Badminton first-timers: Julia Norman — ‘our absolute dream’

Carryon Bobby Boy, the mount of Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (1 to 5 May) first-timer and five-star first-timer Julia Norman, comes from humble beginnings. The 13-year-old, owned by Diana Wethered only started his eventing career four years ago, having spent most of his life team chasing, Pony Clubbing and on the hunting field.

“I was approached by Diana out hunting one day,” explains Julia, who has her own yard in Wiltshire. “She said ‘Bobby’ had become so bold, brave and strong so asked whether I might be interested in eventing him. To begin with I rode him once a week while he was still kept at Diana’s place — which we did for a couple of years before he moved in with me — and we bolted our way around BE90s.”

By Lauriston and out of a Robin Z mare, Bobby, who Diana bought as a just-broken four-year-old, is bred to be a showjumper and to start with he was particularly careful.

“He got eliminated in the showjumping of a BE90 Diana attempted with him because he was spooking so badly at some flowers,” says Julia. “Apparently his first ever fence was a tiny log on the floor and he wouldn’t go near it. But I definitely believe that four years of hunting and team chasing changed this as he’s so bold and brave now.”

Julia comes from a horsey family — her father James Hussey rode at the old three-star level and her late mother Gill Hussey was equally horsey.

“Me getting to Badminton was mum’s absolute dream,” says Julia, who was “forced” to go to university. She completed a degree at UWE and then spent five years in London working as a quantity surveyor, before deciding she was going to follow her dream of eventing full-time.

Although very relaxed on the ground — “all he wants to do is eat and Diana often makes midnight visits to feed him treats” — Bobby’s personality when ridden has to be managed carefully.

“We call it his ‘red mist’,” laughs Julia. “It comes out from time to time in the dressage, but we’ve worked really hard with Tracie Robinson who has helped me to learn to ride through it rather than freezing.”

Julia also credits Jeremy Scott, Ros Morgan, Andrew Fletcher and Lucinda Green for her development and will make the most of a cross-country course walk with Yogi Breisner once at Badminton.

“As the jumps got bigger, he got better,” says Julia. “It’s a lifetime dream and goal to ride at Badminton, but even just to be in a position where we’re qualified and can enter is amazing — we’ve really made sure that we’ve enjoyed every step of the way.

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“At Badminton I would love for us to do a bolt-free dressage test! But seriously, if he can go fairly correctly, mist-free and keeps his brain together, that would be amazing. After that, I’d love to go clear across country — Bobby’s not always the fastest as he jumps quite high, but as long as I can get him into a rhythm and enjoy it, I will be really happy.”

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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