Friday 5th of March 2021

BADMINTON: Springing to your first 5* – An Owner’s Perspective

As horse boxes around the country are loaded with their precious cargo and the elite horses begin their journey to Gloucestershire, the dream of reaching the pinnacle of the sport by competing at the CCI5*-L Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials becomes a reality. The bubble wrap and cotton wool that have been in place these past few weeks will be removed as the finest equestrian athletes get settled into the stunning stable yard at Badminton House, which will be their temporary home for the next 5 days.

We often talk about the journey in this sport – the blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, resilience and patience that culminates in the hopes and dreams of reaching the big league – but what does that actually feel like to make it? We all dream, I still do, from being a little girl and wishing for a pony, to the magic of the first rosette, but actually getting to Badminton? Well that is reserved for a privileged few – and by privilege we mean it in its truest sense, the opportunity to do something truly special.

We caught up with Andrea Brereton, co-owner of Springpower, Finn to his friends, who is making his 5* debut this week with Izzy Taylor. Andrea, a management consultant, based near Izzy’s yard in Oxfordshire, and her husband Jeremy, General Manager of Mars Horsecare (Spillers®️ & Winergy®️) co-own the striking 10yr old Irish Sports Horse gelding with Linda Mars. Andrea is a bloodline pro, where you and I may like a boxset or two, Andrea can often be found devouring pedigrees and passports and is a huge fan of the Traditional Irish Horse (TIH) believing it to be the ideal type for eventing.

How did you find Finn?

After two unsuccessful shopping trips to Ireland, I went to Dublin Horse Show to see a horse but when I got there, sadly it was lame. My sister, Allison, knew exactly the type I was looking for and got talking with leading show horse producer P J Casey and asked him if he knew of anything that might suit. He knew instantly that back at Kieran Ryan’s yard near Dublin, they had exactly what we wanted and, true to form, when we went to Kieran’s yard, there was Finn. I knew very quickly that he was just what we were looking for. On paper he had enough thoroughbred in his breeding to make a proper event horse, which for me, is at least 75%, but crucially, for a 4yr old, he had a fabulous canter, knew exactly where his feet were, was straight to a fence and had a brilliant brain. Just my type!

This was taken on the day we went to try him. It is interesting to see how he has developed. Photo credit: Andrea Brereton

Tell us about his early days with you.

We brought him over from Ireland and for the first year or so I just played with him, which I love doing with the youngsters. We did a lot of hacking, jumped little logs and ditches when out on hacks, some grid work, and generally had a lot of fun together. I also took him to do the BYEH qualifier at Chatsworth, just for fun as I knew he wasn’t as prepped as many of the other horses in that class. I really don’t believe in rushing young horses, preferring to start their competitive career towards the end of their 5yr old year at the earliest. Finn actually only started his eventing career in June of his 6yr old year and he took to it instantly. He progressed smoothly from BE100 up to Novice and finished his season with a double clear in the 6yr old championships at Osberton.

When did you realise his potential?

We knew that he was useful from early on, but when he won his first Advanced class at Wellington and then came 7th at Blenheim in the CIC3* (now CCI4*-S) where he was the leading 8yr old, we did begin to wonder just how far he could go. It was at this time that Linda Mars joined us in the ownership of Finn and her involvement is hugely appreciated. We are thrilled that Linda is able to enjoy the experience of Badminton with us and we feel so lucky to have found such a knowledgeable and supportive co-owner.

Photo credit: Alex Colquhoun

In 2018, he improved on his previous placing at Blenheim in the 8/9yr old class by coming 2nd and then did the CCI4*-L at Boekelo where he was 8th. The Blenheim class is recognised as a predictor of young horses that might just develop into top horses, and it was around then that we allowed ourselves to believe that he might be a little bit special. He absolutely loves his job and that is one of the joys of owing Finn – if you look at his face as he is going cross-country you can tell how much he enjoys it.


So, Badminton and both his and your first 5*? How does that feel?!

To be honest it was a bit terrifying when we first got accepted, but once we got over the initial OMG, we knew that this is what he was bought for, and has been trained for, and that we must try and enjoy it! Opportunities like this don’t happen very often. We are so lucky to have a top jockey on board – there aren’t many riders as stylish, effective, and with such a natural feel across the country as Izzy. She was born in the hunting field, and this has given her a fantastic ability to understand the impact of the terrain on how a fence will appear to a horse, and to feel how a horse is travelling under her and support them as required. It is so reassuring as an owner to know that you have such a capable rider on board. Additionally, Izzy’s great-aunt, Anneli Drummond-Hay, won the event in 1962 so it’s in her genes!

Having been to Badminton many times before, Izzy’s experience is invaluable in knowing what it takes to prepare for the event, and we know she will be able to help Finn get the most out of his first 5*, especially given the intensity of it all.

How will Finn deal with the next few days?

He’s a really bright horse and one that likes to learn new things. He has a super intelligent brain, probably due to him having a dash of pony in him, which also makes him quick on his feet. He’s always on your side and wants to deliver.  It’s a big step up from 4* to 5* especially in the cross-country phase where the intensity of the fences means there is no let up. And it’s not just the intensity of the course he has to deal with – there are bigger crowds, and much more atmosphere than he would normally experience at an event, but that’s why this is all so special. He went to Boekelo last autumn, which was good preparation for him as the course there is very tightly strung, meaning that the crowds are really close to the fences. It is so easy for a young horse to get distracted by this, but he coped really well and so we’re hopeful that he will do the same at Badminton. He is a horse who always performs better when he’s got a large audience, and Badminton will certainly give him that! So, we’re keeping everything crossed that he will enjoy it. 

So how are you feeling this close to the event?

We have given ourselves a stern talking to! There is no point feeling ill with nerves. It is the biggest event in the world and a huge privilege to be a part of it. We will of course be nervous, but our horse and rider are both talented, so we just need to get a grip plus we have one of the best head girls in the business, Becca Ross, looking after him. It is very reassuring to know what an experienced team are all routing for him.  As long as they both come home safe and sound, anything else is a bonus. We hope to be distracted by cheering on Izzy’s other ride, the very talented mare, Call Me Maggie May, owned by Sara and Tom Strong. Our great friends Vanessa & Sallie Ryle (owners of Mulry’s Error) have given us lots of great tips and advice on how to survive Badminton as owners and, needless to say, prosecco will be involved!

We would like to wish all competitors, horses, owners and support teams a wonderful 5 days and if you are interested in becoming an event horse owner, visit the EHOA both at Badminton and online.

Sarah Heseltine

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