Bulana: the ‘feisty and hot’ eventing medal winner with a ferocious will to succeed *H&H Plus*

  • The 2017 European individual bronze medallist is a feisty mare who almost tries too hard, yet she’s calm in the stable, finds Pippa Roome

    Need to know

    Age: 15
    Breeding: Tygo x Furore
    Rider: Nicola Wilson
    Owner: James and Jo Lambert
    Breeder: S van Dellen and G Renken Greatest achievements: eighth Le
    Lion d’Angers World Young Horse Championships 2013 (with Lizzie Green); first Boekelo CCI4*-L 2015; second Barbury Castle CCI4*-S 2016; fourth Blenheim CCI4*-L 2016; second Luhmühlen CCI5* 2017; individual bronze and team gold Strzegom European Championships 2017; first Barbury Castle CCI4*-S 2018; 21st Badminton CCI5* 2019; fourth Burnham Market CCI4*-L 2020; 11th Pau CCI5* 2020 (all with Nicola Wilson, all class names changed to current star levels).

    Rider Nicola Wilson

    “James and Jo Lambert bought Bulana [Berry] eight years ago – Francesca Pollara put us in touch with Lizzie Green [née Brown], who did a super job producing her.

    “I tried Berry at Aston-le-Walls and thought she was a beautiful horse. She was forward and feisty. She was ridden in a pelham and wanted to go, go, go. But she was also quick with her front legs and straight and honest on a line.

    “Berry is such a chilled horse at home – she often has a little snooze during the day. But as soon as you tack her up, she turns into a real professional. She almost tries too hard to please, which can make her a little hot.

    “It’s a case of trying to work with her rather than against her. To start with, she’d put her nose on her chest and just charge, not looking where she was going. We’ve worked to get her poll up and nose out so she could read the fences better, as she is careful.

    “We taught her to listen to my body language and played with surprise transitions, encouraging her to keep a rhythm. I can now jump her at home in a snaffle.

    “At big events, we warm her up on cross-country day, then put her away, then we go straight to the start box. It seems to work for her.

    “I think she’ll always be a feisty, hot mare across country, but now she feels rideable. We get to the fences in a nice balance at the correct speed and we’re very much working together – we have a good partnership and we trust each other.”

    Head girl Ruth Asquith

    “In my second year working for Nicola, her old head girl Lynn Swift – who is my idol and taught me everything – took a step back, so I went to the Europeans with Berry. It was a big deal, but Berry is calm and easy to look after.

    “Berry adores Nicola and as soon as Nicola gets on, she’s conscientious and knows it’s time to work and she has a job to do.

    “At a competition, she’ll pick a spot in her stable to think and concentrate. She stands so still, and I have to tack her up and do her studs in that place.

    “She’s affectionate and she knows when she’s done well and if she hasn’t, she’s disappointed. When she came out of the dressage at Badminton 2019, she knew it wasn’t her best and the first thing she did was put her head on my shoulder.

    “I enjoy watching Berry because I’m really proud of the partnership between her and Nicola, and I know how much she wants to win for Nicola. But I’m also extremely nervous – I cling onto Nicola’s husband Alastair and say I’m not sure why I do it!

    “At home, she kicks the door and has to be fed first. I’ve probably indulged her a bit, but I just love how hard she tries. She’s like my best friend.”

    Judge Nikki Herbert

    “I look forward to Nicola’s tests, knowing she works her horses in the best way as a result of harmonious, effective riding, developed over years with help from Chris Bartle.

    “I’ve judged Bulana all the way up the levels. She is eye-catching, with an elegant and correctly muscled body which she is able to move in an athletic way. She has a good length of neck, which she carries correctly with the poll at the highest point, seeking the rein contact which Nicola can provide through her established seat and sympathetic feel.

    “Bulana’s paces are regular and show super activity and the ability to change gear fluently within them. She produces shoulder freedom in extensions and plenty of reach in lateral work.

    “At times, Bulana’s underlying sensitivity produces tension which shows in the walk, halt and rein-back. A loss of suppleness over her back can briefly interrupt the rhythm and fluency. However, Nicola’s experience and calm communication quickly settles her. She knows how much risk she can take in every movement to gain maximum marks without a mistake.

    “Correct training has produced a mare who is able to maintain her rhythm and stay on a line, helping with accuracy and speed across country and a good shape over the coloured poles. Nicola and Bulana share a great attitude for eventing.”

    Also published in H&H 4 March 2021

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