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Badminton update on Away Cruising

We’ve had a rather challenging and emotional few days. Away Cruising has had the smoothest run-up to Badminton of any of my ten previous rides here. This is the first year that I really felt that if all went to plan he should challenge the lead in the first phase and we arrived with a private thought that this was my best chance yet to try and win the event.

On Monday he had a routine intra-muscular dose of cartrofen and worked beautifully on the flat that day, however on Tuesday it was clear that something was wrong as a swelling started to develop on his neck on the site of the injection and as the inflammation increased he was unable to put his head down to eat, drink or graze. He has had 24 hour attention from Jess, my highly conscientious groom who has looked after him since he was a 4 year old, as well the vets and physios here at Badminton.

A blood test has shown that there is no abscess or infection and whilst the swelling has subsided he remains largely immobile through his neck and piano in his demeanour.

After extensive discussions with the vets it was agreed to do the dressage, and then monitor progress over the next 48 hours before making a decision about whether we run him across country.

In the dressage he was a real soldier and produced a ‘clear round’ test with no mistakes and four good flying changes, but unsurprisingly lacked suppleness and his usual sparkle. He scored a very respectable 35 but this was ten marks off where we expected to be before this unforeseen scenario. It felt like I was riding a stiff old riding school horse and trying to produce a competitive test at the biggest event in the world.


Like many competitors we administer cartrofen in the run up to any 5* event to try to help the horses cope with the physical rigours of the week ahead as well as possible. In a very small minority of cases, and this is the first I have ever experienced, a horse can react to the needle (as opposed to the medication) causing deep bruising, much in the same was as a flu jab into your arm can give you a dead shoulder for a few days.


This has been a hard reality for all our team who have worked tirelessly, and for Away Cruising who showed his bravery in producing a test that is still amongst some of the best horses in the field, despite the clear handicap he has had to cope with.


The stiffness will subside but let’s hope that this happens before Saturday. In the meantime we will do everything we can to make him feel as comfortable as possible and if I’m not satisfied that he is back to normal then we will bow out of the competition.


The course looks good and it should be a great competiton, we just hope to be part of it.


While Away Cruising seems brighter he is still unable to stretch his neck down to graze.

Putting his best foot forward at the trot up.

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