There were some surprising results on day one of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, with first-timers impressing and some more established combinations not quite able to top the leader board.
French rider Thibaut Vallette put in a beautiful performance on his striking bay Qing Du Briot Ene HN to hold the lead on a score of 38.7.
“I hoped that my horse would perform this well,” said Thibaut, a trainer at the Cadre Noir, which is the national riding school specialising in classical riding in Saumur. “He’s sensitive and can get tense, but this is our first time at Badminton and it’s a fantastic experience.”
Forty-three-year-old Thibaut rode Qing Du Briot Ene HN at the Rio Olympics and was part of the gold medal-winning French team.
Second place is currently held by the German rider, Bettina Hoy (see video, top). Usually strong in the dressage phase, Bettina didn’t disappoint riding Designer 10, to post a score of 39.2.
“My horse felt really good — he tries so hard and is so lovely. He is my one and only,” said a happy Bettina. “There was lots of atmosphere in there and ‘Mickey’ was a bit fresh. He looked at the first cross-country fence in the main arena next to the dressage and said ‘yeah, I want to go!’ so his flying-changes weren’t perfect but he managed to contain himself.”
A slight shock result on day one was for Michael Jung to complete a test that was only good enough for third place at this stage of the competition. Riding his reigning Badminton champion La Biosthetique Sam FBW, the pair posted a score of 40.
“He was a bit difficult to ride,” said the German rider of his evergreen horse, who is 17-years-old. “He knows this arena and there was a lot of atmosphere. I hoped it would be better, but overall I’m pleased.”
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Best of the Brits
The best British riders at this stage are Badminton first-timer Alex Bragg, riding Zagreb and Tom McEwen riding his Badminton first-timer Toledo De Kerser. The pair share sixth place on a score of 44.6.
“There’s stuff we’ve got to fix and make better, but he’s gone in there and delivered the best he can at the moment. I’m thrilled to get over 70%,” said Alex.
Tom said: “I’m really pleased with my horse. His walk wasn’t great, but everything else was top class.”
The second day of dressage kicks off at 9.30am tomorrow.
Don’t miss this week’s H&H (on sale today, Thursday 4 May), including a 16-page Badminton pull-out with full form guide, dressage test, judge’s analysis, course map and more.