Harry Meade has withdrawn Charlotte Opperman’s Away Cruising from the cross-country today (Saturday, 4 May) at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, because the horse has suffered a reaction to an injection earlier in the week.
After his dressage on Thursday, Harry explained: “We’ve had a difficult couple of days. On Monday, he had a shot of cartrofen — a joint lubricant — which is perfectly normal and perfectly legal. We would usually give three shots over the two weeks leading up to a big event.”
Away Cruising was fine on Monday, but on Tuesday a swelling started to develop on the site of the injection.
“Since then he hasn’t been able to put his neck down — he has had all his food and drink at human chest height,” said Harry.
“There’s very little you can do other than ice and then heat packs and gentle physio, not too invasive. It wasn’t a welfare issue for him to do the dressage, but we will have to monitor him and see how he goes over the next few days. I care passionately about his welfare and if we are not 100% happy with him, we won’t run him.”
The soreness in Away Cruising’s neck is due to a rarely-seen reaction to the needle (not the medication), which has caused deep bruising.
Harry reported today: “The stiffness in his neck has been improving all week, but without him being 100% there’s no way I could consider running him.
“I’m so proud of the brave face he put on to do a still competitive dressage test with a massively debilitating handicap throughout it. He came here in the form of his life with a genuine chance, so I’m deeply disappointed for him, his owner Charlotte, and for all our team who’ve worked so hard.
“My whole year revolves around preparing for Badminton so this week has been heartbreaking, but the dream will have to be transferred to next year’s event. Wishing everyone else the very best of luck today.”
Away Cruising has has had round-the-clock care from Jess Errington, Harry’s “highly conscientious groom”, who has looked after him since he was a four-year-old, as well as the vets and physios at Badminton.
Away Cruising scored 35.1 for his dressage test, in which he had no mistakes, but because of his soreness Harry could not ride him in a proper outline.
“He has been working better than any horse I have ever had at this level in this phase and before this happened, I thought we could be challenging for the lead,” said Harry.
“I’m very proud of him. He lacked suppleness and feels sorry for himself on top of being stiff, but he did everything we asked him to do.”
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Harry and Away Cruising were on the British long-list for last year’s World Equestrian Games and finished sixth at Burghley 2018.
The cross-country today at Badminton starts at 11.30am.
Check back later for more updates from Badminton. Full 25-page report in Horse & Hound magazine this Thursday (9 May).