Oliver Townend has “apologised wholeheartedly” after his riding on the cross-country at Badminton attracted widespread criticism, saying he is “disappointed and upset” with the way he rode.

The rider, who missed out on the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials yesterday (6 May) was given an official warning for over-use of the whip on cross-country day.

Oliver jumped clear on both his rides, Cooley SRS and Ballghmor Class, but was pulled up by the ground jury for his use of the whip on both horses.

Both were passed as fit to showjump on Sunday morning, but overnight leader Jonelle Price’s clear showjumping round meant Oliver, who finished in second and fifth place, could not have caught her.

In an interview after Jonelle’s win, he was asked about the official warning.

“Kentucky [Three-Day Event] last weekend felt fantastic and smooth for me, and I won it. Yesterday, I had to fight hard. I can win prettily and I can win ugly, and that is why I am seven times British number one and world number one at the minute.

“Of course you are going to get critics, but AP McCoy, Lester Piggott, Conor McGregor, it doesn’t matter who you are in sport.

“If you are at the top of your game, you are always going to get someone try and trample you.”

Former top international eventer Ian Stark, who was commentating on cross-country day, said in an interview that having watched Oliver’s riding again on film, it was “kind of unacceptable”. He added that although there is no provision in the rules to prevent such use of the whip, as the world’s number one eventer, Oliver should set a better example.

Oliver released a statement yesterday which said: “I’m aware that there have been negative comments about my riding yesterday, and I apologise wholeheartedly if it looked bad.

“I absolutely love my horses, and their welfare is my top priority. They are both young and inexperienced at this level, and I did have to work hard to keep their concentration and get them home in one piece as they tired in the heavy going. I hope that the way they both showjumped today demonstrates how fit, well and happy they are.”

The rider has since issued a second apology, which read: “Having watched my Badminton cross-country rounds for the first time when I got home last night, I’m so disappointed and upset about the way I rode. It didn’t look good and I don’t want to look like that.

“I fully accept the warning I received from the ground jury. My competitive instincts got the better of me and I will work hard to improve in this area.

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“I try really hard to give my horses the best ride possible – I try to be as fit as possible, to be as light as I can be, to sit as still as I can, to get them on the best strides and take-off points to minimise the energy they have to waste. I care enormously about their well-being and their welfare.

“I feel I have let my amazing team down. I am aware of my position in the sport and of my responsibility to be a suitable role model to younger people, and I apologise to them.

“I love my horses – I live for them. I am extremely proud of all four horses – Ballaghmor Class and Cooley SRS, and the two who went so brilliantly at Kentucky, Cooley Master Class and MHS King Joules – and of every horse on my yard.”

Don’t miss this Thursday’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (10 May 2018), with our full report and analysis from Badminton Horse Trials

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