Tag Archives: Sam Griffiths

Bringing Brocks Back Home to the Fields of Dreams

The Irish Sport Horse Paulank Brockagh ridden by Sam Griffiths, pictured in Eventing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games where they finished fourth individually and helped secure team bronze for Australia. (Photo: Libby Law)

Last Tuesday night, just as the light was fading, a lorry pulled into a stable-yard in Ireland’s County Wicklow, and when the ramp was lowered a lovely bay mare stepped back in time. It was 10 years since Paulank Brockagh, better known as Brocks, was packed into a trailer by her breeder Paula Cullen for a trip to Australian rider Sam Griffiths’ base in Dorset (GBR) from where a glorious story would begin to unfold.

Brocks “the banker,” as Sam describes her, would become the rock on which the Australian Eventing team could rely over the following decade. Her pathfinding performances at both the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Caen (FRA) where the team finished fourth, and at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games where she helped clinch team bronze and finished fourth individually, are the stuff of legend.

She conquered Badminton (GBR) in 2014 thanks to an epic cross-country run, and had a total of 35 international outings, 12 at 5-Star level, and top-ten finishes at Badminton, Burghley (GBR), Pau (FRA), and Luhmühlen (GER). But just a few short weeks ago her owner, Dinah Posford, and Sam decided it was time for the mare to retire and that she should return to live out her days in Ireland.

So last Tuesday night, after giving her a few minutes to relax and graze following her trip across the Irish Sea, Paula walked Paulank Brockagh back to the stable where she was born 17 years ago. It was an emotional reunion, bringing back a lot of memories, and Paula made that walk with pride.

First refusal

“When we sold her in 2010, I said to Dinah that if she ever bred from her, I’d love to have first refusal on the foal. So when I got the call to ask if I’d like to retire her here, I couldn’t hold back the tears!” Paula says.

It was particularly poignant because Brocks’ dam, Calendar Girl, only passed away three months ago at the age of 29. But Brocks will be surrounded by many of her siblings now that she’s home in the Wicklow hills.

Paula has bred all kinds of champions in her day. Initially known as a top producer of Welsh ponies, she enjoyed plenty of big moments at shows in the hallowed Royal Dublin Society arena but now finds herself at the venue more frequently to see her rugby-star son, Leo who had 32 caps for Ireland, in action as Head Coach for Leinster.

When she established Paulank (her own name combined with that of her husband, Frank) Sport Horses, then Brocks really put her on the map. The Irish Sport Horse mare got a great grounding with Joseph Murphy and Daryll Walker before finishing third in the CIC1* at Ballinacoola in Ireland in 2009 with Heidi Hamilton on board. The following spring Paula delivered her to Sam who steered her into eighth place in the 7-Year-Old category at the prestigious FEI World Breeding Federation Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers (FRA) in October, by which time she was in new ownership.

Dinah Posford had been on the lookout for a horse to share with her daughter Jules and husband Steve when she heard about Brocks from her friend Juliet Donald, with whom she already co-owned another of Sam’s top rides, Happy Times.

“Happy was full steam ahead at the time, but when Juliet told me about Brocks I went to see her and thought there was something about her and that it would be lovely to have a mare, so we bought her.” It turned out to be an excellent decision. “The fun we’ve had with her and the joy she has brought us – you couldn’t make it up!” says Dinah.

And the day she cherishes most from Brocks’ career? “When she won at Badminton, it was such an exceptional year. only 32 completed out of 78 starters; she was lying 25th after Dressage but went right up to fifth after cross-country and when she won, I was in a daze! It was just wonderful!”

Incredible cross-country

Sam says what made Brocks so special to ride is that she always gave her all. “I’ve never ridden a horse that would try so hard; she was a naturally good jumper, needed some training on the flat, but an incredible cross-country horse.

“I really felt that I could point her at a house, and she’d try to jump it!

“She would give you so much confidence; she wasn’t the quickest but where she came to the fore was at 5-Star level; she had such endurance; she could just keep going and keep trying, especially on the last day she’d still give it everything she had.

“In Rio (2016 Olympic Games) the cross-country was really tough and when I was the first to go for the team and so many of the other team’s first riders were struggling, I was filled with trepidation. So to get such a brilliant ride and then to do two showjumping clears, that was a real thrill. In Rio, the proper jumpers really came to the fore,” Sam says.

They missed individual bronze by less than two penalty points, pinning Australian compatriot Chris Burton into fifth by just 0.5. Earlier in Brocks’ career, Chris, who is a world-class trainer as well as an athlete and a great friend of Sam’s, was unimpressed by her. “When he visited one time, I told him you have to sit on this mare – I think she might be my next Badminton horse – but he didn’t think too much of her that day. He fell in love with her a few years later though!” Sam recalls with a giggle.

Much as she is adored, however, Brocks can be a bit of a madam, especially with people on the ground. “She’s quite opinionated and when she doesn’t want to go somewhere, she just bolts off in the walk. She used to make me laugh – you’d take her somewhere like Badminton where the horses are allowed to graze on the front lawn and she’d set her eye on where she wanted to go and just storm off, the groom would be water-skiing at the end of the lead-rope and Brocks wouldn’t give a damn!

“A 20-stone man wouldn’t stop her when she wants to go somewhere, and the better she got, the more of a diva she became!” Dinah agrees. “Yes, she’s her own person alright,” says Paula. “I took her once to Boswell (Equestrian Centre in Wicklow) and she sent me flying while I was trying to hold her. She was always a bit impetuous, and I don’t think that’s changed!”

Decision to retire

The decision to retire her wasn’t easily taken. Her last big outing was at Luhmühlen last summer and she was being targeted at Badminton again this year. “It would have been her seventh time there, and it would have been great to produce another good result and then retire her on the last day,” Sam says, but it wasn’t to be. With the pandemic bringing everything to a shuddering halt, even another run at Burghley was out of the question, so Sam and Dinah talked it through and decided enough was enough.

“Dinah’s had horses with me for 20 years now and she’s a proper owner. She does everything for the love of the horses and never wants to push them. The most important thing for her is that they come home safe. Brocks was starting to feel her age; she had a lot of miles on the clock and she didn’t owe anyone anything. She still looks a treat, so although I was upset to see her leaving, I’m really pleased that a horse of her calibre finishes her career happy and sound,” says Sam.

“At the end of day, she’s retiring fit and healthy, and she deserves it. I think it would have been tempting fate to do any more – I couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to her,” Dinah points out. “She’s 100 percent sound and there’s not a blemish on her; that’s wonderful to see,” agrees Paula, who is planning to get Brocks settled before turning her out for a summer of complete freedom so that she switches off from competition mode.

Because as one chapter of her life comes to an end, another may be about to begin. It won’t be anytime soon, but it’s just possible another star could be born in the stable where Brocks was foaled.

They are only talking about it in whispers now, but for Dinah and Paula in particular, that would be the stuff of dreams.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
+41 78 750 61 46

Sam Griffiths Fulfills His Badminton Dream

Australia’s Sam Griffiths and the Irish-bred Paulank Brockagh on their way to victory in the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, fourth leg of the FEI Classics™ (Kit Houghton/FEI).

Badminton (GBR), 11 May 2014 – Popular Australian rider Sam Griffiths produced a superb display of horsemanship in today’s Jumping phase to win his first major title, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR), fourth leg of the FEI Classics™ 2013/2014, with Paulank Brockagh, the mare that he co-owns with Dinah Posford and Jules Carter.

In a competition of extraordinary twists and turns, Griffiths and the Irish-bred 10-year-old rose from overnight fifth place with a well-judged four-fault Jumping round that was good enough to win due to the strong influence of Kelvin Bywater’s (GBR) course.

Griffiths’ fellow Australian, Cross Country leader Paul Tapner on Kilronan, had been left a two-rail advantage to win but even this was too close for comfort in the squally weather and he had four fences down plus time penalties to drop to fourth.

Oliver Townend (GBR) hit two rails on the 15-year-old Armada yet moved up two places to take the runner-up spot and Harry Meade (GBR) rose from eighth to a career best of third place with an elegant four-fault round on Wild Lone.

“I had thought that if I did well I could move up, but there were still good riders in front of me and I had no expectations of being on the podium,” said Griffiths, who was well down the field in 25th place after the Dressage.

“I think horses were probably quite tired after the Cross Country and the course was twisty and up-to-height on fairly dead ground, but ‘Brocks’ is one tough nut. She has a massive heart.”

Griffiths added: “This is the ultimate dream. As a little boy in Australia, I used to wait for the video tapes of Badminton to arrive, so to ride here was always a major ambition. This means the world to me. Badminton is the pinnacle.”

Townend said: “I’ve told Sam to enjoy every minute of this because it still hasn’t quite sunk in that I’ve won this event [in 2009].”

He added: “I’m thrilled with my result. I was mortified after the Dressage [after which he was 34th] but this has made up for it. The reason Armada is good across country is because he is tricky in the other two phases. It is a fantastic feeling to be sitting on a Ferrari like him. At certain points yesterday, I felt that this was what Cross Country was all about.”

Harry Meade’s third-place finish is all the more remarkable because he spent months lying helpless in hospital after breaking both elbows in a fall last August. “At the start of the week, I was beyond expectations, but somehow everything added up and I feel that I coped very well,” he said. “My arms felt fine on the Cross Country and I loved the fact that it was windy and wet.”

Meade, who lives only three miles from Badminton and whose father, Richard, won here in 1970 and 1982, explained: “I couldn’t let myself get too excited and today I’ve felt calm and determined to enjoy it. The last few months have rather put things into perspective for me.”

Fourth-placed Tapner managed to be philosophical in defeat. “You start thinking of damage limitation when you hear those rails falling and I tried to change my way of riding. But that’s the way the sport is. I’ve been in both positions here before. One went my way [when he won in 2010] and this one didn’t.”

Pascal Leroy (FRA) dropped from third to fifth on Minos de Petra but still achieved the best result for a French rider since Nicolas Touzaint won in 2008. Three-time winner Pippa Funnell (GBR) held onto sixth place on the exciting prospect Billy Beware with one fence down and four time penalties.

Tim Price (NZL) had warned that Jumping was Ringwood Sky Boy’s weakest phase and he dropped from second to ninth with 19 faults behind Tim Lips (NED) on Keyflow NOP, seventh, and Sweden’s rising star Ludwig Svennerstal on Alexander, eighth.

Three horses were withdrawn overnight before Jumping: Karascanda TSF, ridden by Karl-Steffan Meier (GER), which had leapt 61 places to 20th after Cross Country; Kelecyn Ice Age (Emma Douglas, AUS, 34th); and Beltane Queen (Nicola Wilson, GBR, 25th), which had been awarded 21 penalties for a broken frangible pin.

All 32 horses presented at the final Horse Inspection passed, including Wendy Schaeffer’s (AUS) Koyuna Sun Dancer, which was sent to the holding box. Schaeffer successfully appealed the 20 penalties given for a refusal at the Mirage Pond (fence 16). This elevated her from 26th to 18th before Jumping and then she produced the only clear round of the day (albeit with three time penalties) to rise to 12th.

Although Pau (FRA) and Kentucky (USA) winner William Fox-Pitt surprisingly played no part in the final day at Badminton, he is still the clear leader, by 15 points, in the FEI Classics™. However, Sam Griffiths’ Badminton victory elevates him straight into second place and he and other riders still have chances at Luhmühlen (GER) next month to try and catch up before the series finale at Burghley (GBR) in September.

About the winner

Sam Griffiths, 41, is the sixth Australian to win Badminton (following Bill Roycroft, Laurie Morgan, Andrew Hoy, Lucinda Fredericks and Paul Tapner), and Paulank Brockagh is only the third mare (following Emily Little in 1952 and Headley Britannia in 2007).

Griffiths grew up near Melbourne riding his mother’s home-bred Welsh ponies, did a university degree in geography and went travelling, taking a job with the New Zealand Olympic champion Blyth Tait. He has been based in the UK since 1995.

His best results came with Happy Times, winner of Saumur CCI3* in 2008 and third at Badminton and Burghley in 2009. They were on the Australian team at the 2010 FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games™ and at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Sam and his wife Lucy live on the Somerset/Dorset border and have a young son, Ollie.

Paulank Brockagh was bred in Ireland, on a hill called Brockagh, by Frank and Paula Cullen, after whom she is named. She is a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse by Touchdown out of a Triggerero mare, and finished 15th at Burghley last year.

Watch FEI TV’s review of the fourth leg of the FEI Classics™ at Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials here.

Full results on www.badminton-horse.co.uk.

Prize money

At the end of the FEI Classics™ 2013/2014 season, the five riders with the highest number of points collected across the six FEI Classics™ events will share a total prize fund of US$120,000 split as follows: 1st – US$40,000 (Series Champion); 2nd – US$35,000; 3rd – US$25,000; 4th – US$15,000; 5th – US$5,000.

Join the FEI on Facebook & Twitter.

Our signature Twitter hashtags for this series are #Classics and #Eventing. We encourage you to use them, and if you have space: #FEIClassics #Eventing.

The Mitsubishi Badminton Horse Trials Twitter handle is @bhorsetrials and hashtag is #MMBHT.

By Kate Green

Media Contacts:

At Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials:

Julian Seaman
Press Officer
+44 7831 515736
@bhorsetrials #MMBHT


Grania Willis
Director Media Relations
+41 78 750 61 42

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
+41 78 750 61 45

Sam Griffiths Wins the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

(UK, 11 May 2014) – Sam Griffiths (AUS) riding Paulank Brockagh, today Sunday 11 May 2014, produced a thrilling ride to win in dramatic circumstances, with Oliver Townend (GBR) riding Armada in 2nd place, and Harry Meade (GBR) riding Wild Lone in 3rd place at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, in Gloucestershire, UK.

With just one clear round all day from the 32 riders who started in the final show jumping phase, Sam Griffiths entered the arena in fifth place overnight and had one pole down with no time faults. This proved good enough to win the Badminton title, with the final four riders each clattering fences right across the course in the difficult sticky ground conditions.

Despite two poles down, Oliver Townend, who started the day in fourth position, climbed to second place to the ovation of his home audience. Similarly, Harry Meade climbed from eighth position overnight to third place riding Wild Lone having just one pole down. This was a truly remarkable achievement for Meade, who just six month ago broke and dislocated both his elbows in a riding accident.

After a thrilling day’s cross-country yesterday with seven international riders in the top 12, the show jumping course set by course designer Kelvin Bywater was another major challenge over the 16 elements of the 13 fences.

Overnight leader Paul Tapner (NZL) had four fences down and dropped to fourth place after a heart-breaking final show jumping round, where he had two fences in hand, but it was not to be his day.

New Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing Contender

As the winner of the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, Griffiths is now the new Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing live contender, since William Fox-Pitt (GBR) could not follow up winning the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event last month. Griffiths will now have to target the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in September to try and win the second of the three legs and stake his claim for the coveted prize.

Results after the final Show Jumping Phase

1. Sam Griffiths/Paulank Brockagh (AUS) 67.9
2. Oliver Townend/Armada (GBR) 70.7
3. Harry Meade/Wild Lone (GBR) 71.4
4. Paul Tapner/Kilronan (AUS) 72.4
5. Pascal Leroy/Minos De Petra (FRA) 72.5
6. Pippa Funnell/Billy Beware (GBR) 74.3
7. Tim Lips/Keyflow NOP (NED) 78.5
8. Ludwig Svennerstal/Alexander (SWE) 80.0
9. Tim Price/Ringwood Sky Boy (NZL) 80.6
10. Lara de Liedekerke/Ducati Van Den Overdam (BEL) 83.8

Quote from Sam Griffiths (AUS) riding Paulank Brockagh:

Q. What does this win mean for you?

When I was a little boy we used to wait for the tapes to come over to Australia so I could watch the highlights of Badminton. So just to get here and ride here in the first year was almost a dream come true, but to actually win it is a completion of that dream – it means the world to me!

Quote from Oliver Townend (GBR) riding Armada:

Q. What a day!

A dream – I’m still dreaming. I told Sam to enjoy every minute because I’ve not quite got it sunk in that I’ve won here before. It’s a very, very special place and at certain points riding around that cross country course yesterday I thought this is what it is really all about – you need exceptional horses to win at Badminton.

Quote from Harry Meade (GBR) riding Wild One:

Q. What an event – has it been emotional?

To be honest I’ve been quite calm all week because I didn’t let myself get too ambitious – I didn’t study the scoreboard or look to see what everybody else was doing – I just enjoyed it and I was really pleased with how the horse went. He did a dream test and was super yesterday. Even in the show jumping today I felt very relaxed – I thought to myself I am just going to enjoy it!

Copyright Free Audio

Please click on the following link for copyright free audio of the post-event Press Conference after the final Show Jumping Day with the top three placed riders:

For more information on the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and full Results/Leaderboard, please visit www.badminton-horse.co.uk.

Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing

In 2001, Rolex created the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. This trophy is awarded to the rider who manages to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials event in any consecutive order. Until now, only British rider Pippa Funnell has managed this staggering achievement, winning the title in 2003.

Revolution Sports + Entertainment

Australians Take Control at Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

Christopher Burton (AUS) and Holstein Park Leilani take the lead after the first day of Dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. (Photo: Kit Houghton/FEI).

Lausanne (SUI), 3 May, 2013 – Two members of Australia’s 2012 Olympic team head the leaderboard after the first day of Dressage as anticipation builds at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR), fourth leg of the HSBC FEI Classics.

Christopher Burton (AUS), who proved such a brilliant pathfinder when first out on the course at the London 2012 Olympic Games, scored 43.0 in Badminton’s atmospheric arena to lie a fraction of a penalty ahead of his compatriot, Sam Griffiths on Happy Times.

The pair are also old friends and 31-year-old Burton, who won the Adelaide CCI4* in 2008, was based with Griffiths and his wife Lucy when he first came to England two years ago.

Burton is well known as a talented showman in the Dressage arena. He said of his mount, Jean and Jade Findlay’s 17-year-old warmblood mare, Holstein Park Leilani: “Back at home in Australia, I said ‘this is a Badminton horse’, but I certainly didn’t expect to be in the lead here.

“She’s a lovely mare but not the most extravagant mover, so you have to really ride her. I’m thrilled because I was aiming to score under 45, and so to be in the lead on 43 feels incredible.”

In contrast, Griffiths and the 14-year-old Happy Times are old hands at Badminton, having finished third in 2009 and fourth in 2011. “He’s an experienced campaigner and he’s in good form,” Griffiths said.

“I hope his Dressage mark will hold up, because we’ve got some really good combinations coming up tomorrow, but it means I’m in a good place psychologically.”

This halfway stage of the HSBC FEI Classics season is an opportunity for other riders to get a foothold on the leaderboard, but the current leader Andrew Nicholson (NZL) shows no signs of relinquishing his commanding position without a fight.

He is currently in third place at Badminton on 45.0 on his Burghley winner, the crowd-pleasing grey Avebury, with his Pau winner Nereo to come tomorrow.

Both Nicholson and William Fox-Pitt (GBR), who are head to head in a thrilling battle for the Rolex Grand Slam this weekend, seem to be handling the intense media attention with equanimity.

“I’m not really thinking about the Grand Slam,” admitted Nicholson. “My main objective has always been to win Badminton and it’s been fixed in my mind since last year because I’ve got such a good string of horses at the moment. The Grand Slam is a bit of a dream, but I did go to Kentucky to put myself in contention for it. And, of course,” he laughed, “if I win Badminton, the Grand Slam will fall into place!”

Fox-Pitt is currently only 0.8 of a penalty adrift of Nicholson, in equal fourth place with Ireland’s Aoife Clark on Master Crusoe. His first ride, Oslo, winner of Pau as a precocious nine-year-old in 2011, is owned by a syndicate of 12 owners, the oldest of whom, Delia Cunningham, is 92.

“He’s good at dressage and he’s always on your side, but he can be a bit cheeky,” said Fox-Pitt of the French-bred gelding who spent last year side-lined with an injury.

Olympic champion Michael Jung (GER) made his Badminton debut on Leopin FST and is in sixth place on 46.5 after a customarily well-ridden performance. “It’s very nice to be here,” he said. “The Cross Country has good distances between fences where you can gallop – it’s very different from the Olympics!”

The defending Badminton champion, Sir Mark Todd (NZL), is only in 37th place with a mark of 67.8 on his first ride, Major Milestone, but he is not downhearted.  “He’s not built for dressage and he doesn’t enjoy it. We both just have to get through it because he’s a very good jumper. My ambition with him is to win the Glentrool Trophy! [for the rider who makes the greatest improvement on their Dressage score]”

The footing at Badminton is in perfect condition, and predictions are that quite a few riders will achieve the optimum time, but riders are regarding the fences with great respect.

Nicholson commented: “I thought it was a bit softer at the start until I had a second walk and I’ve realised there are some very tricky fences out there. At the Lake (fence 9), there is a big fence in and really quite difficult 120-degree turn. It’s a proper fence, as it should be at this level.

“The course is pretty decent all the way round. There’s open corners, the Mirage Pond (fence 14) is hard to judge because you’re not sure where you’re going to land, and at the Shogun Hollow (fence 18) there’s a long distance to the third box which will cause difficulty for horses that find it difficult to adjust their strides.”

Badminton has received unprecedented spectator interest this year, and ticket sales are about 10% up on last year, when the event had to be cancelled due to wet weather. There are 84 horses in the field representing 15 nations.

Director Hugh Thomas, who says his Cross Country course is “the strongest it’s been for a while”, said of the line-up: ”For those of us who have been involved in the sport for a long time, to have Fox-Pitt versus Nicholson versus Jung is a tasty dish. However, the reality is that there are actually about 15 combinations here who could win.”

Follow live results: www.badminton-horse.co.uk.

View full standings here.

FEI TV, the FEI’s official video website, will be LIVE for Cross Country (5 May) and Jumping (6 May) at Badminton – see start times on www.feitv.org/live.

Join the FEI on Facebook & Twitter.

Our signature Twitter hashtags for this series are #HSBC and #Eventing. We encourage you to use them, and if you have space: #HSBC FEI Classics #Eventing.

By Kate Green

Mitsubishi Badminton Horse Trials Media Contact:

Julian Seaman
+44 7831 515736

FEI Media Contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Media Relations
+41 78 750 61 42

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
+41 78 750 61 45