“I can’t actually believe it,” confesses a very excited Lissa Green ahead of her Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials debut this week (3-7 May).
“I’ve been so busy recently that I haven’t really had a chance to think about it,” explains the 28-year-old. “That was until I was cross-country schooling a young horse last week and this sudden wave of ‘Oh my God, we’re going to Badminton next week’ came over me!”
The daughter of Olympic event riders David and Lucinda (who won Badminton six times) Green, Lissa has of course been a frequent visitor of the Gloucestershire four-star, but there was a period of time where she tried to go down the non-horsey route. She studied criminology and forensic science at Bristol University and then qualified as a primary school PE teacher, but the pull of horses was too strong and in 2012, she set up her own event yard near Marlborough in Wiltshire.
In 2014, the diminutive Malin Head Clover (or Ali as he’s known at home), joined Lissa’s team, purchased from Tom How who had produced him up to three-star level. The now 15-year-old by Amiro, came with a reputation for being strong and at their first event together the pair suffered a crashing fall, resulting in a broken jaw and collarbone, and cracked ribs.
“Ali’s not nasty but he’s not simple,” explains Lissa. “It’s taken a while for us to teach him to take responsibility for himself. Before, he wanted to get everything done as quickly as possible. Every stride is difficult for him as he’s always unbalanced mostly due to the way he is built, which means I have to break up his rhythm across country before every fence to ensure we’re spot on for it. There’s no such thing as let up fences for us — I have to work for every single one!”
Lissa and Ali have enjoyed some great results including jumping double clear at Blenheim CCI3* and finishing eighth in the CCI3* at Strzegom, Poland, last year.
Standing at just 15.2hh, Lissa describes Ali as “the most extraordinary, ordinary horse”.
“He has the biggest heart and is just divine — he doesn’t ride or feel like a small horse. There is no jump you build that he won’t try and jump. If you put an erupting volcano in front of him, he would still try and jump it,” she explains.
Ali is owned by the Ali G syndicate, made up of eight owners.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be here,” says Lissa. “They all love his character.”
And it sounds like character is something Ali has an abundance of.
“He’s hilarious. At shows we call him ‘Mr. Serious’ because he knows exactly what is going on. You can say ‘Hi Ali’ but he’ll look straight through you,” laughs Lissa. “At home he’s so engaging and you can love him, but the only reason he gets out of bed every day is because he knows he’ll be competing at some point — and that better be soon!”
Lissa hasn’t had the most ideal preparation — she is currently suffering with a horrible bug but “is getting better” and her horses were all under the weather for a long time.
“Ali and I had to miss Burghley last year as he just wasn’t right. And then the whole yard became ill,” she explains. “So we turned all of my horses out to let them get over what we thought was a virus. We got them back in in January, but they were still ill. It transpired there was ragwort in our hay, so all of my horses are only just starting to bounce back. The whole ordeal was terrifying.”
Still, Ali and Lissa have enjoyed solid performances in the CIC3* classes at both Belton and Burnham Market this season, but Lissa won’t watch the Badminton cross-country preview.
“I would love to watch it, but I want my first experience of the course to be when I walk it for the first time so that I don’t miss any details,” she explains.
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As far as Badminton goals go, Lissa says: “I would like to get a sub-55 in the dressage. That doesn’t sound very good but it would be good for us, but as our dressage training has been slightly stumped due to the hay problem, this score might not happen.
“A clear cross-country round is a must, but the time will be difficult for us to reach due to the way Ali has to be ridden. I would also like a clear showjumping round — I would probably get over having one down in five minutes and two down in 20 minutes though!”
Read the full Badminton preview in Horse & Hound magazine, out now and don’t miss our 25-page Badminton report, on sale Thursday 11 May, including expert opinion from Oliver Townend, Mark Todd and Peter Storr