We continue our build-up to Badminton Horse Trials honours by finding out about the grooms’ trophy and speaking to Imogen Mercer, groom of 2015 Badminton winner Paulank Brockagh
The Mark Holliday Memorial Trophy at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (7-10 May this year) goes to the groom of the winning horse.
The trophy was first awarded in 1994. Mark’s parents and his brother John gave it in memory of Mark, who was killed riding across country at Hexham Horse Trials in June 1993.
Mark, who was 23 at the time of his death, had been head groom to Ian Stark and his duties had included caring for Murphy Himself and Glenburnie at the Barcelona Olympics.
Last year’s winner of the trophy was Imogen Mercer (pictured), the groom of Sam Griffiths’ ride Paulank Brockagh.
Imogen, 22, joined Sam’s yard as a working pupil initially for her gap year, but took over as head girl after a year and is now in her fourth season with the Griffiths’.
“I really enjoy working for Sam and [his wife] Lucy — they are so supportive and want it to be a fun place to work,” she says. “Sam wants everyone to get the best out of working here.”
Imogen has groomed at Badminton twice — in 2013 when Happy Times and Paulank Brockagh both completed and last year.
“The whole competition last year showed the best of ‘Brocks’ and of Sam,” says Imogen. “She gives her all for everything and it was exactly what she and Sam deserved.
“After she had showjumped I was with Brocks and people kept coming up and telling us where we were — when we heard we were third we were like, ‘Top three, that’s amazing’.
“Sam and [overnight leader] Paul Tapner are great friends, so Sam wanted the best for Paul and we would have been very happy to be second. But then Chris Burton came running over and said, ‘You’ve won Badminton!’ It was pretty surreal — I couldn’t laugh, couldn’t cry, I didn’t know what to do.”
Happy Times and Paulank Brockagh both head to Badminton again this year.
“It’s strange to think she’s just Brocks on the yard, but she’s a Badminton winner,” concludes Imogen. “That’s an odd feeling in the horse you look after every day. But she’s a sweet horse to care for and knows she’s top of the ranks. She keeps herself to herself and doesn’t like a huge amount of fuss.”