lt was a win for Scotland and second for Wales in the Voltaire Design BE90 Grassroots Championship at MARS Badminton Horse Trials yesterday (Wednesday 8 May), with Ben Fairbrother galloping to victory aboard his mother Jo’s Upper Limit. The 20-year-old Stirling-based rider switched from pure showjumping to eventing four seasons ago and started riding ‘Max’ last year.

“I only rode him at events last year and my mum would school in between because I’m busy with university,” said Ben, who is studying for a masters in civil and structural engineering at Dundee University. “She took ill in November so then I took over the ride and it’s turned out quite well. Mum is a lot better but not back to full strength. Her stomach ruptured and stomach acid seeped out. She was in intensive care for about 10 days. Thankfully she’s fine now and she’s here today. Hopefully she’ll be back to riding later this year once her core muscles have got better.”

BE90 champions: Ben Fairbrother on Upper Limit

Ben travels to Dundee from his family’s Stirling home every day. “It’s quite full on as well with managing horses and it’s a lot of miles on the car,” he said. “I’ve never been down [to Badminton] before. We always watch it every year. It’s amazing to see it in person. Just being in front of the house is beautiful.”

In the image above, Ben and Max are pictured next to the BE100 champions, osteopath Lucinda Mills on Chaconda Blue.

Success for Welsh GP

“Scotland in first and Wales in second — that’s the way,” smiled Dr Katie Mathias after being pipped to the post by just 0.3 of a penalty with her own Lodor Carl.

“He’s my pride and joy. I started riding him when he was around five and he’ll be 14 this year. He’s just the most consistent pony going,” said Katie of ‘Carlos’, who is by the Welsh section D cob Penstrumbly Sax-Mad-Johnny. “He’s only got little legs but he flew today so I’m very very proud of him.”

Katie is a GP in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and works three days a week. This was her third run at Badminton with Carlos.

2nd: Katie Mathias and Lodor Carl

“We haven’t had our best luck here. The first year there was a faller in front of me [on the cross-country course] and we got held. I’ve never been held before. Last year I let him down in the showjumping, so it was nice to get the job done today,” said Katie. “It was nearly the fairytale. Carlos retires from eventing today.”

‘She’s my dream machine’

Suzanne Ross finished third on Findatie Bracken, a 12-year-old mare who switched from dressage to jumping two years ago.

“Bracken is just my dream machine. Everything I could ever want in a pony, she is it,” said the Stratford-upon-Avon rider who is Head of Operations for an architects. “She started off as my sister’s dressage horse and then both her and my sister decided that dressage wasn’t going to be her future career. For some reason I was chosen to have a go at jumping her and from the moment she jumped the first jump she’s just been so consistent.

“I didn’t know how she’d react today. She’s never done anything as technical as this [cross-country course] and she flew,” added Suzanne, for whom this was a first time competing at Badminton. “It’s always been our absolute dream to come here so to make it is pretty special.”

Suzanne’s sister is Colina Pickles, a former head girl to top-level Australian event rider Bill Levett.

3rd: Suzanne Ross on Findatie Bracken

“Colina has had a good day because Lucy who won the BE100 is also one of her pupils; Annabel [Ridgway] who was fourth is also one of her pupils. We wouldn’t be here without the dedication she puts into us,” said Suzanne. “I think I’ll have to be brave now and try a BE100.”

Annabel Ridgway piloted the Project Pony-owned Galtee Kassy Cashel Girl into third, ahead of Daniel Titterton and his own Vision B.

*More rider images to follow

View the full results for the BE90 Voltaire Design Grassroots Championship here

Main image by Sally Newcomb/Badminton Horse Trials

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