In 2023, Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier finished Badminton Horse Trials in the UK in last place—with a jaw dropping 135 penalties.

This year, they’re leaving as winners!

Logging her 16th completion at the iconic 5* event, the New Zealander captured her second ever 5* title on Sunday, 14 years after her first in Burghley.

“It has been a phenomenal week,” said Powell.

“Badminton is such a special place. Just walking into the main barn sends shivers down my spine! I truly never expected to be in this position ever again. I didn’t even watch those above me jump but I could hear the ooh’s and aah’s and then Suzie came racing down telling me I’d won…I didn’t believe her!”

The stands in front of Badminton House were packed to the gunnels with spectators this morning to watch the trot up on the final day of the Mars Badminton Horse Trials and they were treated to a display of fit, keen horses in the morning sunshine.

Only Harry Mutch (GBR) and HD Bronze failed the inspection of the ground jury, with 37 of the original 67 starters advancing to the show jumping phase.

The show jumping course looked technical, big and square. During the morning session, there was not a single clear round, with some true cricket scores notched up. The trend continued going into the afternoon session. The first clear didn’t come until the fifth horse into the arena.

U25 champion Bubby Upton caused the loudest cheer of the afternoon when she jumped clear within the time on Cola, finishing 10th overall.

“He was truly phenomenal,” said a tearful Upton, who suffered severe spinal injuries after a fall on the flat last August that initially left her paralyzed.

“When I look at the whole past eight months and take into perspective what we’ve gone and done this week, it’s a win for us.”

The biggest move of the week came from Alexander Bragg (GBR) and his 14 year-old mare Quindiva.

Languishing in 51st place after dressage, a stellar cross country round brought the pair up to 10th place going into the final phase. An excellent show jumper, Quindiva previously qualified for the Horse of The Year Show, the mare gave every fence air and jumped into the lead.

The pair stayed there until Caroline Powell (NZL) and Greenacres Special Cavalier, lying sixth overnight, became the third and final pair to jump clear within the time.

Five more followed.

Sarah Ennis (IRE) and Grantstown Jackson arguably had the ride of the day across country but a frustrating five rails dropped them out of the top 15. Emily King (GBR) and her normally superb show jumper, lowered two rails to finish fourth overall, and Lucy Latta (IRL) and RCA Patron Saint also had two fences down. It was still enough to give the Badminton first-timer second place behind Powell as the top two came in to jump.

“I wasn’t too sure how he would come out today—he has never jumped a track that big or run for that long but he was jumping beautifully in the warm up and he really, really tried for me. I feel we have half an eye on a team place later in the year,” said Latta.

William Fox-Pitt’s final Badminton appearance of his career did not garner the fairytale ending he hoped, after he and Graffenacht lowered six rails on course.

“She may be by Grafensoltz, the same sire as Lordships Graffalo [Ros Canter’s 2023 Badminton champion] but she doesn’t quite match him in the show jumping department,” he commented.

Last to return, Tim Price (NZL) had two rails and change in hand heading into the arena and his round got off to a promising start. Vitali looked relaxed, balanced and full of energy over the first couple of fences, but it didn’t take long before the poles started rolling.

Collecting 20 faults, Price ultimately finished in eighth place, two behind wife Jonelle on Grappa Nera, her Pau ’22 winner, handing the win to Powell.

Third placed Alexander, a qualified farrier, commented, “Today has been one of the most exciting shuffles I can ever remember at Badminton. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be brought back for a podium place but I was there watching the final few jump.

“It was a bit like being at an auction; you stand there pretending nothing is happening, but your heart is beating like a drum. You don’t want the others to have a rail down…but you do really!”

The next five star on the 2024 eventing calendar will be held at Luhmühlen CCI5*-L, Germany, June 13th–16th.