12 stars of Christmas — eventer David Britnell: ‘Badminton is my next aim’

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    David Britnell won’t be a name many eventing fans know — yet. But it’s one you should take note of. David, 27, finished the 2018 season with his first four-star, at Pau, riding Continuity (Brad).

    “It’s still a bit surreal,” he admits. “It was never an aim for this season, but when [fellow event rider] Sarah Holmes asked after Blenheim if I was coming, I thought, ’‘If Brad recovers well, why not?’”

    It turned out to be a great decision when the pair finished 10th with a fast clear across country.

    David and Brad have been together for nine years, since the Contender son was five.

    “We have very much grown together from early days in the Pony Club, through areas horse trials to championships and then, amazingly, on to four-star,” says David.

    “He has a massive desire to please and a huge heart — he has always said yes. He finds it physically difficult to sit and create expression on the flat and he is not a flashy mover, but he is incredibly rideable and willing and has a lovely mouth.

    “Cross-country he becomes a fire breathing dragon at the start, but again since I know him so well, we have complete trust and I rarely have to pull. He is always listening and on the aids, which means we can flow and this makes him truly a masterful cross-country horse.”

    Brad definitely has a cheeky side, though: “Hacking out alone I have one finger under the neck strap most of the time because boy can he spin!” laughs David.

    David is aiming for Badminton and Burghley next season. Ultimately, he says, his goal is to “enjoy my horses for as long as I can — and it would be incredible one day to compete for my country!”

    The rider is based in the rolling Chilton Hills village of Bellingdon — “great for hill work, not so good for the grazing as we are on clay!” — just outside Chesham, Bucks. He says he is very lucky to have been born into a family with seven stables, an arena and 12 acres at the family home. He currently competes two of his own horses and two belonging to owners “I would love more of both!”

    “Coaching is my living and I take great pleasure in the successes of my clients,” says David, who has his British Horse Society (BHS) senior accredited professional coach (APC) and performance rider qualifications and is aiming for the BHS Fellowship in years to come.

    David has grown up learning from his mother Dawn, another BHS senior APC and he describes her as “coach, groom and friend”.

    “In the past give years I have had lots of showjumping training with local showjumping dealer John Whinnett, which has really helped me and my horses, as well as some great sessions with Dickie Waygood, who really gets me and how I think and always says the right thing just as I need it,” he says. “He was invaluable to me at Pau!”

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    David has further help from Moi Watson, a close friend who has been at nearly all Brad’s international events — “she has always been great support to us as well as having a wicked sense of humour!”

    Meanwhile his father Tim, sister Roxanne and grandmother Sue support from a distance, keeping the home fires burning with the horses back at base camp.

    “Our farrier Mark Rudge has been very supportive since joining our team and he has been very open minded and positive about shoeing, especially Brad who has really given Mark challenges along the way,” he says. “Katie Robinson, our wonderful vet, has been the voice of reason and encouragement throughout my career.”

    Did you know…

    1. David was a very good cross-country runner at school and county level — “I still  hold a few records!”

    2. He only started riding when he was 13.

    3. He loves cleaning tack (please come and visit, David?).

    4. He was speechless at Pau when he realised how well he had done, which he says is a very rare event.

    5. Having been a cider drinker, he has switched his allegiance after Barbury this year, where fellow event rider Sarah Olivier (née Stretton) introduced him to gin.

    6. David was “mad keen” on downhill biking for a while and takes every opportunity he can to practise at events. “Some of the hills, jumps and waters on a three-star are terrific fun on two wheels,” he says.

    7. David loves to be a grease monkey and usually has a fixer-upper in pieces in the workshop.

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