If ever an event owner had a vintage year then 2018 was without doubt Trisha Rickards finest hour. Jonelle and Classic Moet (Molly) kicked off a late start to the rain soaked spring with a win at Belton Advanced before taking the Badminton trophy on a sunny Sunday in May. Just a few weeks later and homebred Faerie Dianimo (Maggie May) won another 4 star in Luhmuhlen and then Chris Burton and Polystar ( Nero) were the worthy winners of the Magic Millions British Open at Gatcombe having already won the Arville leg of the ERM in June.
Trisha would be the first to tell you that it doesn’t always go like that! Back in the 1980’s it all started with a big grey horse bought out of Richard Meade’s yard called Duncan. Duncan was a high class hunter (and a vet failure) who turned out to have an annoying habit of stopping at every new event fence he encountered. So many varieties of fence were built to train him that the Brockenhurst Park event was born which Trisha ran for many years as the “go to” advanced at the end of the summer for Burghley bound horses. Around that time her foundation mare, Clayton Mudlark ( by the legendary Ben Faerie) was beginning the eventing dynasty that would produce a 4 star winner many decades later. It was through Trisha’s friendship with Jennie Loriston-Clarke that the association with the Catherston Stud came about and Trisha was at the forefront of the Sport Horse Breeding in the UK where TB blood was crossed with warmblood.
Aussie international David Green took the 9 year old Duncan to the Stockholm World Equestrian Games and Trisha’s love/hate relationship with International competition was born! Reportedly spending more time hiding in the portaloo than watching her horse became one of her traits along with a fiercely competitive streak that was quick to develop.
If ever there was a Badminton that was made for a former hunter it was in 1992. The ground was bottomless, the track was huge and Duncan battled his way through the mud to finish in 4th spot. Running as pathfinder for the Aussie team at Barcelona Olympics ended in disaster when half way round a foot perfect execution of the track Duncan banged a nerve on a hind leg when he slipped on a turn and went hopping lame. Minutes later he was sound but it was too late and whilst the team won Gold David and Duncan were denied their medal as Duncan never came down to the showjumping from the cross country base at El Montana. Duncan was an incredible powerhorse to ride and he achieved so much more than he should have but he simply never had the luck on his side when he needed it.
Homebreds Faerie Dancer and Faerie Dazzler were being produced by Darrell Scaife and in 1998 David took over Faerie Dazzler ( Daisy). By this time Trisha had quite a crew of homebreds out competing and she had a policy of matching horses and riders together. Dan Jocelyn, Clayton Fredericks and Bruce Haskell also rode for her and Daisy finally made Trish’s homebred 4 star debut with David in 2001 which ended rather prematurely when Daisy tried to reverse her decision to jump off the Leaf Pit drop at fence 3. Gravity took over and that was the end of that Burghley!
A bit of a lean period followed while Daisy’s offspring were growing up in the Park and then began the start of their eventing careers. The first was by Kuwait Beach and looked hugely promising until I bought him as a 2 year old! He was a beautiful looking horse with a horrible temperament and I sent him to Tim to break in where we discovered he also didn’t have much ability over a fence! I swopped him for a cute little TB with Andrew Nicholson who promptly named him Jack Green and took him to advanced as a six year old.
Faerie Dianimo ( Maggie May) was next, bred solely for the purpose of being my dressage horse and therefore by Keystone Dimaggio. As we now all know Maggie May had no intention of being a dressage horse and sealed her fate by winning the Burghley Young Event Horse 5 year olds in 2010 with Angela Mace which was one of Trisha’s biggest thrills as a breeder (along with Jonelle’s victory at the Blenheim 8/9 year olds CIC 3 star). It was through those young horse classes that Trisha also developed her love of sashes as they seemed to keep eluding us! Xavier Faer ( Hugo) was named solely for the purpose of being able to go last in the BYEH finals as they were run in alphabetical order but he was too big and rangy as a young horse to ever qualify! Another half brother, Faerie Fifty Shades ( Ralph) actually did make it to the final but he ignominiously spat Tim onto the ground during his round and his eventing career didn’t get much further down the track. It appears that even breeders like Trisha have the odd black sheep lurking in the family tree.
Whilst Esib Power was starting Hugo’s eventing career Trisha made one more purchase for Darrell Scaife who wanted another shot at the big time and didn’t have the time to produce a homebred. Classic Moet was duly selected as a 7 year old from Karen Dixon and then began the story of possibly the most unlikeliest horse ever to go on and win Badminton.
Maggie May was always going to be a superstar in my eyes and she has proved it ( it’s pretty special to see your homebred at Rio Olympics not to mention 1st and 2nd at Luhmuhlen and 4th at Pau)) whilst we knew that Hugo was going to have to make it to 4 star for his true light to shine. That he did in 2017 when he was 3rd at Badminton with Tim but Molly’s path to stardom took a different route.
Darrell managed a season with Molly but decided her dressage was simply too problematic and asked me to have her for the following winter. 24 hours after a mad little black mare had arrived I was trying to send her back to Trisha as she simply galloped up and down the fence line in the field and was mental in the stable. Trisha told me to get on with it, that she was fine to ride and refused to send the truck back! Of course she was right, Molly was not one to misbehave under saddle although she was pretty unruly in the arena in those days.
Molly stayed with me another 18 months as firstly Esib and then, when she returned to Ireland, Caroline Powell evented her. Caroline was moving to Newmarket after Badminton and I didn’t want her to be so far away so Trisha agreed to send her to Jonelle. And that is where the fairy tale began as Jonelle described herself as “pleasantly surprised” upon her first sit on her but it was also fair to say that Molly was a 10 year old intermediate who couldn’t do changes and refused to rein back at that stage! Couple that with an odd, hollow jump, a not so great record showjumping and a habit of doing everything as fast as possible and no one could have foretold Badminton victory! But Molly and Jonelle made the world sit up and stare in the relentless mud of WEG 2014 at Haras du Pin where they narrowly missed out on a medal and have proved themselves the fastest girls in the world so very many times since and their partnership is as solid as a rock.
That’s the amazing thing about Trisha.. she not only has bred stunning horses but she also has an uncanny knack of fitting jockeys to horses. It has been a long road to 4 star success but no one deserves it more and there are still future stars learning their trade at Brockenhurst Park now as the next generation starts the journey. But of all the destiny’s of all the posh horses that have been bred there it is the little black mare with the biggest heart in the world that gave Trisha her finest victory to date. Thank you Molly!