Reigning Badminton champion leads after dressage on ‘quality’ but spooky ride

  • It was a test we’d been waiting for, and Ros Canter duly delivered with the exciting Izilot DHI to topple long-time leaders Bubby Upton and Cola (27.3) early on the second day of the Mars Badminton Horse Trials dressage phase. Ros was chasing Izilot’s own personal best of 24.3, which they scored to win Pau in the autumn, and although they fell a smidgen short of that, they secured a clear lead in this field on 25.3.

    Ros started with a beautifully square halt, and the three sevens awarded indicated the judges were not simply going to throw marks at this pairing. But the Zavall ZDL gelding quickly began to earn their approval, with the whole test sheet littered with eights, as well as nines for canter and extended canter. He goes with such lightness and cadence, and while Ros has made no secret of the fact he is a spooky horse, he held it together well and showed very little tension.

    There was just one corner of the arena, near A, to which he took exception, looking like wanted to jog before the halt and rein back, but he listened to Ros and went on to halt for a string of eights.

    “I’m delighted with him – he’s been doing some good work this week and we all know he’s a quality horse,” said Ros. “He did have a little spook in there, at the camera at A, which he didn’t like on the right rein. But that is him – and the fact that we know that he can have a spook and come back to the quality of work, that’s great.

    “He’s 11 now, so he’s getting better. I’ve done less schooling over the winter and hacked him more. I’m learning how to ride him, and react less. If I think he’s going to spook I almost drop the reins rather than trying to help him through it.”

    Ros – the winner last year on Lordships Graffalo – added that she was feeling “open-minded” about the cross-country.

    “We’re here to be competitive and we’ll go out of the start box meaning business,” said Ros. “I know I’m favourite on statistics, but I also know my horse and how unproven he is over a course of this length with the stamina and endurance, so that pressure doesn’t impact me.”

    At the end of the dressage phase, Ros has a two penalty lead over Bubby Upton and Cola on 27.3 with Tim Price and Vitali third on 27.7.

    Badminton Horse Trials dressage top 1o leaderboard

    Badminton top 10 leaderboard after dressage

    Two mares on form in Badminton Horse Trials dressage

    Kirsty Chabert caught the eye on the diminutive Opposition Heraldik Girl, with her bold and lively test. This impeccably bred mare, by Fleetwater Opposition x Heraldik, has a lovely outlook, and while she was possibly a little bit too keen to do the job at times, she racked up plenty of sevens. She showed a great extended canter, and neat flying changes. They scored 32.4, a super mark for this 12-year-old mare at her second five-star, finishing the day in 14th place.

    “I’m speechless to be honest,” said Kirsty. “She’s small but not quite a pony – maybe 15.1hh on stilts. She’s unbelievable, the length of stride and power, the heart and brain. She’s one of those freaks that we’re blessed with.”

    It was a mixed bag for Jonelle Price and her 2022 Pau CCI5* winner Grappa Nera in the Badminton Horse Trials dressage phase, who would have been looking at a top-10 slot had the flying changes not let them down. This elegant mare, with a long glittery bonnet, produced a pleasing picture overall, consistently scoring sevens. Their highlights were the medium walk and halt, for eights, as well as the extended canter. However, the changes were either too exuberant or mistimed, and a score of two for the second one caused the marks to plummet. They scored 34.4.

    “I can see it from both sides,” said Jonelle. “A lot of it I’m delighted with, but some stuff I’m rueing. She’s a hot mare every day of the week, but she stayed with me the whole way through. The changes aren’t established and were her downfall and so costly on the scoreboard.”

    Grappa Nera has put up some disappointing dressage scores at one-days so far this season, so this was a definite improvement. Jonelle explained that she doesn’t put any pressure on the mare at one-days.

    “I just let her do whatever she’s going to do because it needs a lot of work to get her to this point and you can’t go through that process every other week!” she said. “But what’s important to me is that when it counts she hasn’t let me down. I didn’t put a dressage saddle on her until last night because she’s so quick to have an argument so I just don’t put her in that position, and wait until she’s ready.”

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