Chakiris Star (Louis), the mount of Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials first-timer Alexander (Alex) Whewall, wasn’t originally destined for four-star eventing. The 12-year-old Irish gelding was purchased by owner Lisa Coward when he was four for her to do some dressage on.
“Lisa bought Louis to play around with — we never thought he would be a four-star horse,” says Alex, who is based not too far from Badminton, near Bristol.
The 30-year-old full-time event rider got the ride on Louis four years ago and has produced him from BE100 to four-star, completing their first attempt at this level with a clear cross-country at Pau last October.
“Louis was based with Lisa up until just before Christmas,” explains Alex, who trains with Lizzel Winter, Dickie Waygood and Mark Todd having won the 2016 Mark Todd Bridging the Gap scholarship. “Until then, I had been driving over to ride him once or twice a week. We didn’t even think he would go to intermediate level as he isn’t ‘wowy’ with his jump. But he’s consistent and just tries his heart out.”
Alex says that as a character, Louis is an “inward worrier”.
“I have to keep him confident and walking on the yard, you wouldn’t think he is a four-star horse — he very much keeps himself to himself.”
As it has always been a local event for Alex, he has frequently visited Badminton.
“I thought from a young age ‘I really want to do this’ each time we went to Badminton,” he says. “I’ve been trying to get a horse there for years, but things never quite went to plan.”
Alex and Louis had a great start to this season, being placed ninth and fourth in Burnham Market and Belton’s advanced classes respectively. But disaster struck last weekend (21 April) while the pair were competing in the open intermediate at Bicton Arena Horse Trials.
“I went to just do the dressage and showjumping with Louis as some nice final Badminton preparation,” he explains. “Unfortunately coming out of a combination near the end of the showjumping course, something happened and Louis got a pole stuck between his front legs. He flipped over and landed on top of me. I thought ‘Oh no! Why?!’ Thankfully we are both fine, bar my legs being a bit sore, and I took him back there the next day to have a jump school round the course and he was fine. It’s not what you want to week before Badminton, but hopefully it’s woken us both up a bit!”
Like this? You might also enjoy reading these:
Alex doesn’t just want to complete Badminton with Louis, but he hopes to secure a top 20 finish too.
“If all goes well, I know we are capable of it,” he says. “We are rarely out of the top 10 at one-day events and often in the top 20 at three-days, but as is the case with Badminton, you never know until you get there.”
Read the full Badminton preview in Horse & Hound magazine, out on Thursday 26 April 2018