Some top-level equine athletes are obvious stars from the off. Others are ugly ducklings who blossom into swans over time. For Yasmin Ingham, her top horse Banzai Du Loir definitely falls into the former category.
“He is one of the most naturally talented and exciting horses I’ve ever had the privilege of riding,” she said in an interview back in 2021, when Banzai was just starting to come to public attention.
Yasmin first tried Banzai in 2019, when he was eight years old. A Selle Français by Nouma D’Auzay, he had been produced by Axel Coutte in France and was bought by Yasmin’s loyal owner Sue Davies and her daughter Janette Chinn through event horse agent Rachel Wakefield.
“I honestly got on and didn’t want to get off,” said Yasmin. “He was just so powerful and excelled in every single phase – we did all three while I was there trying him. I was looking for faults and I couldn’t find any. Sue and Janette were super keen to get their hands on him.”
The first year Yasmin had Banzai Du Loir, 2019, she only managed to compete in a few events on him because she had a fall from another horse that summer. But they did finish the year with an intermediate win at Oasby in October. The pair’s first proper season should have been 2020, but of course with Covid-19, the year ended up being “very bitty”.
“But it was amazing to step up to four-star the end of 2020, and he had a great result at Burgham in his first four-star – he did a 27.9 dressage and jumped a double clear with two time-faults and ended up in the top 10 there,” said Yasmin.
The pair then went to the eight-and-nine-year-old championship, held that year at Burnham Market due to the cancellation of Blenheim Horse Trials, and stepped into the spotlight when they won this prestigious class.
A year later, Banzai Du Loir took top spot in the CCI4*-S at Blenheim, when Yasmin said: “I’m just so proud of him; I want him to have the recognition he deserves.”
In 2022, the pair stepped up to five-star, scoring a spectacular result on the horse’s debut at the level when they finished second at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. Then in September, they exceeded everyone’s expectations when they came home from their first senior championship, the worlds in Pratoni del Vivaro, with individual gold.
“He’s incredible in the dressage, fast, agile and brave across country and coming into the showjumping, he showed everybody he was jumping a clear and there were no two ways about it,” said Yasmin after her win.
The year after, 2023, was a tougher one for Yasmin. Banzai’s part-owner Sue Davies died in January. The horse now runs in the name of The Sue Davies Fund, plus Sue’s daughter Janette retains part-ownership.
Competition-wise, it proved a year of learning and building for Yasmin and Banzai, with a run-out at Kentucky preventing a repeat of their top-placing there and 20 jumping penalties at the Europeans keeping them off the individual podium, although they collected team gold.
Nonetheless there were high points, with victory in the prestigous CCI4*-S at Aachen in June and a good end to the year when the pair returned to Blenheim CCI4*-L and claimed second place.
“We call him Hippo”
Banzai may be a top performer, but he’s also a character to look after – his moniker is the banana emoji and he loves nothing more than a good roll.
In an interview at the 2022 World Championships Yasmin’s groom Alison Bell said: “He’s been rolling everywhere, digging holes and it’s just been chaos trying to keep him clean. More and more mud patches appear every time I bring him out for a hand-graze!
“We call him ‘Hippo’ at home – he spends about 10 minutes a time just on the floor, paddling around like a hippo – he wallows in any filthy patch he can possibly find all year round. Winter is the worst experience – I think he loves to get dirty so that you’re forced to brush him because then he’ll fall asleep and he’s got all the attention with all eyes on him.”
Listen to Yasmin talking about Banzai by listening to episode 54 from The Horse & Hound Podcast archive here, or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.
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