Testament to those who finished the cross country yesterday was that all 30 presented at the jog and all 30 passed and looked good too. It’s fast hard ground that jars and speed takes its toll! However, in a year like this, the 30 that finished are true 5 star warriors. As we have always said, you can go to the Le Lion d’Angers World Young Horse Championships and at the jog you want to take 80% of the beautiful 6 and 7 year olds home, the best Europe has to offer. Go to the jog at Badminton and you are like…err no, no, possibly, definitely not! 5 star is about heart and mind as much as ability and it is rare to see a top class 5 star horse having won the young horse classes on the way up. Take Tim and Jonelle’s Badminton and Burghley winners, Classic Moet (Molly) and Ringwood Sky Boy (Ozzie). No one wanted Molly as an 8/9/10 year old and no one wanted Ozzie ever! But when those guys came good they packed in the completions and placings at Burghley in particular as that is the golden ticket of a 5 star dedicated utter modern day Caesar.

Vitali is a true and proper 5 star horse but he has a fancy pants dressage thing going on as well which Molly and Ozzie didn’t. Like them though he is just going to get better with age as he works out his quirks and learns to trust Tim’s guidance and to read the arena to his advantage. I mean, how can a horse that was SO brave yesterday refuse to go anywhere near the approach to the trot up today! Umbrellas were up, there was a scary crowd, Vitali doesn’t like jogs, particularly in a race and he doesn’t do anything naughty or dangerous he just simply plants himself and makes Tim look like a rookie. Jog towards….nope. Slam on the brakes. Ok, reverse towards….ah that would be a no then. All the while with a blank look on his face of “guys… just not going to happen”. Tim and Christiana went off to speak with the ground jury, Coup de Coeur Dudevin (Joker) made an unscheduled appearance at the jog to lead Vitali in and with a posse of Kiwis closing in behind Vitali deigned to grant the crowd an appearance.

The morning session closed with just one clear jumping but none under time…Katherine Coleman did a beaut job! The afternoon session opened with a smattering of rails and a few seconds over time. Tim and Vitali picked off three early rails but finished in dynamic form and were one of only three to be in time. They slipped from 4th to 7th which shows it was a day of rails all round. Tom McEwen on magical Toledo de Kerser jumped double clear as did Tom Jackson, Austin O’Connor in second added 2 rails to drop to third but it was Ros Canter’s day in the sun (even though it was pouring rain again) as she jumped clear on her dressage leader Lordships Graffalo (Walter) to add just 1.6 time to win by some incredible 15 points from 2nd placed Ballaghmore Class and Ollie Townend. Congratulations to Ros..she led all the way.

As team NZL dispersed to Surrey, Dorset, Newmarket, Marlborough and other counties we reflected on an astonishing Badminton 2023. We had 6 completions in the top 30 out of 7 cross country starters which is a testament to the riders and to the Horse Health team of Christiana Ober, Alice Dorman and Jack Young. Sam Griffiths has walked a zillion steps around the track as head coach and Ginny Loisel has led her team of Beaney, Kate and Becca in the NZL tent with aplomb as we have bombed the opposition in our owners/sponsors/supporters tent as always. Hats off to Kerryn Edmans and Megan Hodder, PA’s to Vitali and Joker, Kudos to owners Joe and Alex Giannamore and Jean-Louis Stauffer, nanny extraordinare Alys who gets down and dirty with all the kids, and of course the stars of the show, Tim and Jonelle.

And on Wednesday & Thursday we rock up to Aston le Walls…..

And it rained and rained…..

NZL-Tim Price rides Vitali during the Prizegiving. Final-7th. 2023 GBR-Badminton Horse Trials | Presented by Mars Equestrian. Gloucestershire. Great Britain. Monday 8 May 2023. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography