With five Burghley and three Badminton titles under her belt, Olympic medallist Ginny Elliot has had her fair share of talented horses, and the one who kick-started her career — Priceless — is arguably one of her most memorable rides.
“My mum and I managed to survive by buying and selling young horses,” said Ginny when she talked to H&H editor Pippa Roome on episode 51 of The Horse & Hound Podcast.
“After Dubonnet — who cost £35 and scraped around Badminton — I had got the bug, so we went off and searched the papers and found an advert for two four-year-olds in Devon.
“We went down and there was Priceless. He was £900. I rode him and he seemed very nice. He did have a false curb so we were a little unsure, but I said that if he jumped the ditch straight away, we’ll buy him and if he doesn’t, we won’t. He jumped it and the false curb ended up never being a problem.”
When Ginny got him home, Priceless certainly made his character known to all.
“He wouldn’t have a stick,” said Ginny. “If you tapped him behind the girth he would buck. Once, I remember coming down a hill to a very big bullfinch with a huge ditch, and by mistake I gave him a light tap behind the saddle and he did about four or five bucks. Thank god he decided he needed to pay attention just before the fence.”
Priceless first moved up to top level as a six-year-old when he ran at Bramham, which he proceeded to win.
“It was bizarre,” said Ginny, who rode him into sixth place at Burghley the following year. “Here, and at Badminton the next year, we had quite a few time faults and the view from a lot of people was that he was a bit common so he’d never do the time.
“I knew he had the ability so I rang up Michael Dickinson and asked him to help me get him fitter. We had a deal; I helped Michael with some grid work, and he gave me his secret fitness regime. I changed Priceless’ fitness from interval training to using the gallops twice a week and incorporating hill work.
“The next time he went to a competition he only had 16 time faults and from then on he was pretty much inside the time at all of his championships.”
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