The apple connoisseur: Badminton leader Laura Collett’s groom Tilly Hughes on how to keep London 52 happy

  • Laura Collett’s groom Tilly Hughes is breathing a sigh of relief after her charge London 52 delivered the goods in the dressage phase at Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian. “Dan”, as the 13-year-old gelding is known at home, produced a fabulous score of 21 to take the lead after the conclusion of the dressage.

    “There’s always pressure with him, because everyone knows how good he is in the dressage,” says Tilly. “It’s nice that he came out and did what we all know he can do, and get the mark he deserved.”

    Tilly says that while she enjoys watching his dressage tests, seeing him go across country is another matter.

    “I do watch it, but I hide by my hands most of the time,” she says. “The track here is obviously Badminton. It’s bold and attacking, everything Badminton should be. But it’s all jumpable and he’s capable.”

    While at big events, Tilly is usually to be found at the end of a lead rope.

    “I give him lots of grazing, because he is normally out every day, so we spend a lot of hours doing that,” she says. “Fans know he loves Pink Lady apples, so he gets lots of those sent to him. He really does know the difference between them and other apples!”

    ‘The best thing I ever did’

    Tilly stopped working as Laura Collett’s groom at the end of 2019 to go travelling, but when Covid hit, she returned to the yard: “Coming back was the best thing I ever did,” she says. The next year they won Pau, followed in 2021 by team gold at the Olympics.

    As for tending a champion on a daily basis, Tilly describes Dan as a “lovely horse to look after”.

    “He is quite shy and can be insecure,” she says. “Sometimes he is happy just to stand quietly at the back of his stable, but equally he can come up to you and ask for a cuddle.

    “But when Laura is getting on him at a big event, he definitely has his game face on, he’s like ‘let’s go!’.”

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