Lydia Hannon and the aptly-named, My Royal Touch danced their way to a neat 45.1 dressage score, but it was on Saturday that the young combination really made their mark. The 16.1hh mare, proudly owned by Mr and Mrs C. Harris was only the 23rd horse to tackle Eric Winter’s tough track, meaning Lydia did not have much time to spectate prior to her round.
“I’m very glad I went in the morning, so I didn’t see the trouble it was causing in the afternoon, because I think it would have affected the way I would have planned to ride it. The main emotion when I crossed the finishing line was just relief, because I knew that she could do it and I thankfully didn’t let her down going around. Leaving the start box, I just thought ‘Right, lets stick to plan A, take a deep breath, enjoy it and don’t get flustered by the crowd. I knew I had to focus on each fence and tick each one off as we went.”
The cross-country test saw the vastly experienced, Paul Tapner, Nicola Wilson, Bettina Hoy and Izzy Taylor all encounter uncharacteristic issues. I’d like to say that Lydia and ‘Missy’ quietly went about their business, to incur only 29.2 time penalties – relatively few in the context of the day’s proceedings, but they didn’t, as such.
“I was very vocal out on course and it’s so embarrassing, because that is not normally me. I’m usually really quiet and never say much to my horses that loud, but so many people had said to me that Badminton is such a special place and I just need to enjoy the experience and take it all in. When Missy flew over the KBIS bridge, in particular, I was just so thrilled. I shouted ‘WAHOOOOO.’ With all the excitement going around, I hadn’t even realised. It was only afterwards, watching it back and speaking with people that I realised how much encouragement I’d been giving her. I enjoyed it so much.”
Though a top-twenty finish is a fine achievement for any rider, let-alone on their Badminton debut, those who keep a keen-eye on results will not see this placing as an anomaly. The young combination display an exceptional record in their British Eventing career – since they emerged on the BE scene, they have had 54 competitive runs, in which they have only finished proceedings outside of the top 20 on eleven occasions.
After five and a half successful seasons together, Lydia and the Harris’ decided to take the plunge and enter My Royal Touch to her first 4*. The duo headed to Luhmuhlen, where Lydia would also be making her first appearance at the pinnacle of the sport. They finished a very respectable 24th place on German soil, which gave the team a solid platform to build upon, with Badminton in mind.
“It’s always been my aim to get up to 4*, just quietly working my way through the rankings, but you never know if you have a true 4* horse until you jump around and I can definitely say, she is simply amazing.”
“‘It’s every child’s dream to compete at Badminton. I was brought up watching the event annually and it was always amazing to get down there and watch all of your idols compete, especially around the cross-country course, so to actually have got My Royal Touch at this level and to have done it ourselves is just so surreal.”
Over the past few seasons, everything Missy has touched, has turned to gold. In the 2016 season, the combination finished 9th at the CIC 3* at Chatsworth, 5th in the OI at Burgham International and 3rd in a very strong field at the CCI 3* class at Blenheim. Lydia suggests, however, that none of the above compare to the performance Missy chipped in when the pair sailed to success in Gloucestershire last week.
“Missy gave me one feeling around Blenheim last year – She felt amazing and made it feel and look great, but jumping around Badminton, she just upped her game and was next level. She didn’t touch a fence at all. She was an absolute star; I owe that mare an awful lot and I’m so fortunate that the Harris’ brought me this horse seven years ago. As long as I don’t let her down, she will do the job. I owe it to Missy to ride her well, she’s incredible!”
After catching attention at Badminton, it seems only logical that the Hannon team and all connections already have half-an-eye on Burghley in September, where the pair will hope to make it a hat-trick of 4* completions.
“She is happy, her legs feel amazing and she is looking really well. She will have a period of time-off and then we will aim towards Burghley. After how she handled Badminton, that only seems the next logical step. I know the track at Burghley is more undulating, but we have a lot of hills at home, so we can get her in great physical condition. We hardly had to take her to the gallops prior to Badminton, as we have access to such amazing facilities at our base. We will obviously need a good build up, like we had to Badminton for it to happen, but we know she is capable.”
by Molly Shepherd-Boden