Our series leading up to Badminton Horse Trials honours continues with an intriguing story about the elephant tusk which turned out to be a silver bowl

The Butler Challenge Bowl at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (7-10 May this year) is given to the most successful British rider.

This trophy has one of the most fascinating stories of all the prizes given at Badminton.

Jane Pontifex, a journalist who was H&H’s first eventing editor and who attended every Badminton horse trials from 1950 until her death in 2012, explained its origins in an interview with Eventing magazine in 2005.

“In the early 1950s, I was working for the BHS in London,” said Jane. “We did a lot of secretarial work for Badminton then. One day we got a cable from America saying there was an elephant tusk arriving for us and that it was to be donated to Badminton.

“But when it arrived it wasn’t an elephant tusk at all, but a jolly nice silver bowl. The man who donated it was called Butler and it was a bit of a mystery why he gave it. It’s been awarded ever since to the most successful British rider, but in the old days we always called it the elephant tusk.”

Oliver Townend claimed the Butler Bowl at Badminton last year (pictured) when he finished second riding Paul Ridgeon’s Armada (the winner was Australia’s Sam Griffiths with Paulank Brockagh). The previous year William Fox-Pitt lifted this trophy for fifth place on Catherine Witt’s Parklane Hawk. In 2011 the trophy again went to the runner-up, Piggy French on her father Wally and Michael Underwood’s Jakata, who was trumped to top spot by New Zealand’s Mark Todd on NZB Land Vision.

The last time the Butler Bowl went to the event’s winner was in 2009, when Oliver Townend won on Edward Nicholson and his son Robert’s homebred grey Flint Curtis. Badminton has not had a British winner since then.