Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser

  • There was drama at the start of the Badminton Horse Trials off-road at the event presented by Mars Equestrian. One of the favorites to win, Tom McEwen, and his Olympic gold medalist Toledo De Kerser paid the price for their bravery when they fell two-thirds of the way through.

    Tom posted a personal best in dressage on Thursday morning and seemed well on course to hold his position when he tipped over on the final jump element of Lightsource bp Solar Farm, fence 24C.

    The horse had been so strong and had eaten Eric Winter’s tricky trail. But there was a sign of what was to come as he took a step towards the third element of the LeMieux jump in 18C. After navigating the intimidating Vicarage Vee complex with ease, he crashed into the solar panels too hard, took another step before impact, and couldn’t get all of his legs up in time. Both the horse and the rider were on their feet immediately.

    Tom finished fourth at what was proving to be difficult even at this early stage. Girl Scout Kirsty Chabert seemed to be having a good time on her mare Classic IV, but the cumulative effect of all the big jumps seemed to be taking its toll and she had three run-outs on the second or Nyetimber Corners (Gate 19B).

    William Fox-Pitt showed why he holds the record for most winning five-star driver by bringing Oratorio home just seven seconds ahead of time. William started the 13-year-old from Oslo in 27th place and took the lead at that early stage with a 34.2.

    “I’m feeling quite emotional, it was quite exciting,” said William, 53. “I was scared of it — at my age I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing? Do I really want to be here this Saturday morning and not in my own bed?’.

    “I’m lucky, he’s a nice, noble horse and he’s got some experience now. He has played badminton before and many horses here have not.

    “He is quite lively to ride, I like a much more peaceful horse. He’s quite headstrong, so it wasn’t very relaxing. He needs time to slow down so I felt a bit incompetent to waste time as he is a galloping machine and should be able to move within time. In my opinion he is an absolute Burghley horse and this is where I get time faults in badminton. I need to learn to pull less!

    “It’s a fair stretch ahead of you, but before that there’s quite a bit of tugging with a lot of whoas. So you need a horse that listens when turning.”

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country: Irish riders at the song

    Padraig McCarthy proved the track was rideable when he finished first on Fallulah. Their lap looked a little backwards, but they stayed between the flags.

    “She got tired, but she sure kept jumping,” he said. “She was fantastic, she’s bred in dressage so she shouldn’t even be here. She got really tired but I let her breathe and got to the fence.”

    Padraig’s Irish compatriot Joseph Murphy was another early rider to complete. His horse Cesar had an early run and seemed a bit overwhelmed by the size and intensity of the jumps. Joseph opted for the much easier long alternatives in the Vicarage Vee to allow the horse to enjoy the experience.

    “It was a big step for him, he was a good four-star horse, but in the long run we have to find out if he’s up to that level,” he said. “He struggled a bit, like a rabbit in the headlights, to make an early mistake that I blame myself for. The horse learned a lot and after that I put it in gear. He continued to answer the questions and I think he’ll be fine with five stars.

    “He has shown a great attitude and at the end of the day we want a willing partner.”

    Read our full badminton form guide in this week’s edition of horse & dog (May 5, 2022 edition). Our superb 20 page badminton report appears in our 12th May issue and keeps you up to date with all the action during badminton week via where a variety of features and reports are published.

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