It’s the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials this week and we’re looking forward to seeing how our favourite equestrians Caroline Powell and Emily Galbraith get on.
Once again, Olympic bronze medalist, Caroline Powell will be riding Onwards and Upwards, owned by prominent local Cameron “Choppy” Crawford. And Emily Galbraith will be riding her own horse Timing.
Amidst the preparations and last minute training session Choppy and Emily both found a moment to share their pre-Badminton thoughts with us.
Caroline Powell Rides Cameron Crawford’s Horse Onwards and Upwards, at Badminton for the 2nd Time
Looking back to this time last year Choppy was anticipating his first ever Badminton as an owner and spectator. It was the culmination of a childhood dream and he was, in his own words, ‘like a kid at Christmas.’ This year the build up has felt a little different.
For a start there’s been a question mark over whether Onwards and Upwards would be fit to compete. He’s been, as Choppy describes it, ‘not right on his feet’ not carrying an obvious injury but clearly not on top form. However a visit to the blacksmith to re-shape his hooves appears to have resolved his troubles and so, it’s game on.
But even with uncertainty resolved Choppy says that second time around, although the excitement is strong he’s definitely more nervous:
“Last year we were taking a young horse to Badminton for the first time, we had nothing to prove and everything to win, we set our sights on making it into the top 20 and we were placed 21st. So we were delighted, not a bad result and we would have easily made top 10 if it weren’t for a dodgy flying change element in the dressage.’
‘This year we have an experienced horse, we know he has what it takes in the cross country and the show jumping and we’ve established that dressage is his weakness. So we’ve worked on that. Caroline has a new coach, and together they’ve trained solidly on his flying changes and dressage work. Second time around the expectation is that he should perform, he should be up there with the elite – this year we have something to prove.’
There’s also the added pressure of the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in August. The NZ selectors will be watching closely. Even though Caroline secured a team bronze for her country at London 2012, her place on the world games team is by no means guaranteed. Competition for a place on the NZ team is fierce and a lot of new young riders are pushing up through the ranks vying for a chance.
“A good performance at Badminton will secure a spot, if there’s a blip Caroline might still be considered but if they fluff it then that chance is blown.”
Of course, Caroline won’t be the only one hoping to impress selectors. Riders from all over the world are flocking to Badminton this year in the hope of attracting the attention of their national teams. Top flyte riders from the US, Canada and France will all be there adding to the pressure and heightening the level of competition.
The field is strong and intimidating. The cross-country course is intimidating too, beefed up since last year. There’s an extra water jump and the course makes use of the lake twice giving spectators a lot to see and riders more to worry about. The ground is likely to be softer than last year’s firm ground making it trickier to finish inside the time. But Choppy is undeterred.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. At the moment we have a horse that’s entered, until he’s through the Trot Up we’re not even sure of competing. It’s the same for everyone. After that it’s about completion and setting our sights on that top 20.”
Talented Young Rider Emily Galbraith Qualifies for Badminton Again.
Last time we spoke with Emily she had just returned from Les Etoiles des Pau where she’d ridden clear in the cross country but suffered an unfortunate set back in the dressage when her horse, Timing, was spooked by the sight of himself on the large screens.
Still, her outstanding cross country and strong performance in the show jumping assured her 24th place and she was thrilled with the result, describing Pau as her ‘best week ever’. She went home confident of her ability and resolved to look ahead to the 2014 Season.
True to her word Emily and Timing have worked hard through the winter months with renowned dressage trainer John Hill and emerged with a clear plan for the Eventing year ahead.
John Hill is an experienced Eventer who has competed to 4 star level, he is also a Dressage judge and Emily says that working with him has made all the difference:
“I’m so lucky to have John, he gives me incredible confidence. He’s helped immensely with flatwork and jumping. He also understands my horse, Timing is a quirky horse, you can’t over pressurise him and John knows just how hard to push both of us.”
John will travel with Emily to Badminton, he will lead Timing in the all-important Trot Up on Wednesday, sporting an outfit provided by A Hume – our small way of offering support to Emily.
Emily says, “John is much taller than I am and shows Timing off much better than I do, there’s an art to Trotting a horse and John is very good at keeping Timing’s head up.”
Her trainer John Hill says: “We’ve had a good Winter’s work. The horse has been going tremendously. If the horse goes the way he can go and Emily’s got loads of experience now, although she’s only 26, she’s got an awful lot of experience, if the horse can do what he does best we’ll not be far away.”
We wish Caroline, Emily, John and Choppy the very best of luck.
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