Bundy Philpott returns to this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian, for her third shot at a completion at the British spring classic.
“I had a really cool New Zealand thoroughbred that had been a racehorse,” she says, reflecting on her previous Badminton attempts in 2006 and 2007 with Fig Jam.
“The first time I fell off spectacularly in The Lake and I deserved to do so – I didn’t know what I was doing, rode badly and paid the price.
“The second time, I jumped clear across country but the horse had a bad overreach and couldn’t trot up on the last day. It was heart-breaking to jump round something like that and not trot up, but overall it was maybe more luck than skill that I jumped round. I didn’t have enough knowledge or ability and it was probably a few years too early for me.”
Bundy’s Badminton ride this time is her own and her father Bryan’s 16-year-old Tresca NZPH, a New Zealand sport horse by Fuego Du Prelet.
“I’ve had him since he was a four-year-old and produced him from the start,” she says. “He broke his pelvis as a young horse before I had him, so he’s not an oil painting but he’s a really good jumper and honest and genuine. I know him inside out and he’s never competed with anyone else. If we make a mistake, I can only look at myself.
“He’s one of life’s good guys – he hasn’t got a bad bone in his body, he’s not hot, not difficult. He comes out every day and puts his best foot forward, so my job is to make sure I do the same. If you do your job, he’ll do his.”
Bundy Philpott has more experience in the sport than last time she came to Badminton, with runs at Adelaide five-star and more CCI4*-Ls under her belt.
“I’m further on in terms of training, mileage, competition and I have a better support network,” she says. “And as I’ve got older, I’ve got a better perspective on the sport – it’s not my be all and end all. I’ll put my best foot forward and if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
“I have a healthier attitude than when I was in my early 20s, when having a rail down was heart-breaking. In your early 20s, it’s an obsession and emotions ride very high. I’m less emotional now.”
Tresca is slated to compete at Cirencester Park, South of England and Burnham Market before Badminton.
“I hope none of them are cancelled because I don’t compete as much as the top riders and I think I need all three of those runs to get back in the groove,” says Bundy.
Bundy Philpott plans for three years in Britain
Bundy’s trip over to the UK is not just for Badminton – the 38-year-old has wound up her equestrian business at home, put her property on the market and plans to stay here for at least three years.
“I came here a decade ago and wasn’t very successful,” she says. “I went back to New Zealand, put together a new string of horses and worked hard to get back to this level. At some point, you have to give it a go.
“New Zealand is fantastic, there’s a great bunch of people, but you’d be lucky if you get 12 or 15 starter at a four-star and there are only two or three four-stars in the whole year. You’ve only got to look at the entries for Thoresby or Burnham Market to see this is a different ball game.
“When you’ve put this much time, commitment and energy into something and your family have sacrificed so much, you have to draw a line in the sand and say you’ve got to give it a go or walk away.”
Bundy Philpot is based at the Oxfordshire yard of Brazilian Olympic rider Ruy Fonseca and his wife Renata.
“I spoke to Blyth Tait and Mark Todd about what would be a suitable base and Mark put forward Ruy and gave me his contact details, so I have Mark to thank in the first instance,” she says. “Ruy and Renata have been wonderful and it’s a fabulous place.”
Bundy has brought six horses over with her.
“I guess I’m not going to be eventing in 20 years – I’m older than the average person coming from New Zealand. It’s not forever, it’s for a short period of time, so we’ll give it everything we’ve got and if it works, it does. If not, I can say I gave it my best shot, I wasn’t good enough, but I left it all on the table.”
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