Badminton Horse Trials: Beverley star Parsonage prepared to play catch up

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Gary Parsonage is bidding for a top 20 place at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials which are well underway.

But the 52-year-old Beverley-based concedes he will be playing catch up in Saturday’s cross-country after acknowledging Friday’s dressage is Sligo Luckyvalier’s weakest phase of the three disciplines.

“He is a big horse and to do the dressage movements required in a 60m x 20m area is a challenge for him,” he explained.

Parsonage will be looking not to lose too much ground in Friday’s dressage test so he can hopefully move back up the leaderboard in the cross country and showjumping.

And he is confident that Sligo Luckyvalier, who is 13 later this year, will be able to draw on his experience.

“He has completed three four-star events – Burghley twice and Lumuhlen – and achieved clear rounds in all three cross-country rounds so hopefully that will serve him well at Badminton,” he continued.

“Cross country is his strongest discipline, and loves that. He is enthusiastic and fitter than he has ever been so we should be able to make up ground.

“And looking at the course, it could suit him. There are 81 starters and the ground could be chewed up by the time we go.”

Last season Italian cross-country course designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa courted controversy with his Badminton first track due to its severity and the number of competitors who failed to complete it.

Parsonage said: “I have walked it three times and will do so again today for one final time.

“It is in the opposite direction to last year and on the whole I think the first half is a bit kinder if you can ever say that about Badminton which is always a tough four-star event.

“The second half asks some serious questions and it is amazing how quickly this course can turn and bite you.”

Parsonage says that realistically he is aiming for a finish somewhere in the middle or the pack but, if things go well, a top-20 place is attainable.

And he added that he has every confidence Sligo Luckyvalier, a novice showjumper he acquired from Ireland at the age of five, will deliver.

He said: “All his eventing has been done with me, and he is definitely in the top handful of horses I have ridden.

“He has a natural affinity with cross country and reminds me very much of my old Olympic horse (Just So 11 who helped Great Britain finish fifth in the team event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.)

Last year Parsonage and Sligo Luckyvalier missed Badminton as the horse was suffering from “splints”, the equine equivalent of shin splints which humans are afflicted.

Though Parsonage estimates he has competed at Badminton around eight times – he cannot recollect the exact figure – he says it has lost none of its magic with passing years.

He said: “There are two major horse trials, Badminton in the spring and Burghley in the autumn, and they have the biggest prize money.

“I still get the same buzz at Badminton than on my first visit. They are great crowds and also very knowledgeable, especially on the cross-country course.”