‘This doesn’t happen to people like me’: 51-year-old rider shocked to win Badminton Horse Trials

  • Caroline Powell produced an exhibition of eventing excellence on Greenacres Special Cavalier to top the leaderboard in the 2024 Mars Badminton Horse Trials results.

    Sixth after the cross-country on this wonderful 11-year-old mare, owned by Chris Mann, Caroline posted one of only three showjumping clears inside the time, which saw this 51-year-old New Zealand rider claim her first Badminton title. They completed on 43.2, having been seventh after the first phase on a score of 30.

    “I wasn’t ready for that one, to have finished third would be great – but to win?,” said an understandably delighted Caroline, who is based near Newmarket in Suffolk. “It’s absolutely amazing, I can’t believe it, it’s awesome.

    “It means so much. I’m not in my youth anymore and to get a horse to this stage and win is a dream come true.”

    Caroline triumphed by two penalties over five-star first-timer, Irish rider Lucy Latta and RCS Patron Saint, who rose from a remarkable 46th after the dressage. Lucy and Caroline were joined on the podium by Alex Bragg, who capitalised on a clear showjumping round inside the time to rise from 51st after the first phase into third in the Badminton Horse Trials results. Alex finished on the same score at Lucy Latta, but Lucy’s quicker cross-country round sealed her second place.

    “God, she jumped a good round, didn’t she?” continued Caroline, whose last five-star win was with Lenamore at Burghley in 2010. “You always come here and hope to get your double clear and everyone go home safe and happy, but to win it is just ****ing unbelievable!”

    When asked whether she watched any of those who showjumped after her, Caroline was very frank.

    “I didn’t watch the last few – I was down the back with Greg [Caroline’s partner] and Tristan [Caroline’s groom] and Lucia and all we could hear was ‘ooh, ahh’. Susie came running over and said ‘you’ve won it’ and I said ‘no I haven’t, don’t be silly, this doesn’t happen to people like me.’

    “It never entered my mind that we would win it – you get to an age where you start slowing down a little bit and you think this is my last time. I said to Tristan, ‘don’t ever let me do this again when the entries come out, I’m not entering’.

    “I’m so privileged to ride such a good horse. She’s a true professional. She doesn’t really realise how good she is, but she’ll soon know, won’t she?”

    Caroline has produced this mare up through the grades to finish fifth at this horse’s first five-star at Pau 2022, followed by sixth in the five-star at Maryland last year. Bred by Michael Callery of Greenacres Stud in Co Meath, Greenacres Special Cavalier is by the Cavalier Royale out of a mare by the jumping stallion Touchdown.

    Caroline said that she brought the mare to Badminton with one main aim: “We came here with the hope of getting her exposed to crowds, because she can be a bit lairy and we were thinking if we do get the chance to go to Paris, she needs the exposure to the atmosphere and to become a bit more rideable. We were here to test the waters and so to win – I just can’t believe it.”

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