Yorkshireman and Mitsubishi Motors Badminton first-timer James Sommerville, is adamant that until he is leaving his yard and heading for the Gloucestershire event, he won’t believe it is happening.
“It won’t set in that we’re actually going until we’re heading down the drive,” says James.
The 29-year-old’s four-star debut has been a long time coming having completed his first three-star seven years ago, which is perhaps why he won’t let himself get too excited just yet.
He heads to Badminton with an 11-year-old called Talent.
“I found him as a four-year-old at Astrid Bolton’s yard, where he was bred,” explains James. “I saw him loose jump and had a quick sit on him but stopping was a bit of an issue!”
James, who has done stints working on yards, including for the likes of Nicola Wilson and Oliver Townend says Talent showed “great promise” at an early age but was “a bit tricky”.
“He’s grown out of most of his party tricks now but he’s still sharp and his brain works at 100mph,” he explains. “If Talent is fresh, he struggles on the flat — it’s his Achilles’ heel and he’s a bit tricky in his mouth— but with patience, perseverance and hard work, it’s getting much better.”
We meet the four-star debutante and the horse…
Talent has a strong jumping record, which might be thanks in part to his showjumping breeding. He is by Eurocommerce Toulouse out of a Concorde mare. But this means he is slightly lacking in thoroughbred blood — that which is desirable in a horse about to step up to four-star.
“He doesn’t have a great deal of blood, but he has stayed on well at all of his three-day events and actually tends to finish quicker than he started,” says James, who has only visited Badminton twice before, the last time being in 2011. “It’s a big challenge but I can’t wait to walk the course.”
When asked about his goal for Badminton, James keeps it very close to his chest.
“I have secret aims that I won’t let on until afterwards when hopefully I’ve reached them!”