Andrew James has clocked up 1644 runs on British soil over the last decade – a figure only beaten by Oliver Townend and Izzy Taylor – and yet surprisingly this is the 41-year-old’s very first Badminton Horse Trials.
Bedfordshire-based Andrew, who is originally from West Wales and rode with quarter markings in the shape of the Welsh dragon, finally has his chance to shine on the hallowed Badminton turf, at the 2023 event presented by Mars Equestrian.
And the occasion is made all the more special by the fact that his partner here is Celtic Morning Star (Joey), Michelle Harries’ home-bred Chilli Morning son out of Rebels Riches, whom Andrew competed more than 15 years ago.
“This is a fairytale,” he says. “He’s the only horse Michelle bred and we’ve had him since a two-year-old. He’s quite similar to his dam in character but he’s a much better jumper.”
The pair scored 36.6 on the first day of dressage at Badminton – the exact same mark they received for their test together at Burghley 2022, though Andrew revealed that Joey was much more rideable here.
He also admits that “the butterflies are there and the nerves are kicking in” ahead of Sunday’s cross-country course.
“The course here looks a lot bigger when you’re riding than when you watch it on TV,” he laughs. “Luckily we have all the family and owners here so there are plenty of distractions. This was always our annual local pilgrimage – I used to come every year with a caravan and camp.”
Andrew’s reasons for never having ridden at Badminton until now are a reminder of the reality of the sport for many, and the sacrifices that are so often required in order to keep going.
“For my wife and I, this is our business, so we have always had to sell our good horses,” he says. “But now we are finally in the lucky position where Michelle Harries owns Joey, and we have built a yard and a house and are a bit more settled. Hopefully we can now keep the horses we have in the yard.”
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