Will Furlong is the youngest British rider lining up at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (2-6 May 2018) this year, and the second youngest competitor in the field (behind US rider Madeline Backus).
The 22-year-old also comes to Badminton with excellent form — a recent second in the advanced at Belton to add to his win in the under-25 CCI3* at Bramham last year.
But at the start of this year, former young rider European champion Will thought he might lose the ride on the grey mare Collien P2 (he pronounces it “Colleen” but says internationally commentators tend to pronounce the “i”; at home she’s called Tinks).
“My mum kindly bought Tinks when her mum died in 2016. We hoped we could find an owner or syndicate her, but it proved much harder than anticipated,” explains Will. “Mum owned the house that my grandparents lived in, so when Nana died, Mum sold the house and Pops moved in with us.
“Mum then had to pay capital gains tax in the January of this year so there was urgency to sell Tinks or formulate a syndicate before 31 January.”
At one point Will thought he was running out of time to keep his star horse — top riders were asking if she was for sale and a few people even tried her.
In the nick of time, he managed to put together a syndicate, known as The Acorn Syndicate.
“The Acorn Ladies have been amazing, she would have certainly had to be sold without their support,” he says. “There are five of them and for all but one it’s their first experience of four-star level and Badminton. I’m extremely grateful to them for coming onboard and they are as excited to go to Badminton as I am. Hopefully everybody can now enjoy the journey with Tinks, wherever it may go. ”
Will and Tinks scored three wins in their first season together in 2016, including the CCI2* at Hartpury and the autumn advanced at Little Downham. His initial aim when buying Tinks had been the under-25 class at Bramham.
“After Hartpury, I knew it was a bit more serious than just Bramham and she would probably be a four-star horse — whether she is or not we’ll find out!” he says. “She’s got a really good attitude to work, she enjoys it and wants to do it.”
East Sussex-based Will says he enjoys pressure, so he won’t be put off by expectations at Badminton.
“It spurs me on to do well and I’m looking to embrace the experience,” he says. “If you ask someone at Badminton who won the young rider Europeans, only a handful would know, so Badminton is a much bigger deal. Hopefully it will help my profile with potential sponsors and owners.”
Don’t miss the full interview with Will in next week’s Horse & Hound magazine (on sale 3 May 2018)
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