“I’m very excited, but it’s nerve-wracking,” says American rider Katherine Coleman of her fast-approaching Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials debut.
Katherine, who is now based full-time in the UK at a yard near Marlborough in Wiltshire, has come a long way since her native New Orleans childhood days. She went on to study business management at the University of Georgia and had her first taste of international eventing in a one-star at Lexington in 2006. In 2012, she decided to take the plunge and move to the UK to make a proper go of eventing.
“I’ve visited Badminton every year since I moved over here,” says Katherine. “But now to actually be entered and less than a week away from competing there is very surreal and I don’t think it will hit me until we arrive.”
Katherine’s ride for the event is 15-year-old Longwood (or Woody as he is known at home), whom she bought from Charlotte Agnew at the end of 2013. Charlotte had produced him up to three-star level and Katherine says she bought him “to gain experience”. They have since gone on to get plenty of mileage at CIC3* level, but their Badminton qualification wasn’t in the bag until just a few weeks ago.
“I had planned to run him in the CCI3* at Blair last August and then take him to Rolex Kentucky this spring, but unfortunately Blair didn’t happen and so I had to have a re-think,” explains Katherine. “I decided to take him to Barroca d’Alva in Portugal in March where we had to finish in the top three to get our Badminton qualification — it was a tall order but we finished second so it was only then I could say ‘Badminton here we come’.”
Woody’s cross-country record is solid with countless clear around three-star tracks.
“He’s a super cross-country horse and I’m excited to run him around Badminton,” says Katherine. “He has been a little more challenging in the showjumping though, where he gets nervous and tight which results in rolling poles. He always showjumps very well at home though, so I’ve been taking him to plenty of jumping shows to get some ring practice in — I have to ride him in a particular way as he likes to get deep to his fences, so as long as I don’t get nervous and forget how to ride, it should be OK.”
Katherine describes Woody as a “grumpy old man” in the stable.
“He’s spoilt rotten — he’s my groom’s favourite and he knows it,” she laughs. “He’s a bit of a loner too — he would much rather be out in the field on his own.”
We meet the four-star debutante and the horse…
Katherine, who trains with Karen O’Connor who visits once per month from the US, Andrew Fletcher and Jeremy Scott, says that she hasn’t watched the Badminton cross-country preview “on purpose”.
“I don’t want to know what the fences are like,” she explains. “It would give me way too much time to worry about them!”
Katherine is honest about her Badminton goals.
“Yes I want to complete but I have to say that I’ll be disappointed if we don’t jump clear across country.”