Canadian Olympian Selena O’Hanlon of Kingston, ON not only earned a spot in the top 25 at the renowned CCI 4* Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, held May 2-6, 2018 in Gloucestershire, GBR, but set a new personal best dressage score in the process.
The competition marked O’Hanlon’s second appearance at Badminton, but the first for her long-time partner, Foxwood High (“Woody”), a 15-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding sired by Rio Bronco W.
O’Hanlon’s return was a dream realized not only for herself, but also for Woody’s owners, John and Judy Rumble. Badminton was the cherished training site for John Rumble prior to his appearances at the 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympics as a member of the Canadian Equestrian Team, and he dreamed of bringing a horse of his own to compete on the same grounds ever since.
In 2017, Rumble and O’Hanlon worked diligently with the rest of Woody’s all-star team to get him into fighting shape. Throughout the 2017 season, training focused heavily on improving Woody’s performance in the dressage ring, backed by six-time Canadian Dressage Olympian, Christilot Boylen.
But it takes more than great training to make the journey to Badminton, and Team Woody’s supporters on the logistics and funding side included the Rumbles, EquiJet and the Stuart R. Horne Foundation. With their help, O’Hanlon and Woody set off for England in April, spending a month at Badgerstown, the home base of New Zealand Olympic Champion Mark Todd, located in the historic Marlborough Downs area of England. Here, O’Hanlon and Woody had the opportunity to get acclimatized and make final preparations for Badminton.
“I was a little nervous [prior to dressage], as he’d been pretty excitable with the weather and atmosphere,” said O’Hanlon of the week leading up to the Badminton Horse Trials. “Thanks to his training program, he started to settle. When I got him in the dressage ring he got a little lift but was easy to push in the walk and halt, so I knew he was very rideable.”
All of their hard work with Boylen paid off for O’Hanlon and Woody, who scored a personal best of 26.4 penalty points for 17th place in the opening dressage phase on May 3.
“I don’t worry about placings too much because I really wanted to beat my own goal and get in the 20s,” explained O’Hanlon. “That’s a personal best for Woody, and to do that here is great. I actually was lucky enough to do it in Badminton previously with Colombo in 2011, so maybe there’s a little luck in that ring for me.”
The next day, O’Hanlon guided Woody through a clear jumping performance on cross-country to hold their 17th-place position with 16.4 time penalties.
“Woody was superb – full of excitement and energy warming up,” said O’Hanlon of the big bay’s cross-country performance. “He’s been working hard on being adjustable on undulating ground, which he never gets to practice. I noticed in the beginning, he was really intimidated by the crowds, but he didn’t let that get to him. And I started cheering for him at the end of the course, too, so I think he was happy!”
O’Hanlon incurred 20 jumping penalties in the final show jumping round and one time penalty to end on a final score of 63.8 for 24th place.
“I was happy with the time,” said O’Hanlon of the show jumping round. “I’m disappointed to drop out of the top 20, but I did better than last time I came. We’ll keep working on [show jumping] with the help of the Millar family, and we’ll be stronger next time.”
O’Hanlon concluded, “Woody’s just a lovely, jolly green giant. He’s a very loving creature and it’s all heart that gets him here. Badminton is a great experience that has taught me so much, so while I’ve got the horse, I’d like to come back next year.”
For more information and full results from the 2018 CCI 4* Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, visit www.badminton-horse.co.uk.