‘It would have been a fairytale ending’: disappointment as injury forces Badminton withdrawal

  • Six combinations have been named as Badminton Horse Trials withdrawals, leaving 77 entries for the five-star event presented by Mars Equestrian (4-8 May), with three weeks to go.

    Bubby Upton has withdrawn her mother’s 16-year-old gelding Cannavaro, known as “Joey”, after he sustained an injury. The pair were most recently 11th in the CCI4*-S at Thoresby Park last month where they produced a clear showjumping round and jumped clear across country, just picking up time-faults.

    Bubby and Joey were sixth at Pau last October, and this would have been the gelding’s first Badminton.

    “Cannavaro has very sadly picked up an injury. We caught the signs early, but obviously it’s absolutely devastating. It would have been a real fairytale ending to Joey’s story to go round Badminton,” Bubby told H&H.

    “It’s common knowledge that he was a horse that I doubted a few years back; we never thought he would do a four-star, let alone a four-star long, then a five-star. He’s a horse that has time and time again exceeded expectations, he never lacked talent but he has lacked blood and stamina. His heart of pure gold has time and time again shone through and made him do things that he probably never should have done, on paper, so it’s really tough.

    “It’s obviously part of the sport, but there are certain horses that touch you that much more and he is a horse that has touched many of us through the size of his heart and how much he digs deep for me every time, so it’s just gutting we can’t give Badminton a crack. But hopefully he will be back, and even if he’s not, he’s exceeded all expectations of what we thought he’d ever do and I owe him so much.”

    Bubby remains entered with Cola III, with whom she made her Badminton debut in 2022.

    “We’ve got the last few weeks of preparations so fingers crossed that all happens ok,” she said. “He’ll have to go solo without his best friend, but hopefully he’ll do Joey proud.”

    Badminton Horse Trials withdrawals: no longer qualified

    Experienced five-star rider Louise Harwood and her 14-year-old gelding Native Spirit are another of the Badminton Horse Trials withdrawals, as Louise found out after her entry had been accepted that she is no longer qualified to ride at the top level.

    This follows the FEI’s tightening of eventing athlete categorisations, approved at the general assembly in November, where minimum eligibility requirements (MERs) used for categorisation are now based on a rolling four-year period, instead of eight. To be classified as category A, combinations must achieve 10 MERs at four-star long or short competitions, or three at five-star in the qualifying period. There was no wait list for Badminton Horse Trials this year, which was thought to be partly owing to this new rule.

    Louise, who has 21 five-star starts to her name and has completed Badminton six times, was a category A rider but owing to the new rules has been reclassified to category C. This means she can no longer compete above three-star, until she has gained more MERs.

    “It’s tricky, I’ve now only got the one horse at advanced and last year I tended to do national advanced classes rather than four-stars because they were cheaper and I’m funding it all myself. But now I’ve shot myself in the foot,” she told H&H.

    “It’s going to be really hard for the one-horse riders to keep themselves up in the A category. But that’s the reason why we do it, I want to be at Badminton and Burghley. I’ll either get back to that or I’m going to go showjumping. I’ve completed all those five-stars, and suddenly I’m being told I’m not good enough to do it. It’s annoying – you thought you were qualified, you were qualified a couple of months ago, and now I’m suddenly not.”

    A cross-country schooling fall

    Jo Rimmer and 16-year-old gelding Isaac Newton, whom she owns with Anna Slight, had been due to make their Badminton debut, but Jo was severely injured in a “nasty” fall while cross-country schooling a horse at the end of March.

    Jo sustained fractures in her vertebrae, pelvis and three ribs, as well as lacerations to her liver and contusions to one of her lungs.

    “Although we are gutted that Badminton is off the cards, we are all just glad that she is ok and recovering well – it’s scary how fast things can change,” said Jess, Jo’s daughter, at the time.

    In an update on 7 April, Jo said she had been moved out of intensive care to a ward.

    “I’m up on my feet and am shuffling at great speed down the corridors. The staff have been brilliant, I loved getting to know the nurses in ICU well although no one gave me a G&T,” she said. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support I’ve received from everyone, thank you.”

    The other Brit to announce he will not run is Gubby Leech and Royal Harvest. The remaining two Badminton Horse Trials withdrawals are France’s Ugo Provasi with Shadd’OC, and German rider Dirk Schrade and Casino 80.

    This year Badminton Horse Trials has changed dates to fit in with the coronation, so the dressage takes place on the Friday and Saturday – with a break in the action so people can watch the coronation – the cross-country on Sunday and the showjumping on Monday.

    How to watch Badminton Horse Trials

    If you are interested in watching Badminton Horse Trials live from the comfort of your home, wherever you are in the world, then you will need to subscribe to Badminton TV. To sign up, visit watch.badminton-horse.tv – click the “Sign Up” link in the top right corner of your screen, then follow the instructions. An annual subscription to Badminton TV costs £19.99 and gives you 365 days of access to all of the content in the Badminton TV library, the ability to watch the action live, and the option to replay all of this year’s action later.

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