US riders reflect on Badminton cross-country day: title contender loses ground while others make headway

  • There were mixed results for the seven US riders who set out on the Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course, at the event presented by Mars Equestrian. There were four clear rounds, one run-out, a fall and a retirement, with the US’s highest placed dressage rider Tamie Smith still leading the pack from across the Atlantic. Horse & Hound caught up with those still in the hunt to find out how Eric Winter’s track rode.

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country: US riders’ review

    Tamie Smith and Mai Baum, 15th on 36.5

    Tamie Smith set out to prove the five-star prowess of her 16-year-old “horse of a lifetime”, whose debut at the level at Kentucky last year was spoiled by 11 penalties for a frangible pin.  At their Badminton Horse Trials cross-country debut, they jumped clear with 15.5 time-faults, which dropped them down from fifth to 15th, 15.5pen behind the leader Laura Collett. However, Tamie was pleased with her horse’s performance.

    “He was full of running and answered all the questions,” said Tamie. “He was super rideable, and such a neat jumper. Eric did a phenomenal job in making this a real fitness test and you really felt the climbs but he felt fit enough.”

    Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan, 24th on 43.4

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country: US rider Ariel Grald

    Ariel Grald tackles the Vicarage Vee aboard Leamore Master Plan at Badminton

    Ariel made considerable headway up the leaderboard from 54th spot with her Master Imp-sired gelding on their Badminton debut. They jumped clear for just eight time-faults.

    “I wanted to go as quickly as I could but he got quite keyed up in the warm-up,” she said. “He’s a very exuberant horse anyways, he doesn’t have a whole lot of patience and he knew what we were doing today. He was really excited to come down to the startbox. I thought, ‘the only thing I have to do is find a rhythm and he and I are in the same space’.”

    Ariel explained how the 100,000-strong crowd affected her plan.

    “It was a challenge to see where I was going next,” she said. “If you look up all you see is people, so I was just staring between his ears and trying to read the lines, but it’s hard to gauge when there are so many people you can’t see a thing. I just kept reminding myself to stay connected.”

    Phillip Dutton and Z, 25th on 44

    Phillip Dutton and Z tackle a corner fence at Badminton

    Phillip was another of the US riders to climb up Badminton’s leaderboard. He added just 10.8 time-faults on the 14-year-old Z to move from 39th to 25th.

    “He’s a brave little horse and when he had a slip on one of the turns, he still had a crack at the fence,” he said. “It’s a tough course, especially the middle section where you can’t take a deep breath and relax before you get ready for the next one. Funnily enough, the bigger fences are riding very well, like the Footbridge, but anything with turning that’s a little bit technical was more of a struggle.”

    Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way, 35th on 49.6

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country: US rider Will Faudree and Mama's Magic Way

    Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way tackle the Badminton track

    Will matched his team-mate Phillip to post a clear round for 10.8 time-faults with this 11-year-old gelding, which propelled him up the leaderboard from 74th to 35th.

    “He’s relatively inexperienced,” said Will. “He did do Kentucky and Maryland last year, but this is my first trip overseas with him. He’s a phenomenal cross-country horse. It took some work getting it done out there. He’s very brave.”

    Will said he had to give him a bit of encouragement after the Footbridge and after that “he didn’t look at anything”.

    “He has terrific footwork,” added the 40-year-old. “If I was 22 again I would probably have kept hustling him to get as close to the time as I could, but they say age comes with wisdom and I was off the pace after dressage, so I just wanted him to have a really confident round. I gave him time over the last few fences to keep him jumping great, and he finished full of running. He’s a horse for the future.”

    Emily Hamel and Corvett, 58th on 93.1

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country: US rider Emily Hamel and Corvett

    Emily Hamel and Corvett over the Vicarage Vee at Badminton

    Despite a run-out marring their scorecard, Emily and Corvett made a pleasing debut over the influential track. The bouncy grey was jumping the large fences and tricky combinations with ease, but after overjumping the drop into the second water at 17, Emily couldn’t turn him in time to present at the log in the water, which was a B element and so incurred 20 penalties. However, due to the number of non-completions, they still moved up from 77th after phase one to 58th.

    “It was unfortunate that we had that problem as I probably didn’t give him a great ride there. He still jumped but I was off [my line] so I had to pull out,” she said. “But I stayed on and I finished!”

    The horse was still giving even the last few fences plenty of air.

    “He’s kind of a freak, but that’s what makes me feel really confident going to any jump because I know he can clear it,” she said.

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country: other US riders

    Of the remaining US riders, Matthew Flynn retired after two stops at second water on Wizzerd, who were lying in 56th after dressage.

    Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby had a fall at the Mars M combination (fence 26).

    You may also like to read…

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...