Laura Collett realized a childhood dream as she won Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian, after a superb performance on Karen Bartlett and Keith Scott’s London 52. Laura’s finishing score of 21.4 — she added a mere 0.4 of a show jumping time penalty to her dressage mark — is a record completion score for Badminton.
Runner-up Ros Canter, the only rider to finish on her dressage score, showed she has another world champion in the making with the 10-year-old Lordships Graffalo, while Oliver Townend cemented his world number one position with third and fifth places on Swallow Springs and Ballaghmor Class respectively, each of his greys hitting a fence apiece.
There were just two Canadian entries at this year’s event: Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes had a stop at #6 and retired on course at the troublesome #17 Mars Equestrian Sustainability Bay water complex. A post on the Karl Slezak Eventing Facebook page read in part, “Unfortunately it was not our day. Both Karl and Choc came home safe and sound. The course showed that it was not for the weak of heart! We will be sleeping on it and hopefully coming up with a plan for the near future.”
Mike Winter and El Mundo made it around the imposing course with just 20 penalties at #17 and 37.2 time penalties; they added a single rail and a handful of time penalties in stadium to finish in 51st place.
This was Mike’s first Badminton experience; he rode the 13-year-old KWPN gelding owned by himself and his wife Emma along with Jonathan Nelson. “There’s really nothing like it,” he said of the infamous course. “It’s so big and unrelenting. It tests the horse’s scope and bravery and rideability. I had the time of my life riding around there. It’s very exciting and he’s a very special horse. I think even though it didn’t go completely as well as I had hoped, it’s a good building block. It’ll give me a lot of confidence going forward in what this horse is capable of.”
The family’s farm, Wayfarer Eventing UK, is located just 45 minutes up the road from the Badminton site. Weekends are extremely busy as Mike’s wife and daughters also ride. “This particular horse will have a little holiday, and then see where selection puts us for the World Championships [in Pratoni] and make a decision about the second half of the year.”
Mike is a rider representative for input into the latest restructuring of Canadian eventing. “It’s exciting that we are entering a new era of unprecedented support for reaching top-level goals for riders. I want to thank the new Equestrian Canada high performance structure for all the support and encouragement in achieving this lifetime goal.”
This 2022 Badminton finish was the first British one-two-three since Pippa Funnell led William Fox-Pitt and Leslie Law 20 years ago in 2002, and Laura Collett revealed that Pippa’s win on Supreme Rock had been her childhood inspiration. “I was going round the cross-country on my aunt’s shoulders and I wanted to be Pippa Funnell winning Badminton,” she said.
When Laura entered the arena, she had the luxury of a fence in hand over Ros, but the pressure was huge. ‘That horse is amazing,” she said of her Tokyo Olympic gold medallist. “He jumped his socks off. I couldn’t see a distance anywhere but he just got higher and higher.’
Ros was full of praise for her new superstar who was contesting his first five-star. “‘Walter’s’ eyes were on stalks when we arrived but he enjoyed every part of it – especially the prize giving. He will have learnt so much in the last few days.”
Piggy March and the gallant 17-year-old mare Vanir Kamira, the 2019 Badminton winners who set the early standard on the cross-country, finished an honourable fourth with just one pole down. ‘I think that’s the best ‘Tilly’ has ever jumped. She left her heart out on the cross country course yesterday so I was a bit worried today, but shouldn’t have been.”
There were 50 clear rounds from the 80 cross-country starters, many of them first-timers, but the day got off to a dramatic start which shook up the leaderboard. Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, the dressage runners-up, were going brilliantly when they tipped over the second element of the bounce at fence 24. Nicola Wilson was taken to hospital in Bristol for precautionary scans after a fall with JL Dublin at fence 27. Pippa Funnell (Billy Walk On) and Mollie Summerland, fourth after dressage on Charly Van Der Heiden, retired after stops at fence 17.
After a gap of three years, support for the event was huge; 180,000 visitors attended over the four days, and the many trade stands did a roaring trade, delighted to be back.
“It was everything I could have wished for,” said Event Director Jane Tuckwell. “Lots of happy people, fantastic result, wonderful sponsors in our presenting partner Mars Equestrian and our official partner Lifesource BP, it’s a dream come true. Bring on 2023.”
~ with files from Badminton Horse Trials Media