How Does It Feel To Own A Horse That Could Go All the Way?
Since the nail biting conclusion to last week’s Badminton, when Kiwi newcomer, Jock Paget became this year’s surprise winner, we’ve been looking forward to a debrief with our old chum Cameron Crawford.
If you read our posts, Borders Talent at The Badminton Horse Trials and Badminton Trot Up – Timing, Flash and Bling, you’ll know that Cameron owns Onwards and Upwards, ridden by Caroline Powell. Cameron’s last, and only other trip to Badminton was as child to watch Ian Stark compete there at his first Badminton. Returning as an owner was a dream come true.
He’d confided before he left for the 2013 competition that the goal was for Caroline and Onwards & Upwards to finish in the top 25. After one of only 6 double clears within time they were placed 21st. So how does Cameron feel now and what does the future look like for horse and rider?
“The whole thing is surreal,” admitted Cameron, “Has been from the moment we arrived in the lorry park and I jumped down from the cab to be greeted by Sir Mark Todd.’
‘Badminton is unique compared to the other events – in a league of its own. The heritage is all around. The stable block is an incredible historical building and the competitors’ canteen is in the house itself. It’s the competition to win.”
The Eventing world’s Wimbledon?
“Yes,” Cameron agrees, “The riders are quieter than they are at other events. They set the tone. There’s a huge amount of pressure on them. Badminton is the oldest of the competitions. It has the reputation. It attracts the crowds. There were over 150,000 spectators for the X-country alone and record visitor numbers for the event over all. Having been there as a boy and returning as an owner, stepping under the rope and walking the x-country course was unbelievable. Something I’d dreamed of but never imagined would actually happen.”
Cameron is elated with Onwards and Upwards’ performance at Badminton. His double clear in both the x-country and show jumping marks him out as horse of huge potential. Cameron says he and Caroline always knew the dressage would be hard. He described a dressage element called a Flying Change and admitted that this was a weakness they knew they would lose points on.
“We expected to drop 3, or 4 marks on each Flying Change. There are 4 Flying Changes at Badminton, more than in any other dressage event, so we were always going to drop about 16 points.”
The summer is now all about working on the dressage and getting Onwards and Upwards ready for the big events of the Autumn. Caroline’s concentrated training has improved Flash’s Flat and Trot work and the focus is now to affect the same transformation in the other dressage elements.
It is according to Cameron, entirely doable. It’s all about hard work, training and remaining injury free. Injury is the biggest worry for horses and riders. Every mention of Onwards and Upwards’ future potential is prefaced with a proviso that his horse remains injury free. For every horse tipped as a future champion there are many who’ve gone unsound and never made it.
Within a day of concluding at Badminton, Caroline Powell made the move to a new yard at Marlborough, Bury St Edmonds. Here Caroline hopes to settle for the summer and work towards the big events later in the season.
She hasn’t yet decided if the next outing for Onwards and Upwards will be Burghley, or Blenheim followed by Pau, in France. There may even be a trip to Germany in July, to compete at Achen – the jewel in the German Eventing calendar. And it looks almost certain that Caroline will ride Onwards and Upwards at the British Championships in August.
Caroline’s future success on Onwards and Upwards is contingent on improving dressage performance. Cameron explains how training has transformed the horse’s Trot work:
“In the past he was getting 5s, and 6s, consistent work has elevated this to 7s and 8s. If we can do the same for his Flying Changes and the other elements then he’s going to be a horse to beat.”
It is Cameron concedes, all about chipping away. According to him, if anyone can take his horse to the very top of Eventing then Caroline Powell can do it, she has that unquantifiable extra something that sits just aloft the hard work, tenacity and self-belief that is takes to be a top level athlete.
This year Lenamore retired, the horse she won Burghley on in 2010 and her Bronze Medal at London 2012. She’s looking for a horse to take her on to the next stage of her career, perhaps even to Rio. She and Cameron both know this horse could be Onwards and Upwards, but, and it’s a very big but, there’s a lot of drama to play out between then and now.
In the meantime Cameron Crawford is working very hard to keep his feet on the ground.