EWW had the pleasure to catch up with Badminton first timer Ben Way who rode Galley Light to complete this prestigious event in May. Ben and Galley started their Eventing career at BE100 in 2011, Galley is an 11 year old ex-racehorse owned by Elizabeth Collins and Ben. Ben works full time as Head of Equestrian Property at Butler Sherborn, a job he successfully combines with eventing at a high level. II asked how Ben manages to juggle a professional yard, a professional career and work up the ranks from BE100 to 4*.
It’s always flat out in Bens life but thankfully he is surrounded by a good support team, this includes Sarah Parkes, Bens girlfriend who also successfully events. Ben has the great support on a daily basis of his mum and stepdad along with head girl Amber Franklin. Life for Ben would be impossible without them, but on top of that his employers, Butler Sherborn, are very supportive of what he does. Days off are required at short notice, plus having the ability to work at home if need be is a godsend. Butler Sherborn are Lettings Agent, Estate Agent and Rural Property Consultants in the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire and Ben heads up the Equestrian division. Butler Sherborn also provide Ben sponsorship and his boss has an equestrian background along with his wife who is an FEI vet and has her own 4* horse.
When not working, Ben will aim to ride up to four horses in a working day, One horse before work and three in the evenings. Between Ben and Sarah they have 18 horses in work at home, 10 for Sarah 8 for Ben, these range from 4* to babies. They also breed at home and work tirelessly to ensure all horses are seen commercially and everything at home is run professionally, so all the horses have to pay their way.
Ben is very lucky to have very supportive owners, they understand he isn’t there riding every horse every day, but at home there are great quality riders to ensure the horses continue progressing. Head Girl Amber currently rides at 2* so gives our owners great confidence that the horses are well looked after and progressing.
I asked Ben if he notices a difference between summer and winter, we all know this time of year you’re competing a lot, but the team could consist of eight to nine horses at a weekend competition. This then gives a few days break at the start of the week. The team try to take a good block of horses to each event and all weekend and week events are mapped out for the season by Bens mum. Winter sees the 3 year olds coming in to start their training. For those that don’t have a great season or aren’t quite good enough they spend the winter out hunting. For the team October to Christmas is a quieter time and allows a short let up for everyone. After this is when they start to work on fitness for the coming season, that’s the hard part, Ben tried to get a lot done at the start of the year ready for Badminton. It’s easier in the summer when you have aims, in the winter you’re trying to get the motivation to work towards a goal that is many months ahead.
Ben always likes to have goals to progress towards, Galley Light show jumps brilliantly for an ex-racehorse and has a great technique. So many racehorses take so long to mature show jumping but Galley was great at producing clear rounds, enabling us to move up the ranks quickly. For him the cross country has always been there but the dressage has been something to work on. He isn’t fully established on the flat and has always been chasing qualification, but being able to rely on his jumping keeps the team very positive. Getting to Badminton, and then Burghley involves lots of hard work, not just for the three phases but also keeping them sound up to any event especially the big events is tough, but hard work, determination and an honest horse keeps that drive moving forwards.
What’s next for Ben? Barbury and then Burghley, the focus point and takeaway from Badminton is cleaner flying changes. Galley finds them tough and Ben freely admits he is quite green in this area so together they are working hard. Ben comments “his dressage is what it is and because he doesn’t have a flashy movement, he can’t afford to lose points with errors, so we try and ride an error free test. Galley got very tense in the arena, the grandstand was different to anything he has done before, but that only comes with experience as its quite an atmosphere and something you cannot practice.”
Some final words of wisdom from Ben for those seeking to progress as successfully as he has done?
“Get As Much as experience as you can, when you start at BE90 and progress up the levels, you can learn something from everything. I finished race riding and started riding anything and everything, getting lots of experience. It’s tough to get the opportunities but something you should never turn down if you do get them.”
We wish Ben continued success and look forward to reporting on his build up to Burghley this autumn.