‘He was so good, it was almost easy’: leading French rider makes sparkling debut over Badminton cross-country fences

  • France is having a day of mixed fortunes in the Badminton Horse Trials cross-country, at the event presented by Mars Equestrian. Their leading rider Gireg le Coz produced a smooth clear round on Aisprit De La Loge on both the horse and rider’s five-star debut to move into eighth spot with only a quarter of the field to run. They added just 7.2 time-faults to their 14th-placed dressage mark of 26.7.

    “The horse was unreal, I knew he was good, but almost made it feel easy,” said Gireg. “I was terrified! I was thinking he might back off and I’d really have to ride him, but he just jumped normally, not questioning anything. I said go and he goes. It was better than Plan A because he took two strides at the LeMieux Leap when I was going for three, he just stood off.”

    Meanwhile his compatriot Tom Carlile, also a five-star debutant, jumped a lovely clear with 10-year-old Zanzibar Villa Rose Z.  They did add 15.2 time-faults, but it was a confidence-boosting round for a promising young horse. The senior French rider, Cédric Lyard, was already having a rocky ride when he crashed through the Vicarage Vee, breaking the MiM clip and bashing his knee in the process. He consequently pulled up.

    There was a worrying moment for the French contingent when Maxime Livio’s Vitorio Du Montet, crumpled over the final fence in the main arena. Screens went up and the course was duly held. But the crowd reserved their loudest cheer of the day on seeing the bay emerge from the screens clearly shaken and wobbly, but mercifully just winded, and he was led out of the arena.

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country: young guns impress

    Susie Berry and John The Bull enjoyed a fabulous debut at Badminton. The bold-jumping liver chestnut looked powerful and scopey all the way round to go into the top 15. They did clock 12.8 time-faults to add to their 18th-placed dressage score of 28.8, having taken a long route at the influential Nyetimber Corners at 20.

    “He was jumping so big, like nearly too big. At the coffin [LeMieux Leap] I nearly went into orbit,” said Susie, 26. “I took a long route at the corners as I’d had a funny jump at the coffin, and I didn’t have him back enough to go straight. I had a lot of horse left at the finish; I didn’t go crazy fast, but he has all the blood and scope to go on and do it another time. I wanted to have a confident first five-star.”

    Alice Casburn was another young rider to catch the eye. The 20-year-old rider and her home-bred Topspin stopped the clock for just 4.8 time-faults to move up the order just behind Susie, having been 71st after dressage on 38.1.

    “He was just phenomenal, I came out a bit more shell-shocked than he was,” she said. “My mum’s not a teary person and she’s bawling her eyes out.

    “It caused carnage this morning, for some pretty experienced combinations. And there I was talking to my horse the whole way round! I can see why people keep going [in this sport], the adrenaline is amazing.”

    Also in the main arena, 23-year-old Bubby Upton looked to be completing a tidy debut over the Badminton Horse Trials cross-country when Cola jinked out at the final fence, incurring 20 penalties. He just seemed to be tiring a little and looked like he thought his job was done.

    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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