Judging by the title this post is going to be a bit of a wild ride, I do apologize for that. Each of these things should be addressed and therefore I will do my best not to make this post extremely long. Also, before I start let me get it out of the way that I did not actually watch any of Badminton. This is because I was asleep. So this entire post is based off of what I’ve read over this weekend and/or what I already know to be true about these horses & riders!
FIRST: Congratulations to Jonelle Price & Classic Moet! This makes Price the first woman winner at Badminton in eleven years and my only regret for her is that her win is being overshadowed by Oliver Townend’s over-use of the whip this weekend. However I’m also going to move on to my SECOND topic point and talk about that over-use for
a minute literally the entire post. (Sorry Price, I’m honestly very happy for you and thrilled for the women in the sport!)
So to get started on that I’m going to drop a link to his LRK3DE cross-country ride the previous weekend here, and then I’d like to move on to the point of issue. Did he overuse his whip at Badminton? I cannot say that I saw it personally because I can’t find any videos of his rides, anywhere, but judging off the fact that he got an official warning I’m going to go ahead and say yes, Oliver Townend used his whip too much (and on both horses at that)! So why am I not out for blood where Townend is concerned? Especially considering my stance on Marilyn Little despite, the fact she “broke no rules” at LRK3DE? Because Townend hasn’t made overuse of the whip a freaking habit. I don’t understand how & why people think that I should be just as morally outraged at a rider making a one time mistake as I am over someone running cross-country SIX times where their horse has had a bloody mouth! I’m not going to slam him for this, and quite frankly I don’t think I “slammed” Little either. I am of course upset that it happened, but I am definitely not going after him like a shark who smells blood, because I don’t.
I do not agree with the overuse of the whip, especially not in this case (and again, I’m assuming it was as awful as all the commenters are making it sound). I do know that many riders resort to the whip when horses are tiring or when they’re going up to a particularly daunting fence. These are massive fences, on a long track, and horses get tired no matter how well you’ve prepared them. I highly doubt that he was the only rider using his whip, although he may have been the only using to excess. This is the only incident I could find when Google searching “Oliver Townend warning for whip,” three pages of results and his last serious infraction was from 2008 where he apparently threatened and abused another rider? So ten years later it the first (official at least) issue of this matter on-course but everyone wants blood? Nah.
I 100% agree with an official warning, I do not agree with the “off with his head”mentality as this is not behavior that I expected from him (link & if you want to read more comments his official Facebooks is here). People were literally betting on if Marilyn Little would finish cross-country with a bloody mouth, no one was betting on Oliver Townend beating his horses around the course. Do you see a difference? This is not a trend for Townend. He said that his horses were having trouble focusing and (judging from his interview) the ground wasn’t the best. I’ve seen quite a few comments saying people felt like his hoses looked exhausted on course and they didn’t feel he should have been “whipping and spurring” them around the course just for a win. That feeling is fair. Trying to crucify him for his rides is not. I doubt anyone reading my blog is a 4* rider, and therefore passing judgement on if he needed his whip or not is inappropriate. (Also, yes I understand the interview he gave didn’t help the matter of public opinion… sorry if you don’t like his attitude but running that course and then immediately being interviewed probably isn’t very fun.)
I do hope that this was the rare occurrence that it appears to be and that this isn’t something we will see again from him. Eventing doesn’t need any more bad press from the riders. BUT for every equestrian fan trying to nail him down on being an awful rider/person, any rider who has never had a regrettable moment in the saddle is LYING. I’m not even going to be sorry about making a blanket statement like that. We all make mistakes, we all learn from them (sometimes after making those mistakes multiple times). Stop coming for blood, unless there is literal blood on the horse. He was given an official warning while Marilyn Little has had six instances of blood at MAJOR events. If you’re going to be outraged, be outraged at repeat offenders who have gotten away with zero official repercussions and make the same statement every time. Townend has not even suggested that he didn’t deserve his warning, he’s just taking it all in stride.
- Here is another great article on Jonelle Price‘s win & a bit said about Townend.
Update: I DID find a clip of Townend on course, and using his whip to excess. In the clip you can see the horse galloping up to a fence, Oliver gives him a few smacks (my assumption is that because this is a large airy fence some encouragement was needed- perhaps they’ve had issues with these types of fences in the past) and then while galloping away he gives a couple very un-precedented smacks. This doesn’t change my opinion as my opinion is still that Townend is in the wrong but that this is not typical of him from my experience.
EDIT: I’m will disclose that there are plenty of people saying that this has happened multiple times however because I cannot find any reports from reliable sources detailing these I cannot, and will not, include them. The reports I have been sent are all 6+ years old, on forums not news/update sources. And yes this is still an issue & it’s still wrong.
THIRD up on my topic line-up is the great Nereo.
This weekend we saw the retirement of one of Eventings best. Andrew Nicholson is an amazing rider but even amazing riders need those great horses to carry them through the flags when they go out. An amazing rider on an ordinary horse is likely going to have an average round. Nereo was certainly not ordinary. This legendary horse is eighteen and had a lengthy career. Of which his top honors include
- Bramham CCI3* (2009)
- Aachen CIC3* (2010)
- Burghley CCI4* (2011)
- Pau CCI4* (2012)
- Burghley CCI4* (2013)
- Barbury CIC3* (2016)
- Burghley CCI4* (2016)
- Badminton CCI4* (2017)
- 2012 London Olympics: Team Bronze
This horse has earned his retirement several times over and while it’s always heartbreaking to say goodbye to a horse of his caliber, I know that he will enjoy his retirement and his owner & Nicholson can rest easy knowing they’ve done the right thing for the horse. You can read a full article about how that came about here. Eventing Nation also did a lovely write up on the great Nereo here.
Updated to include edits on the Townend issue.