Many horses competing at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian, have years of experience under their belts, but the same can’t be said for My Ernie, the mount of Helen Wilson. The 13-year-old, who Helen owns, only started his eventing career in July 2019, when he contested a BE100.
“He was very reasonably priced but he has got a bit of a chequered history. I don’t know all of it, but he’s quirky and that’s why I’ve got him – he’s got a switch and can be very chilled one moment and then suddenly very not so chilled!” says Helen, who is based in Surrey. “He can get quite feisty in a lorry and so I don’t travel him with others. He’s also terrible to catch – at the beginning of this year, when I went to catch him from his winter grazing with my lorry parked in the corner of the field, he ended up squeezing through a gap in the hedge next to the lorry and was last seen galloping towards Dorking high street on the dual carriageway with no headcollar. But he’s got a heart of gold, loves his job and is special in his brain. He’s my best friend – hopefully I’m his too!”
Ernie had done “a bit of jumping, but not masses” prior to Helen buying him out of the field, but she has since suffered a couple of injuries, which makes their meteoric rise through the levels even more remarkable.
“I got him in 2018, then hunted him – and actually I field mastered from him on his first day and he was great – but then I broke my leg, so he went out in the field for six months while I recovered,” explains Helen. “He came in again and I then broke my hand, so he had to go back out again, and Covid has scuppered things too, so he’s done very, very little. He’s been a little hero and to even be here is above and beyond – he doesn’t owe me anything.”
This 15.3hh by Cardento and out of a Cantos mare culminated his 2021 season by finishing sixth in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim.
“When I got him, I just thought we would event a bit of and have a bit of fun and then last year I thought, ‘oh, we could actually could get up the levels’, which we have and it’s just great to be having the best week,” says Helen, who last competed at Badminton in 2006 aboard Tip Top Tiger. “I think he’s capable of jumping every jump out on the cross-country, but again, there’s a lot of people around so I don’t know how he will react to them. There’s not many let-up jumps, so that’s something to take into consideration, but equally, I think it should suit him as he’s bold and brave.
“It’s amazing to be here and hopefully we’ll get back here and be more experienced and more ready – I’ve promised Ernie he can hunt in retirement!”
Read our full Badminton form guide in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound (issue dated 5 May 2022). Our bumper 20-page Badminton report will be in our 12 May issue and keep fully up-to-date with all the action during Badminton week via horseandhound.co.uk, where a host of features and reports will be published.
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