Badminton first-timers: Ellen Cameron — ‘I never thought she would be a top horse’

Twenty-six-year-old Ellen Cameron is slightly different to your stereotypical Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (1—5 May) competitor in that she only has one horse. And in just under a couple of week’s time, she heads with that horse to her first ever five-star competition.

Ellen was born and bred in Fife, Scotland, and when she left school she went straight into a career with horses, working firstly for Ruth Edge, before moving south to work for Nick Gauntlett. She was head groom for Nick for four years before she moved to Ludwig Svennerstal’s yard last year.

Ellen’s Badminton mount is her own 16.1hh 13-year-old mare, Hanleen Crown Jewels (or Julie, as she is known at home).

“I found her as an unbroken, untouched four-year-old at a stud down the road from us in Scotland,” explains Ellen. “She’s bred to be a showjumper but I bought her to produce alongside another horse I had at the time — I never thought she would turn out to be a top horse for me.”

But since the departure of her other horse, Julie is Ellen’s sole mount now.

“I found it difficult to find the time and money to have more than one horse,” says Ellen. “My drive used to be to become an event rider, but now that’s diminished as I really enjoying the grooming side, I really enjoy having one-on-one time with Julie — it’s more pressure when you only have one horse and you want to perform well, but we’re trying to have fun.

“Our career together has very much been like the blind leading the blind, but we have an amazing partnership. Our dressage holds us back as we sort of antagonise each other, but I know if I do the best I can across country she will try her hardest for me.”

As Nick Gauntlett’s yard is only down the road from Badminton, Ellen says that she has visited the five-star Gloucestershire event on several occasions.

“I walked the cross-country plenty of times when I was at Nick’s and over the past couple of years the course has looked more and more jumpable for Julie and I. I’ve looked at the preview online and I think the track will suit us — it’s old-fashioned and gallopy — I’ve just got to give Julie the confidence by kicking on.”

Ellen says she first realised she had a potentially serious horse on her hands after they jumped double clear at their first CCI3* (now CCI-L4*) at Blenheim in September 2017.

“She was mega at Blenheim — she exceeded all expectations and it was a dream week,” says Ellen. “I was unsure of how she would cope with the long format distance at that level but she was so cool and that’s when Nick said I had a real-life shot at going for a five-star.

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“For me the achievement is just having a horse that I’ve produced that I can enter for an event like Badminton — I haven’t had a great amount of financial backing or loads of training — although Ludwig’s help has been fantastic. We won’t be troubling the leaders as Julie’s flatwork is a product of my lack of experience — she can do a nice test but I get nervous and self-conscious performing in front of people. But, touch wood, she feels great and is fit and sound — I would kick myself if I hadn’t entered and then something went wrong and I never had the opportunity to enter again. But we know each other so well and we’re just going to go and try and have fun.”

Don’t miss H&H’s Badminton preview issue, including cross-country course walk with world champion Ros Canter (out 25 April), and our form guide issue with details of every horse and rider competing (out 2 May).