Albert the escort helps Pippa Funnell nurse her second Badminton ride to success

  • The final section of the Mars Badminton Horse Trials dressage phase featured five riders who have two horses running at the event, but none could trouble the leading trio of Ros Canter, Bubby Upton and Tim Price.

    After a torrid time on her first ride Majas Hope, when he became over excited by the occasion the previous day, the crowd was rooting for Pippa Funnell on her second ride MCS Maverick.

    Having been escorted up to the main arena by a grey hunt horse, named Albert, Pippa trotted in beaming with the horse seeming beautifully relaxed. Her 2023 Bramham winner has a tendency to lose focus in the dressage phase, and he’s been on his toes all week, but he was on side from the outset in the arena, banging out sevens and eights from the very first halt. They scored 31.9 to lie 12th before cross-country.

    Maverick threw marks away in the rein-back and canter transition that followed, but that was his only error and the pair regathered quickly to nail the flying changes and canter work, clocking an eight for the extended canter.

    “I’m delighted with the horse, I really am,” said Pippa. “It’s no secret that he’s tricky in that phase – he’s just a horse that is pumped with adrenaline. I had a blip in the rein back and struck off wrong, but overall I’m delighted.

    “People underestimate [the atmosphere] here. One thing at Badminton that is very different to anywhere else is that the stables, behind the arches, is backstage and really quiet and relaxed. Then when [the horses] come into the park and in the main estate, they can get quite anxious.

    “In the trot-up, you come through the arch and, bang, there are all these people. You can’t prepare [the horses] for that. You never know what they are going to do and there’s a little bit of nervousness so you try to hold their hand to help them, and he was really on side in the arena.”

    “She loves a crowd”: mare shines in Badminton Horse Trials dressage

    Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier were best of this final group. They had a blip in the first halt, but quickly put that behind them and produced some excellent work, improving as the test went on to score 30 and slot into seventh.

    The 11-year-old mare has a lovely uphill way of going, looking like she loves her job and wants to please. Her flying changes were a highlight, scoring sevens and eights, plus an 8.5 for her extended canter. So many tests in this Badminton field have been undone by the changes, but this is where this mare came into her own.

    “I am really pleased with her – she gets better and better,” said the New Zealand rider. “It was very atmospheric in there but she didn’t miss a beat. Outside the atmosphere gets to her and she’s quite bright, but she goes into the arena and she knows she has to perform – she loves a crowd. It’s nice to have her at the stage when you can put her in this situation and push the buttons in the right way.”

    Tom Jackson had a mixed test to score 34.4 on his European Championship partner Capels Hollow Drift. They started consistently until the horse spooked at a camera, which unsettled him. Their changes didn’t come off today, which undid the consistency in the trot work.

    “It’s unlike him as he’s not normally spooky but he took one look and didn’t like it – horses will be horses,” said Tom. “If the judges aren’t chucking marks at you the beginning and something happens, it’s hard to get back up.

    “He’s been feeling as good as he’s ever felt, so it’s a shame it didn’t quite come off today. But his forte is the jumping phases, and probably mine, so hopefully we can finish on that score and still be competitive.”

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