’s 43rd place  at Badminton, the sport’s most famous three-day event, for both horse and rider.James Rushbrooke from Weeton, which is between Otley and Harrogate, will again be competing on the Irish-bred Milchem Eclipse and hoping to better last year’s 43rd place  at Badminton, the sport’s most famous three-day event, for both horse and rider.
James Rushbrooke from Weeton, which is between Otley and Harrogate, will again be competing on the Irish-bred Milchem Eclipse and hoping to better last year’s 43rd place at Badminton, the sport’s most famous three-day event, for both horse and rider.
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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

James Rushbrooke, on Zelandnew BK in action at Bramham a few years ago.James Rushbrooke, on Zelandnew BK in action at Bramham a few years ago.
James Rushbrooke, on Zelandnew BK in action at Bramham a few years ago.

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.”

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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.

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“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

up.

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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

both.

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“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.

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“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

true.

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“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

discipline.

“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.

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He has also walked the cross-country course to get a feel for the 30 obstacles they will face on the

four-mile route.

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.”

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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

year.

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.

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 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.