Lydia Hannon makes her Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials debut this year with My Royal Touch. Carol and Chris Harris bought the 13-year-old black mare by Touchdown for her some seven years ago.
At the time, Lydia was working for New Zealand eventer Lucy Jackson.
“They rang me up and said, ‘You need a decent horse — we know you can’t afford to buy one, so we’re going to buy you one and you run it’,” remembers Lydia. “I think I burst into tears. I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is ridiculous’.”
A man of action, Chris made contact with the Irish agent Clare Ryan and rang Lydia to say they were off to look at a horse.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, this shit’s getting real’,” says Lydia. “So we go over and try this black mare. She basically fell out of the stable, with legs everywhere, but I thought she was so beautiful. Mum said: ‘Look at her conformation, it’s terrible.’ I got on her and I had no idea what I was feeling for. Chris asked what I thought and I just turned around and said, ‘I feel so safe on her’.”
My Royal Touch (“Missy”) had done a couple of one-stars under Irish rider John Bannon and she and Lydia moved up the grades together. Last year they completed their first four-star at Luhmühlen in Germany and then finished third in the CCI3* at Blenheim.
“We’ve learnt the ropes together,” says Lydia. “She’s been phenomenal, my crash test dummy. I’ve tried and tested everything to find out what works and what doesn’t. I owe her everything and wouldn’t be eventing without her. I love her to bits.”
‘They’ve given me a system’
Over the years, Lydia has built up a support team who will be on hand to help her at Badminton.
Jeremy Scott trains her in the showjumping and Andrew Fletcher on the flat.
“They’ve given me a system to work the horses so that as you get up through the levels, nothing changes. Hopefully that leads to happy ponies,” she says.
Nigel Taylor will walk the cross-country course with her.
“Nigel makes me laugh,” she says. “I’ll be panicking and he says: ‘Lyds, just sit up and kick. Do as I tell you and you’ll be fine, but don’t do as I tell you and you’ll probably stuff up’. It’s worked for me at the big ones so far.”
Lydia’s mother Della will be there, as well as Juliet Lock, a chiropractor who will work with Missy after the cross-country.
“She’s the first person I go to if any of the horses aren’t right,” says Lydia. “She’s been really good at helping me pick and choose where to run the horses — when they are physically good enough, fit enough, strong enough. She’s also great with my mental approach.”
Finally, Lydia expects to have strong support from her sponsors, Saddle Doctors, who have been with her since junior days and supplements companies Lintbells.