Former showjumper Padraig McCarthy didn’t dream of competing at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials as a child — he dreamt of the main ring at Aachen.
The Irishman, who rode in his first CIC* less than five years ago, has made a meteoric rise to the top of the sport since switching disciplines.
In that time, he has competed at a European Championships, an Olympics and is frequently in the money at top national and international events.
His Badminton ride is the 16.3hh British-bred gelding, Mr Chunky, who was taken up to four-star by Padraig’s wife Lucy (née Wiegersma).
Padraig and “Chunky” won the CIC3* at Chatsworth in 2016 and have only once finished outside the top-10 on the international circuit in the past two years.
“He was quite lucky to get a run in at Burnham Market as we entered the advanced instead of the CIC3* [which was cancelled],” says Padraig.
“He had a very solid run at Belton and another run around Bicton last weekend — he seems to be better when he doesn’t have too long a rest before a big event.
“Now we are just focusing on the dressage and getting him feeling well in himself ahead of Badminton.”
Chunky, by Jumbo, was bred by Sue Trump, who lives close to the McCarthy’s base in Devon, and is owned by Lucy, Huw Lloyd and Christopher and Sarita Perkins.
“Lucy bought him as an unbroken four-year-old,” adds Padraig.
“He is called Mr Chunky for reason — I remember seeing him in the stable, it was around Christmas and he had a full winter coat and was quite hairy.
“Lucy said: ‘this is the best horse I have ever sat on’. I looked at her and thought ‘are you joking now?’”
He adds Lucy told him to “take him for a spin” and as soon as he felt Chunky’s trot, he knew the horse was special.
“He is a lovely horse, incredibly easy — he has no quirks or issues — the staff on the yard hack him at home,” says Padraig.
“He is a very good jumper and an incredible cross-country horse — you don’t have too many gear changes, so at a CCI where you have a lot more room between fences [than a CIC], he really gets into his gear.”
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Following a successful career training and riding showjumpers, Padraig gave up riding to pursue his studies. He graduated with a first class honours degree in economics and finance with German in 2008.
He was then offered a research scholarship, which became a PhD in business insolvency laws.
In 2013, he decided to turn his focus away from an academic career to follow his passion for riding and working with horses.
However while Aachen may have been the dream when he was showjumping, Badminton now holds that same magic.
“I remember driving to the Burghley Young Event Horse class at Badminton last year and coming over the hill and feeling excitement at the thought that next year I could be here for the main event — there’s not many places that do that to you,” he says.
“The horse is more than capable and I feel very lucky to be taking him.”
This week’s magazine (26 April 2018), features a full Badminton preview, including a cross-country course walk with Mary King and full form guide for every horse and rider
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