Laura Collett and Oliver Townend shake up the leaderboard at tail end of Badminton dressage

  • Laura Collett and Oliver Townend both made strong bids for the lead on the second day of the Badminton Horse Trials dressage, at the event presented by Mars Equestrian. But neither managed to break into the top five, with Ros Canter retaining her top spot with Lordships Graffalo.

    Oliver slotted into sixth with Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan’s Ballaghmor Class, on a score of 24.7.

    “I’m pleased enough,” said Oliver. “I was happy with his mind in there. The conditions are horrible and the ground in there isn’t easy – it’s very patchy – but I’m happy with where we are.

    “Honestly, if [the weather] goes on like this, I don’t think dressage is going to matter too much. The cross-country is going to be very tricky and we’re just going to have to be sensible. It’s going to be one of those Badmintons, that don’t happen very often.”

    Badminton Horse Trials dressage: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class

    Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class at Badminton 2023. Credit Peter Nixon

    Laura Collett delivered a smart, well-balanced test with Diana Chappell, Gillian Morris-Adams, Alison and Michael Smedley and Carolyn Taylor’s Dacapo to put herself into seventh with 25.2. The 14-year-old gelding looked to be trying hard, and appeared to cope remarkably well with the deteriorating ground conditions.

    “He’s never been in an atmosphere like that before, so I’m pleased he could hold it together,” said Laura. “He had every excuse to have one of his moments and not really give it his all, but he really tried. It’s a bit muddy and gluey in there, but I’m proud of him trying so hard.”

    Laura says she has also been revising her opinions of the cross-country course from her first walk, since the weather worsened.

    “It’s going to be muddy! When we walked it I thought it was a great track – a proper five-star – but to be honest it’s now going to be about just feeling what you’ve got underneath you, and not riding for the minute markers but looking after your horse.”

    Watch Laura speak about her test with Dacapo

    ‘I hope they don’t change the course anymore’

    Harry Meade and David Bernstein, Sophie Caruth and Nigella Hall’s Tenareze scored an impressive personal best at any level with 26.9. They lie 10th at the conclusion of the Badminton Horse Trials dressage.

    “This was his best test and his first big five-star – he just went to Pau in the autumn – so he hasn’t been in this kind of atmosphere,” said Harry. “I’m thrilled with how he went – he was very cool in there.”

    It was a special moment for one of Tenareze’s owners in particular – Nigella Hall has owned horses with various riders for over 40 years, but this is the first time she has had one at Badminton, which is also her local event.

    Harry also said that he hopes tomorrow’s cross-country does not undergo any further alterations due to the weather and forecast ground conditions.

    “When the conditions are like this you just ride accordingly. I hope they don’t change the course anymore; horses go in this going,” he said. “I think the worst condition is when it’s super holding – when you get dry weather off the back of a wet period.  I think in this they should go well.

    “It probably makes people ride better because they don’t chase the clock so much and they ride the horse underneath them,” he says.

    “It’s a danger if you make too many adjustments to the course because it encourages people to ride like they’re on machines, whereas the greatest benefits to horses from riders is when there’s an element of forecast fatigue because you make sure you hold something back in the tank. If you change it too much, people won’t hold it back.”

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