Badminton Horse Trials hopeful

Jesse and Kaapachino

Jesse and Kaapachino - Credit: Archant

25-year-old Kiwi event rider Jesse Campbell, from Marlborough on the edge of the Cotswolds, is about to take on one of the sport’s top events, the famous Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, for the first time. Here he talks about his preparation and what it would mean to him if he did well.

Riding at the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials is what every event rider aspires to achieve and for me it began as a dream many years ago growing up in New Zealand. I can’t pinpoint where my passion for horses began but it’s always been there and my formative years were spent riding in New Zealand.

By the time I was 15 I was selected to the NZ Eventing Senior Talent ID Squad and three years later, in 2010, I was invited to move to England for a six months placement with one of the sport’s true legends Sir Mark Todd. I then moved to Andrew Nicholson’s yard before setting up on my own. My dream of riding at the world’s most famous event was beginning to get nearer.

And in 2015 here we are; my Badminton horse Kaapachino and I are making our final preparations for our four star debut. When I moved over to the UK I brought Kaapy with me. We’ve been through a lot together, and when things got really tough at one stage, he was always there for me. He’s my absolute best friend. He’s an ex-racehorse and being from New Zealand he has a typical laid-back attitude. He also loves the sun and he adores sunbathing!

Kaapy is taking the Badminton build up all in his stride. Meanwhile, I might appear incredibly laid back on the outside – I am a Kiwi after all –on the inside I am feeling pretty frantic as I attempt to tick all the boxes and ensure I have prepared for our inaugural attempt at tackling those famous cross country fences as best I can.

I am based at Maizeys Farm on the Marlborough Downs which is horse central if you happen to be an event rider or racehorse trainer. The access onto the downs is incredible and I am surrounded by a plethora of event riders including some of my New Zealand teammates, which is fantastic.

The support that the yard’s owners Catherine Burrell and Jackie Green have given me is immeasurable. My girlfriend Goose Leigh also keeps her horses here and she’s a massive support. She’s always knows the exact time to say keep going or that I am being stupid when I worry about things.

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Kaapy is a brilliant horse across country and has all the credentials to tackle those famous fences, having scored some impressive results including a top 20 placing at Boekelo CCI three star [one level below Badminton, which is a four star event] in 2012 having gone clear over a particularly tough course, a top ten placing at the British Nations Cup Championship, and fourth at Blair CCI three star.

He is okay at show jumping, which is probably my weakest phase too, and always performs a good dressage test without being overly flashy. He does every movement very correctly and will do a very nice test.

Unfortunately Kaapy missed all of 2014 season to give him time to recover from an injury. He could have come back for the autumn, but we decided to focus on Badminton and on April 1 he made his come back at Somerley Park. I couldn’t have been happier with him. He had spring in his feet for the show jumping and jumped round the cross country very easily, his ears pricked all the way. He still gave me that same phenomenal feeling that he has always given me.

The last few weeks have been spent brushing up on our show jumping with Grant Wilson, a Kiwi show jumper based in Belgium who flies over every fortnight or so, and dressage training with Lisa White. Erik Duvander, our team coach who has played a huge part in my career, is also playing a big part in the build up.

There’s also been team training with the New Zealand High Performance Squad which is always brilliant. It’s great being part of such a fantastic team and there is always a real sense of camaraderie. We all genuinely want each other to do well. Fingers crossed one of us will lift the Badminton crown this year and if Kaapy and I get a top 15 placing we will be delighted.


The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials takes place 6-10 May