Badminton first-timers: Emily Philp and Camembert — the horse who was ‘bodged’ together and named at a dinner party

Next week Emily Philp and her top horse, Camembert, head to their first Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (1—5 May) and first ever five-star. And there’s little doubt that many other riders would quite like to be sat on Camembert — although this is a first attempt at this level, his jumping record is exemplary having lowered just five showjumping rails in the 56 events he has completed. He has jumped clear across country in 10 CCI4*-S and CCI4*-L competitions too.

The story behind Camembert, a 14-year-old by Courage II, is a real family affair.

“My grandma sadly died and was living in Ireland at the time,” explains Emily, who events full-time from her Shropshire base. “I went over there with my dad, Nigel, and his brother, Mitchell, to scatter her ashes and completely out of the blue they announced that while we were over there, they were going to buy a horse — neither of them are horsey at all, so it came as quite a shock!

“We went to look at Bert, who was an unbroken three-year-old at the time. When he walked out the stable, I thought ‘what on Earth is this?!’ as conformationally he looked like he was three horses bodged together,” she laughs. “But he was a real show off and wanted us to look at him, and they couldn’t stop him loose jumping in the indoor arena — he kept coming round to the fence so quickly, they hardly had enough time to adjust it, and when they tried to stop him, he just turned around and jumped the fence backwards.”

Emily’s family gave Bert his competition name.

“Bert came from Ireland with his stable name and we were all sat around the dinner table one evening, a few alcoholic drinks down, trying to think of a competition name that incorporated Bert,” explains Emily. “At first we came up with Come On Bert, but that quickly morphed into Camembert, and that was that.”

Emily said it wasn’t long after then that she thought she might have a top horse on her hands.

“When he was four I thought, ‘this is the one’ as he always gave me a great feeling over a fence and he was almost too clever for his own good.”

Unfortunately, having a crack at five-star has taken perhaps longer than Emily might have originally hoped.

“I’ve been trying to get to Badminton for years and it’s a shame Bert hasn’t got there before now, but he’s been very fragile,” says Emily. “He had most of his six-year-old season off through injury, then only did one full event in 2013 as I had a nasty fall and then he also had soundness issues in 2017, which we never got to the bottom of — we gave him six months off and then one day he just came sound.

“The vet said he would probably go lame again as soon as we brought him back into work, but we got started and all was fine. Then I was convinced that after I jumped him for the first time, he would break, but he didn’t, and we’ve just carried on. Every morning I go into his stable I’m scared he might be lame again, but touch wood, so far, so good.”

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Emily says she thinks this year’s Badminton cross-country track “looks huge” on the preview.

“I just hope I have enough control early on in the course as Bert can be opinionated — like he can be in the dressage too! I would like us to go and put on a good show though. I would love to complete and anything after that is a bonus. Although we won’t be leading the dressage, I hope we won’t be too far away after the first phase, then it would be amazing to jump a double clear, but my main aim is to go out on the cross-country positive and to remember to enjoy it.”

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).

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