The final block of dressage starters this afternoon at Badminton Horse Trials perfectly illustrated the diverse shapes, sizes and breeds of horse that can reach the top level in eventing.
Sharon Hunt’s Tankers Town, a compact chestnut, started off the session. This horse always looks very together to me — he’s built in a way that makes him look like he’s all made of one smooth piece. There were no cracks when he came out of the mould.
Two horses later Georgie Davies and Fachoudette came into the arena. She’s beautiful, this mare, and very definitely a girl; I just don’t think you’d ever see a gelding look so elegant and fairy-like on his feet.
A short while later it was all change again when Emily Galbraith and Crown Alliance made their Badminton debut. This chunky horse boasts Cleveland Bay and Irish draught in his pedigree.
To me, he always looks like an overgrown Exmoor pony, because of his mealy nose. I mean that as a compliment — he looks so honest and I think you could do a lot worse than to make your Badminton debut on a horse like this. He looks like he’d look after himself and you, he’s a super jumper and he and Emily clearly understand each other.
The penultimate rider today was H&H Online diarist Olivia Haddow, who rides the skewbald Patris Filius. He’s only 15.1hh and part Gypsy Cob, but he’s clearly a great character. He looked so clever and up for everything today.
The last rider today was Dee Kennedy, on Big El. He’s totally different again, a tall, graceful creature, with a wonderful silky black coat and he reminds me of a gazelle. When he’s coupled with former pop star Dee, they have to form the most elegant combination here.
Maybe it’s just the fact they are a similar colour, but in a way, Big El reminds me of Andrew Hoy’s ride Moon Fleet. Pauline Fredericks, mother of current dressage leader Clayton, came up with the best description of him I’ve ever heard, the year he won here. She said he looks like he’s made of liquid, as if he’s been poured through his skin.
Moon Fleet is one horse I’m looking forward to seeing tomorrow. Among the other tests I’m keen to see are Pippa Funnell’s, with Ensign. It’s always an education to see this lady do dressage. And there’s a lot of anticipation about seeing Tamarillo back in the big arena with William Fox-Pitt. William said today that if he can keep all four feet on the floor, that’ll be fine, so whatever happens, it should be exciting.
Keep up to date with twice daily reports from Badminton on www.horseandhound.co.uk and don’t forget to buy H&H next Thursday (8 May) for a 16 page report, with comments from Carl Hester, Ginny Elliot and William Fox-Pitt.