I thought that would be my one and only chance to ride round Badminton
First-timer Ben Way made his own little bit of Badminton history this week as the first rider to have taken part in the Badminton Grassroots Championships to go on to compete for the Mitsubishi Motors trophy. He goes home with the Laurence Rook trophy, awarded to the highest placed British rider who has not previously completed Badminton.
Ben finished eighth in the BE90 Championship in 2011 with his family’s homebred gelding, Juke Box. “I thought that would be my one and only chance to ride round Badminton,” laughed the 26-year-old after his dressage test on Galley Light, an ex-racehorse that used to be trained in Ireland by Charlie Swann and was formerly ridden by his owner, Elizabeth Collins’, niece.
Ben is a chartered surveyor and land agent. He works full-time in Cirencester, but keeps his horses at his family’s yard near Rugby in Warwickshire, which he shares with his girlfriend, fellow eventer Sarah Parkes.
“It’s a one-and-a-half hour commute to work, so riding has to be fitted in very early and very late,” said Ben, who began his career in the North Warwickshire Pony Club, gaining his Pony Club A test in 2009.
Of his dressage test, which scored 58.4, Ben commented: “The occasion got to both of us a bit – most of these guys [the other riders] have been in that arena hundreds of times so they’re used to it. The flying changes let us down, but I was pleased with his trot work. He’s not got the biggest ground cover, but he grew in the arena and the atmosphere helped lift him.
“It’s absolutely amazing to be here. I was thrilled with Galley Light across country, we went two long routes but didn’t pick up many time faults, and he finished absolutely full of running. We had two down show jumping, one my fault, one perhaps his, but he was otherwise really great in there. I am thrilled with my first experience of the 4* here; he is so careful showjumping that he has gone up the ranks quickly, so we are still both learning as we go. I would hope that we can get a little more polished and established and head to Burghley later in the year.
“Badminton is special; it’s always been ‘the one’. I race rode for five seasons during which time the dream was always Aintree and Badminton. Now I am completely focussed on eventing my dreams revolve around Badminton.”
Ben heads back to work tomorrow, but the new dream is that girlfriend Sarah will be competing alongside him at next year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials: “It’s funny to think that we could be the next Tim and Jonelle!” he quipped.
Ben & Galley Light finished in 32nd place.