Olivia Haddow and her “naughty little coloured cob” Patris Filius caught the eye when taking seventh place after the dressage at Burghley Horse Trials last year. Unfortunately their Burghley debut ended with a spectacular fall at the first water, but this 23-year-old isn’t going to let a minor setback that like get in her way of her burgeoning eventing career.

This year she is heading to Badminton with 15.1hh (on his tip toes) Filius, who was sold as a three-year-old at Abergavenny Market before starting his eventing career under Vicky Tuffs. He joined the Haddow family as a Pony Club ride for Olivia’s younger sister, Ailie, but it was far from love at first sight for his current rider.

“When we went to see him I thought he was just a naughty coloured cob,” Olivia tells Horse & Hound Online. “Ailie loved him, but I didn’t like him. He was really bolshy and so naughty: he used to wipe your legs along the fence in the manége, and even now sometimes he will stop and just refuse to move. It doesn’t matter what you do, he simply roots himself to the spot.”

Olivia’s first competitive ride on Filius came with just two days notice when her sister decided that she didn’t want to compete in the intermediate at Auchinleck Horse Trials on the Friday before the competition.

“I rode him on the Friday and Saturday and then went to the event on Sunday,” says Olivia. “I wasn’t sure we would get round but Ailie told me to ‘just keep kicking’ and it worked. We finished third and I started to change my mind about him.”

From humble beginnings — Filius is believed to be by a Gypsy Cob stallion out of a flapper mare — this clever coloured with the brain of a pony and the stride of a horse helped Britain win team gold at the Young Rider Europeans in 2005. Rating this as one of the best moments of her career so far, Olivia also describes finishing fifth in their first three-star competition at Bramham in 2006 as a highlight.

“The weather was really hot that year and lots people didn’t think we would make it round the course, but he was fantastic,” she says.

As well as taking Filius to Badminton with the aim of completion, Olivia has a new ride for this season in Fortunesnight, plus two exciting seven-year-olds (Unitivo De Foja and Cool Dancer) who she is hoping will follow in Filius’s footsteps.

“I believe in aiming high and if everything goes according to plan then winning Badminton and Burghley and representing Britain at the Olympic Games are among my aims for the future,” says Olivia.

In the meantime she is taking each day as it comes and is focusing on producing Flilius at his very best for Badminton in four weeks time.

“He has never been this fit so early on in the season and needs to settle down a bit if we are going to recreate our Burghley dressage score!”

Olivia Haddow fact file

Date of Birth: 23 May 1984
Lives: East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire
Top horse: Patris Filius, 15.1hh 14yo coloured gelding
Pony club: member of Lanarkshire & Renfrewshire Hunt branch, passed A test

Major eventing results

2003 Weston Park CCI** (Patris Filius) 4th
2004 Floors Castle CIC** (Patris Filius) 6th
2004 Barroca CH-EU-YR** (Patris Filius) 13th
2005 Sansaw CIC** (Patris Filius) 14th
2005 Segersjo CH-EU-YR (Patris Filius) 23rd and team gold
2006 Burnham Market CIC*** (Patris FIlius) 12th
2006 Bramham CCI*** (Patris Filius) 5th
2006 Gatcombe CIC** (Patris Filius) Completed
2007 Chatsworth CIC*** (Patris Filius) Completed
2007 Bramham CCI*** (Patris Filius) 19th
2007 Thirlestane CIC*** (Patris Filius) 9th
2007 Kreuth CCI*** (Patris Filius) 15th
2007 Burghley CCI**** (Patris Filius) 7th after dressage, fell on XC

Follow Olivia’s road to Badminton with her online diary on Horseandhound.co.uk

View Badminton Horse Trials gallery 2007