I’m On A High
Masta sponsored event rider Tom McEwen looks back on a brilliant Badminton result, and explains how small changes can help give a competitive edge.
Having just completed Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Chatsworth on back to back weekends, it’s safe to say I’m on a high!
My Badminton horse, Toledo de Kerser, had completed one four-star event before Badminton — I was pleased he got round Pau four-star in France last autumn with a double clear, although a few more time penalties cross country than I’d like. We changed his bitting after Pau because he’s strong, which ends up costing you time, and I thought a really big track like Badminton would back him off. But he was still running through it a bit. People say that careful horses aren’t made for proper four-star tracks but he’s starting to prove them wrong — he is careful but brave and scopey enough to tackle really tough tracks too.
To go so brilliantly there aged just 10, and finish 11th with a double clear is testament to my whole team, and to Toledo’s courage and ability. Our clear in the show jumping elevated us from 16th to 11th, so we won a coveted Silver Horse for finishing in the top 12, and the Cotswold Life trophy for the best placed local rider too which is a nice touch.
Hopefully he’s done no harm to his chances of being selected to represent Britain at the European Championships this August in Strezgom in Poland.
Like many talented horses, Toledo has his quirks, and he hardly jumps at home because he doesn’t like repetitious jumping and just bolts straight back out of the school again.
Excitable on the lorry
Toledo is always calm at events though and has learnt that these are his “safe place”. But when he’s on the lorry setting off, especially early in the season, he can get excited and hot simply through nervous anticipation — just like some horses start trembling when you load the on the lorry to go hunting because they can’t wait to get there.
We’ve been putting him in the new Protechmasta rug to travel because its infrared capability helps temperature regulation, and it’s seriously helped. We’ve tried loads of different rugs and you can really tell with him; he’s been pretty perfect in it, so now we use the Protechmasta for travelling on other horses too and it goes on all the horses after they’ve been on the walker.
If we don’t go to Poland I will think about Burghley for Toledo (who incidentally is owned by me, my Mum and Dad and Jane Murfett) and I’ll have to decide which other events to take him to in preparation for that.
Success follows success
Straight after Badminton came Chatsworth, another amazing weekend where I had two FEI wins which is brilliant, courtesy of The Magician (Mars) and Fred and Penny Barker’s Strike Smartly. When you consider I was also runner up to myself on Mars in the CIC one star on CHF Cooliser you can see why it’s been a pretty brilliant month so far!
At this time of year I’m eventing every weekend and quite a few week days too. In between I do try to hook up periodically with trainers. I train with Nick Burton, and dressage rider Amy Woodhead comes and helps ride on the flat. I also go for show jumping lessons with former Hickstead Derby winner Tina Fletcher who’s fantastic.
Show jumping tracks in eventing are a lot more technical these days. You have to make decision on lines, strides and distances and turn a bit tighter so it’s important for eventers to work hard on this phase. I love both jumping phases — as a boy, it’s why I got into it!
I’m lucky to be competing quite a lot of nice young horses this season, and the next big focus is taking two good horses — Joyride and Strike Smartly — for Bramham. Wish me luck!