“It’s been a tricky season for me – every time I built up to something, it hasn’t quite happened through things out of my control,” says the British rider.
“Badminton Horse Trials was cancelled, then I was building up to Bicton Horse Trials four-star and a rein snapped while I was on a baby horse. I fell off the back of it and it drove a stud through my leg so I had a month off riding.
“We were re-building and due to go to Bicton five-star then King Of The Mill bruised a foot, so we didn’t quite get there.”
After all the problems, Alex chatted to the horse’s owners Michael and Naomi Roe, and they decided to go to Pau, despite the difficulties with travelling abroad since Brexit, in the hope of setting up the horse for a good run at Badminton next year.
King Of The Mill went to Pau last year as his first five-star and finished with 20 jumping penalties across country.
“I feel he learnt a lot from that experience,” says Alex. “You can train horses all day long and go to small shows, but horses seem really to mature from that experience of a top-level show.”
Like the recently retired Zagreb, King Of The Mill is a tall horse at 17.2hh.
“Those horses take longer to physically develop and I feel we might start to see some results now. He’s getting to the point where he can start to deliver,” says Alex of the 11-year-old. “You have to be quite patient sometimes – he’s always looked like a horse who would have to wait for five-star to show his ability and his best years are to come.”
Alex knows Pau well after finishing in the top five there four times on Zagreb.
He says: “It’s the last event of the season so it’s more relaxed as you’re not having to rush back to ride a yard full of horses to prepare for more events. A late bit of sunshine is always nice, the surfaces at Pau are great, the French crowd are very encouraging and obviously they can invite more people this year [with Covid restrictions easing].”
The rider says he doesn’t think King Of The Mill is an “out and out Pau horse”, explaining: “The style of the cross-country is quite twisty and turny. He’s an agile horse but really he’s a galloping horse more suited to the big parkland events like Badminton, Burghley and Bramham. It will be a challenge for him, but it’s all good for their development and learning.
“I feel quite confident going there – I know exactly how to prepare horses for the event. Hopefully we can get there feeling 100% and show everyone what we’ve been doing and how good he can be.”
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