The eventing world held its breath as the 37-year-old Kiwi Jonelle Price rattled poles on her way to a clear round in the main arena at Badminton Horse Trials yesterday (6 May 2018) to lift the Mitsubishi Motors trophy.
Here’s everything you need to know about eventing’s latest golden girl…
1. Let’s hear it for the girls
When Jonelle clinched this year’s Badminton title with her 15-year-old mare Classic Moet yesterday (6 May 2018), she became the first woman to do so since 2007.
2. Baby boom
Jonelle gave birth to her son Otis last August, while her ride Classic Moet became a mother earlier this year, when her embryo transfer foal by Upsilon was born.
3. A working mother
Pregnancy and birth hardly broke Jonelle’s stride — “I rode two to three horses a day right up to Otis being born” — and she was back competing in a month.
Yet the Prices have been upfront about the fact that Otis’ arrival was a welcome surprise. “Never in a million years did I think we would have a baby in 2017,” laughs Jonelle. “But if it didn’t happen then, possibly it would not have happened. The time when we should have been thinking about a family, our careers had just started to gather momentum. I’d definitely been dragging my feet about it.”
4. The reality of pregnancy
While Jonelle found pregnancy easy — “Badminton came round and I really felt like I could have been there riding” — mentally it was tougher.
“It was the first time in my life that I had no focus and drive,” she says. “Plus I’m a control freak so handing over the horses was hard.” Having “begun to drive [her husband] Tim bonkers”, she started working twice a week with a personal trainer to maintain fitness while Tim took on five of her rides.
5. A husband and wife team
Tim and Jonelle have been together for 17 years, married for five and built a business from nothing after arriving in the UK 13 years ago. They are well known as one of the most entertaining couples on the circuit — with an air of humour in the air at their Wiltshire yard…
6. Home in Wiltshire
Their Wiltshire base fits their style of horsecare so well that they have no immediate plans to look for their own yard. “We love Mere Farm,” says Jonelle. “Tim and Melissa Brown [its owners] have been instrumental to our survival in this country, and having 120 acres is very important to us.” Instead they have bought themselves a postcard-pretty thatched cottage in Marlborough, “so we felt we had something”.
Almost all of their horses are out every night in small groups in large paddocks. “We encourage horses to be horses,” says Jonelle. “We hack them a lot and give them a good seven-week holiday with their shoes off. There are definitely elements of New Zealand in us, for sure.”
7. A focus on improvement
While Jonelle rarely puts a foot wrong going across country, she has worked hard to improve her showjumping and this year she set off to the Spanish Sunshine Tour for a month. This trip to the five-week international showjumping event is something she first did on her own before Rio. “It was the phase I thought I could improve the most,” she explains. It’s all part of the Prices’ constant quest for improvement, as is some proper downtime over the winter rather than zooming round the world giving clinics.
8. Team ambitions
“This is certainly a big year,” says Jonelle, a team bronze medallist at London 2012. “The past six years have been pretty disappointing as a team. Individually we’ve had fantastic results, yet we’ve failed when it matters at championships. It’s haunting us a bit, and we’re under pressure to deliver.
“My ultimate dream is a team gold medal. Plus, I’m desperate for Toddy [Mark Todd] to win a team gold before he retires, and we’re running out of chances. We’re a small but mighty group from New Zealand and we genuinely are great mates. To do that with your friends and your husband would be the ultimate [dream].”
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The New Zealand rider and her British-bred mare have taken the 2018 Badminton Horse Trials title in a gripping conclusion
9. A penchant for mares
Fate has decreed that most of Jonelle’s rides are mares, which is not without irony. “Before Faerie Dianimo, I didn’t ride or buy mares; the perception back then was that they were harder to manage. By chance I ended up with a couple that have become very good — and discovered that I love them. Now I have only three geldings. Small, feisty mares are right up my street,” she laughs. “They challenge me — they are so bloody determined. We’re a good match.”
Don’t miss this Thursday’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (10 May 2018), with our full report and analysis from Badminton Horse Trials
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