Fellow competitors erupted in spontaneous cheering as the brilliant New Zealand horseman Andrew Nicholson, 55, at last won the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, fourth leg of the FEI Classics™ after a record 37 attempts over 33 years.
"Of course I knew I would win Badminton one day – I just didn’t know when!" said Nicholson.
It was a jumping finale full of surprises as Nicholson, third after cross-country, pulled off a stunning clear round on the 17-year-old Nereo to leave the two German Olympians ahead of him – Michael Jung and overnight leader Ingrid Klimke – no room for error.
Jung’s La Biosthetique Sam, also a veteran 17-year-old, hit the back rail of the sixth fence, so the defending champion had to settle for the runner-up spot, but he now leads the FEI Classics™ series leaderboard. Then, to gasps from the fascinated crowd, Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob hit the same fence and Klimke’s problems were compounded with a refusal at the triple, which dropped her to ninth.
"I’m a bit unhappy about the mistake and it was, for sure, my mistake, but Sam has been superb all weekend," said Jung.
New Zealanders Tim Price (Xavier Faer) and Sir Mark Todd with both his horses, NZB Campino and Leonidas ll, capitilized on clear jumping rounds and moved up to third, fourth and sixth.
There was a new British name in fifth place, 31-year-old Rosalind Canter, who had a superb Badminton debut on Allstar B. Gemma Tattersall was delighted to jump clear for sixth place on Arctic Soul and Kristina Cook was at her vintage best in 10th place on Billy the Red.
Completing the international flavour was Japanese rider Yoshiaki Oiwa, whose long-term aim of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 will have been enhanced by eighth place on The Duke of Cavan.
A total of 46 completed the competition with 20 clear jumping rounds. There was disappointment for the British when Alexander Bragg’s Zagreb, eighth after a great cross-country, was withdrawn from the holding box at the final horse inspection.
Lauren Kieffer and Veronica finish 17th. Shannon Brinkman Photo.
Nicholson first rode at Badminton in 1984; he has since completed more times than any other rider, and has finished second, on Lord Killinghurst in 2004, and third, on Libby Sellar’s Spanish-bred chestnut gelding Nereo in 2013. He was in the lead on Nereo in 2015, but it all went wrong in the final phase.
His win is even more of a fairytale considering he broke his neck in a fall 18 months ago – the prospect of competing Avebury, his three-time Burghley winner, and Nereo was, he says, a strong motivation during his recovery.
"I’ve been in all sorts of places at Badminton and not won, so it has been hard, but I am lucky that I’ve been able to keep the dream alive and keep coming back," said Nicholson.
Nicholson’s spectacular victory puts him into third place in the FEI Classics™, behind Pau winner Maxime Livio (FRA) and last year’s series champion Jung, who leads going into his home 4* at Luhmühlen next month.
Lynn Symansky and Donner finish in 22nd place. Shannon Brinkman Photo.
The two remaining U.S. riders, Lauren Kieffer and Lynn Symansky finished 17th and 22nd respectively with Veronica and Donner. Team Rebecca LLC's Veronica added one rail and 2 time penalties and the Donnner Syndicate's Donner also dropped a single rail and crossed the finish 4 time penalties over.
We all work hard to get our horses shiny and clean for competition day, but it can sometimes take a bit of extra elbow grease to get those grey or white horses looking their best. Rachael Livermore, head groom for Sharon White at Last Frontier Farm, shares some of the tricks she uses to get Sharon's horses looking spick and span - and it starts with everyday care!
This is it! The weekend we've all been waiting for is finally here - the return to competition has arrived! After nearly three months of suspended competitions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the country and the world, riders are shining up their boots and preparing to trot down the centerline. While our "new normal" will certainly look different than things did before the pandemic, these new regulations are in place for all our safety.
The return to competition upon us! This week on the show Nicole Brown is joined by Sinead Halpin Maynard to talk about how you can make sure you and your horse are prepared to get back to competing.
The Fair Hill Organizing Committee (FHOC), an affiliate of the Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland (The Sport Corp.), today announced the inaugural Maryland Five-Star at Fair Hill will take place October 14-17, 2021. Health and safety factors, in addition to other challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, led to a final decision to postpone the international three-day eventing competition originally scheduled for this October at the newly constructed Special Event Zone at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in Cecil County, Maryland.