South Gloucestershire, England—May 5—Oliver Townend looks to have the best chance of becoming the first rider to finish first and second at Badminton since Ian Stark way back in 1988. He is heading the leaderboard after the first day of dressage at the 2023 Badminton Horse Trials on Paul and Diana Ridgeon’s 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chillout x Kilila) Swallow Springs.
“I’ve worn the video out,” joked Townend, who was only 4 years old when Stark achieved this feat. “I’m hoping that one horse goes in front of Swallow Springs tomorrow and that’s my other one [second ride Ballaghmor Class]. I don’t think dressage is going to be the big story this weekend, but it’s a nice start.”
Last year Oliver finished third and fifth with the two grays, two of the most consistent five-star horses in the world.
The Ground Jury of president Angela Tucker (GBR), Andrew Bennie (NZL), and Xavier Le Sauce (FRA) awarded him the excellent score of 23.2 penalties which gives him the slenderest of leads: just 0.1 of a penalty over Gemma Stevens with Chris Stone’s 15-year-old Jalapeno, a 15-year-old mare by the 2015 Badminton winner Chilli Morning out of Maiden Voyage.
“I’ve been watching video tapes of Badminton ever since I was a child, and when you get here, you know you’re somewhere special,” said a delighted Townend, for whom this was an 80th five-star start since 2008. “I’ve got two beautiful horses to ride, and this is a very good start to the weekend. It must be the Shropshire water! I have two older horses here [Ballaghmor Class goes tomorrow], and I don’t think they have ever felt better, which is a great tribute to my team at home. I’m very happy with the draw for Swallow Springs and think it will suit him. He’s the quickest event horse I’ve ever sat on.”
Stevens (née Tattersall) was equally thrilled with her performance and admitted that it made the dressage phase far simpler to have a horse with such aptitude. “It was really enjoyable,” she said. “I could ride every inch of that grass.”
At this early stage of proceedings, New Zealand’s Tim Price, the world no. 1, is in third place (27.1) on Vitali, a 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contender x Noble Lady I) owned by long-time eventing supporter Joe Giannamore and his son, Alexander. The combination were third at Burghley Horse Trials last year.
“I believe in him,” said Price. “I think he is a classic five-star horse, and I am hoping that he will get it all together all on the one day, as he is an incredible dressage and cross-country horse who just has a bit of a weakness in the show jumping phase.”
One of two U.S. riders completed their dressage today. Katherine Coleman and Kalai LLC’s 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Zapatero x Brooklyn Breeze) scored a 31 for 14th place currently.
“I am over the moon,” said Coleman. “The combination of a lack of runs and the horse’s fitness meant he was a mentalist. He’s been bucking in his flying changes, but he was so good in the arena. It’s a nice cross-country course but the ground will be a huge factor. We have only had one run, and we are now in a new yard with new gallops, which means you are never quite sure where we are with the fitness, so will have to see how it goes on Sunday.”
The other U.S. pair, Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby, will do their dressage on Saturday at 8:08 a.m. BST.
As they hiked through the Galway Irish countryside, Shelley Bridges and John Whelpley soon found themselves amid a herd of curious Irish Draught mares grazing calmly around them. Bridges, an endurance rider extraordinaire with a well-known, educated eye for all things horse, noticed one of the mares in particular and said, “What about that one?” and our unlikely story began.
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The U.S. Equestrian Federation is pleased to announce the Eventing Pathway Program Lists for 2024, including the Elite, Pre-Elite, Development, and Emerging Programs. In addition to these Eventing Pathway Program updates, several opportunities will be available in 2024 for both Program and non-Program athletes.
The United States Eventing Associations’ (USEA) Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) is pleased to announce the dates and location of the upcoming 2024 ECP Symposium. The annual ECP Symposium, which is held in the southeast to accommodate the migration of eventers for the winter season, will be hosted at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, Florida, on Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, 2024. This three-day immersive educational experience is recommended for anyone who is interested in learning more about eventing coaching, including current coaches, riders, parents, owners or avid supporters. Click here to download the registration form today!