Why our Badminton horses have teddies – Harry Meade’s groom Jess Errington

  • When Harry Meade’s top horses make it to the five-star level, his groom Jess Errington makes sure they have a mascot. So with Harry riding Away Cruising and Tenareze at Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian, Jess has two horses to look after — plus a plush donkey and a Dalmatian.

    “Tenareze has a donkey because of his very big ears, and Away Cruising has a Dalmatian, Spotty Dog, because we call him Spot,” says Jess. “He’s a little bit fleabitten now, but he was really spotty as a four-year-old when he arrived so his owners called him Spot.

    “The horses completely ignore the mascots, they just hang outside the stable.”

    Donkey and Dalmatian plush teddies

    Donkey and Spot the Dalmatian, mascots to five-star campaigners Tenareze and Away Cruising

    Although Jess has 23 horses to care for at home, looking after two horses at a five-star is no holiday.

    “First thing in the morning, I take them for a good walk, and then we weigh them and give them breakfast,” says Jess, who feeds her stars four times a day. “Harry usually rides around 8.30–9am and then they’ll chill out in their stables. I like them to get out of their boxes not to be stuck inside all day, so I walk and graze three times a day. My job is to keep them as happy and relaxed as possible.”

    A further time burden is Away Cruising’s white coat.

    “He used to be a nice dark steel grey when he came as a four-year-old, but he’s gone whiter and whiter,” Jess says. “He takes a lot of washing as he does his best to get as dirty as possible. I use these really good products from Shapley’s – they do a great whitening paint, so he gets a lot of that on his legs. He’s a nightmare, bless him.”

    Jess describes both horses as “so different but I love them to bits”.

    “Away Cruising puts on a front and pretends he’s grumpy and angry at home, but he’s actually quite needy and the kindest horse you could meet,” she says. “I absolutely adore him, he’s so gentle.

    “Tenareze, or Taz as we call him, is very cheeky and he does try to nip you a bit. He was cut as an eight-year-old so he’s a bit of a stallion, but lovely to look after.”

    Harry Meade's groom Jess Errington gives Tenareze a donkey mascot

    Tenareze in his Badminton stable with Donkey, his mascot

    Harry Meade’s groom Jess Errington: ‘You care so much’

    Jess can maintain her cool and relaxed demeanour when she’s looking after the horses, but once she hands over the horse to Harry, it’s a different matter.

    “I am terrified, and it’s getting worse over the years,” she laughs. “You so want it to go well, and you know they’re nice, good horses, so you’re just praying. Cross-country day is the worst, Harry is quite calm and I’m fine until he leaves the start box. I try to watch it, but you care so much. These horses so deserve a good result.”

    Jess may be an experienced hand when it comes to Badminton, but this special event still gives her goosebumps.

    “I’ve been with Harry for 16 years, and have groomed here seven or eight times,” she says. “I went to Harry’s initially for a year as a working pupil with my own horse, and never left. I ditched the riding, but actually deep down I always wanted to groom. I used to come to Badminton when I was 12 and I was so intrigued by what happened behind the scenes, watching the horses being washed down, I wanted to be that person walking the horse from cross-country. I was realistic, I knew I probably wasn’t going to ride at the top, so I’d do the next best thing.

    “I thought I had to be really good to groom, and I wasn’t good enough, but Harry’s been great and I’ve learnt everything on the job. I was never interested in being centre of attention, but the grooms are such a massive part. The riders couldn’t do it without us and their success is our success.”

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