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Bishopstone's Greta Mason looks forward to this weekend's Badminton

Greta Mason      -  pic Nico MorganGreta Mason - pic Nico Morgan

 

When Greta Mason drives through the famous Badminton gates for her debut appearance this week it will be a culmination of a three-year plan.

Greta and her 16.1hh gelding Cooley for Sure (Murphy) moved to base themselves with former Badminton winner Rodney Powell at his Bishopstone yard in 2020, with a view to qualifying for the Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian. The plan has obviously worked as Greta credits Rodney and fellow trainer Alex Franklin in helping her achieve this goal.

“I am massively looking forward to it but obviously feeling some nerves. I have been dreaming of this all my life.

“I haven’t really looked at the videos of the course as I don’t think you can really tell what it’s like. I am better off waiting until I can walk it, really see the lines, hills, my approach,” explains Greta (who hadn’t arrived at Badminton at time of writing).

This year’s course has been described as having an old-fashioned feel, fair and not full of traps. Greta believes her horse suits big and bold, or twisty and technical courses, as demonstrated by her win at Bramham last year and then an excellent 14th at her first 5* at Pau in the autumn.

“Bramham is similar to Badminton in that it is big and bold, parkland course whereas Pau was twisty and technical. Murphy is a bit smaller, he is good on his feet, straight in his lines but I do quite like the big galloping courses. I wouldn’t say either is better for him though.”

2022 has been Greta’s most successful to date, with an advanced intermediate win at Cirencester, an advanced fourth place at Chatsworth, the runner-up spot at Bramham 4*L which earnt her the British National Champion title and of course the Pau result.

Greta and Rod have set targets for each of the phases. “I came away from Pau believing we can do well: I want to be a competitive as possible,” she says.

Trainer Rod is equally positive and he says that is the only way to be when tackling a course like Badminton. The jumping and completing within the time is an area where Greta feels Rod has had the biggest impact on her competitiveness.

“You have got to make it happen. Riding Badminton is not a test, you cannot be negative. The horse has its limitations but it has got the heart which is most important. I will be looking for a double clear!” says Rod.

As for who might win the much-coveted Badminton crown, Rod tips another former pupil, Tom McEwen, on Toledo De Kerser, who is on a high following a second place at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event with JL Dublin last week. Tom won team gold in the European Young Rider eventing team in 2010 on Rod’s Major Sweep.

There will be plenty of others battling it out, not least former Marlborough resident Tim Price who has yet to win a Badminton title.

US rider Katherine Coleman is based in Manton for the season and this will be her second Badminton with her horse Longwood, having made her debut back in 2017.

Course designer Eric Winter says there have been many changes from last year’s course, not only the direction so it runs clockwise but also the flavour of the course.

“This year’s course is all about holding a line and adjustability. A lot more jumping on acute angles and quick-thinking adjustments to distances and stride length are going to be needed this year if the riders are going to take on the track and be successful. We also have a new feature rail and step into a hollow which will provide a bit more proper cross-country terrain. This year’s course is a very different to last year’s package,” explains Eric.

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