Meet the pint-sized ‘Dun’ making his Badminton debut: ‘He’s at his best at a big party’

  • Sarah Way’s diminutive Badminton Horse Trials ride Dassett Cooley Dun may be only 15.1hh, but there is plenty of character and scope packed into his small frame.

    “Mouse”, owned by Kate Willis and Mel Pritchard, was produced to advanced by Dassett Eventing and Colina Pickles before Sarah took on the ride in 2016.

    “I’d seen him out on the circuit and thought he looked just my cup of tea,” says Sarah in the video above, adding they all “love him to bits”.

    “I loved him from the outset. He’s a little horse who loves to jump, always has his ears pricked on the job.

    “You just can’t help but smile when you ride him, whatever you are doing.”

    She says his character at home is quite timid, adding: “He’s really quirky and you wouldn’t think he would be brave enough to do what he does, but he’s just the nicest character and my three-year-old daughter can sit on him and ride him.”

    The 16-year-old Irish gelding heads into the jumping phases on a score of 37.2.

    “He was definitely tight, but I’m so proud of him for keeping a lid on it. It’s the most atmosphere he’s probably seen,” says Sarah, adding she was pleased with how he relaxed into his canter work.

    “He’s been to Pau twice, and that’s a totally different atmosphere to when you come here. He listened to me, he tried, and he kept it together.”

    This year’s Badminton, presented by Mars Equestrian, will be the pair’s third five-star as a combination. Their top result at this level was 10th at Pau in 2019.

    “He’s a machine across country. He’s always looking for the next fence,” says Sarah, adding he rides “even smaller than he measures”.

    “There’s nothing he looks at cross-country. There’s not a particular fence I would look at and think ‘he doesn’t like ditches, corners or water’ and I’ve never felt on the edge of his scope.”

    Ros Canter rode Mouse in 2021, while Sarah was on maternity leave.

    “She did such a beautiful job with him and filled him full of confidence for me to get back on,” she says.

    “He owes us nothing. I’m not here to prove anything with him, he doesn’t need to prove himself, and if at any point across country he’s not happy or I’m not happy, we are not here to prove it. We are just here to have a nice time.

    “Yes he’s little – there’s obviously other little horses on the circuit as well – but because he’s dun, everybody recognises him and they see him coming. So he has got quite a fan club, which is really nice. He likes a crowd. When we came up to the trot-up he was shocked to see all the people through the arch, then he thought, ‘oh crikey, they are here for me!’ He loves that. He’s at his best when he’s at a big party at a three-day.”

    Sarah also credits his owners for their support, adding: “To get here with any horse is a miracle to some degree, to get here with Mouse with a heart like his, is just a real dream for them.”

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