How the rain helped five-star stalwart achieve personal best in Badminton dressage

  • Oliver Townend and Gemma Stevens are still playing catch-me-if-you-can at the top of the leaderboard at mid afternoon on day one of the Badminton Horse Trials dressage, at the event presented by Mars Equestrian. Oliver’s ride Swallow Springs is 0.1pen ahead of Gemma’s Jalapeno, with Tim Price third on Vitalis, who scored 27.1

    The early afternoon tests featured a couple of personal best scores at the level, but none good enough to challenge the leaders. Tom Rowland topped his previous best at five-star on Possible Mission’s fourth attempt at the level. They produced a correct and rideable test to score 30, into the top 10 at this stage.

    “He was a good boy; he’s a bit of a head-shaker, and the rain actually helps him,” said Tom of Robin Patrick’s Irish-bred gelding by Temple Clover. “I could feel him shaking his nose a bit when it was bright sunshine, so maybe the rain helped.

    “He’s 16, and it’s difficult when they’re an older horse and don’t owe you anything – you question whether you should bring them, but he knows Badminton and I was hoping that was going to bring him alive. He still loves his work, and we keep it varied – a lot of swimming, two-hour hacks up and down hills. We don’t take him in the school much. These older horses know the routine. I’ve been convinced he knows what’s coming for the past week.

    “He’s done a few five-stars on good ground, and I’ve always wanted to do one on wet ground, because he chugs along at his own pace, and I’m hoping he’ll just keep going. He was hunting as a three-year-old in Ireland, jumping banks. Hopefully he’ll keeping going at the same speed, and the others will go a bit slower.”

    Badminton Horse Trials dressage: amateur achieves ‘lifelong dream’

    Dentist Caroline Clarke also scored a personal best, of 34, on Touch Too Much – an impressive accomplishment for this amateur rider whose day job is outside the equestrian realm.

    “He didn’t react to the atmosphere, he was just perfect and it was so nice to be there riding in front of the crowd,” said Caroline, who was set to make her debut in 2019 but the horse kicked his leg on the eve of the event. “To go up the centre line at Badminton is a lifelong dream. I had to tell myself to concentrate! But he did his changes in the right places; he was fantastic.”

    Caroline works three days a week as a dentist, with her family helping her achieve her eventing dreams.

    “My horses have a non-stress life, we live on a farm in North Yorkshire, and everyone mucks in. I have a lovely person who comes and rides out, my mum rides out, my brother rides out. I couldn’t do it without my family.”

    Felicity Collins and RSH Contend Or started very well, but the marks started to drop with mistakes in the flying changes and half-passes marring a string of sevens and eights. RSH Contend Or, owned by Felicity’s mother Vicky and Avrina Milton, jumped double clear on their Badminton debut last year.

    Swiss team rider Felix Vogg made his Badminton debut on Cartania, who was placed top 15 at the last World and European Championships. Felix’s compatriot Capt Hans Schwarzenbach was the first foreign winner of Badminton, back in 1951, but Felix has left himself with a bit of work to do. He didn’t get the start he wanted with a messy initial halt, and the dainty mare generally seemed to be anticipating the movements too early, which spoiled some good work.

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