Tiny young rider on 16.2hh mare takes first step towards Badminton grassroots

  • A 12-year-old rider has qualified for the regional championships with dreams of Badminton in her first British Eventing season – on her mother’s 16.2hh mare.

    Natasha Crapper and Deborah Crapper’s Kilcorban My Fair Lady (Flo) jumped double clear in their first two BE90 events, at West Wilts and Little Gatcombe on 10 and 17 June, and are now eyeing the second stage of qualifying for the Voltaire Design Grassroots Championships at Badminton Horse Trials.

    “She’s been going to Badminton for years, and the idea that she could be at the grassroots there next May is crazy – and she’s 12!” Deborah told H&H. “She’s a really cool customer, but when she finished at Gatcombe and I said she’d qualified, she burst into tears.”

    Natasha first sat on a pony, a Shetland called Tom who would “buck and stick his head down, and all that sort of thing”, aged about two, but started riding properly in 2019, on sainted loan pony Charlie.

    “She learned pretty much everything on him, but last year it was time for him to go home and retire,” Deborah said. “Horse prices were crazy and I couldn’t find an in-between one so I said that for the time being, she could ride Flo. Natasha is tiny and skinny and Flo’s a proper medium-bone Irish horse so it was a silly idea but I swear Flo knows Natasha’s my baby. She looks after her like you wouldn’t believe. When you go anywhere, people say ‘She’s so tiny’ but they’ve got a loveliness together.”

    Deborah said the pair’s first event was a Cotswold Cup 80cm this spring.

    “They went up the centre line and turned the wrong way,” she said. “Natasha’s clever but doesn’t know her left from right. She burst into tears and I thought ‘Oh my god’. But I swear, if the horse could have, she’d have turned round and comforted her.”

    The pair came third in that event, then took on some under-18 BE90 classes.

    “And now she’s qualified for the regionals, which I can’t quite believe; she could be at Badminton aged 13,” Deborah said.

    “She’s got to get through the regionals but the horse is so sweet with her, they jump double clears and can do a decent test, so I wouldn’t put it past them.”

    Deborah herself rode as a child, then got back into it when she moved out of London aged 31. She “knew nothing about Richard Meade” but “invited myself round there”, starting a long friendship with the family.

    The Meades helped Deborah find a horse, with whom she evented up to intermediate, then stopped riding after she married, and became pregnant.

    “I married a Crapper, which Angela [Meade] said was the funniest thing ever,” she said. “I said it wasn’t that funny, and she said ‘It is’! I ended up divorcing him, and it was a horrible divorce, and my good friend Fiona Hobby said ‘Let’s get you a horse’. I had four young children and no time, and she said ‘Get one quick’. I told her to sell Flo a couple of times because I was skint and she said ‘You can’t afford to sell her, she’s your sanity’. And I’m so glad now.”

    Deborah added that she wishes Richard were still alive to see Natasha on Flo.

    “Every time they go out, they’re getting better and better,” she said. “Her dream, and mine, is Badminton, and it is possible.”

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