May, 2022
A catch-up with RED MILLS Rider Tina Cook ahead of Badminton Horse Trials

Riders are finally back at Badminton in 2022, after a few years of it being postponed due to the pandemic. We caught up with RED MILLS Rider Tina Cook to find out a bit more about her horse Billy The Red, her favourite Badminton memory and what it is that makes Badminton special.


All set to go with Billy the Red this year, tell us a bit about Billy for those that don’t know him, what’s he like at home?

He’s quite a small little horse and he’s quite sharp, quite bright. He’s generally very sharp to hack out so only I ride him because he’s very very spooky and can jump himself into – I always feel it’s my responsibility, if anything happens. We’re very lucky here that we have the gallops and the fields, so quite a lot of the time I do a lot of his hacking just round the fields to take out any chance of something untoward happening like meeting a cyclist! That would be like his worst nightmare.

He loves being out in the field, saying that I like all my horses to be out. But you know I’ve grown to accommodate his sharpness and not challenge him so that he enjoys his work. So yes, we’re looking forward to going to Badminton again.


What would be your most memorable Badminton moment?

I have been there quite a few times and I have ridden quite a few different horses and I always think memories are quite hard, to pick out one specific memory or one specific horse. You always think of your first time at Badminton – I was 21, going on 22, I had my two Pony Club ponies that I’d taken all the way through, Smith’s Town Lad and Song And Dance Man. It was pouring with rain and I was almost last after the dressage on Song and Dance Man, I was in about 85th or something startling; he went clear with a few time faults and finished 10th! Now that was beyond cool at the time to do that, when you’re competing at the same time as Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson and people like that. I very much felt like the new kid on the block and to ride around a truly tough course that caught out so many, I felt very proud at what I had done with my generally very ordinary little horses.

But since then I’ve ridden some amazing horses and had some amazing experiences. No I haven’t won it, and I’d have love to have won it; I’ve gone there and tried to win it, sometimes I’ve had good rides and sometimes I haven’t. But that’s the name of competition. So I can’t really pick out one but I suppose you always look at your first.

Badminton always gets a lot of hype and huge amount of focus, especially being so early in the season in the UK; what do you think it is that makes Badminton special?

I think it is the toughest competition in the world. It’s the toughest cross country, it’s the history, most of us competing there have dreamt of riding our horses at Badminton, and you knowing that only the best go there, the best compete there… The cross country is huge and terrifying, and it’s a challenge that for a lot of people isn’t achievable but for some you get the opportunity to go. You only want to go if you’re ready though! It’s something that every horse I’ve had through my yard when I’m producing horses, I’ve always had in my mind, could I see myself riding them at Badminton? It is so special.

As you say, it comes early in the season, so you’ve been planning all winter for Badminton. Burghley is spectacular as well, but that’s the autumn campaign. Badminton, because it comes in the year when it does, that’s your first major challenge.

How has Billy been feeling in the run up and the prep ready for this year’s Badminton?

Yea we’re ready for it. He’s been there twice before and he’s finished in the top 10 twice. He went there as a young horse, I took quite the risk taking him as a 10-year-old, and he coped with the crowds very well. The first year he went there, we were coming down the staircase and there were a pile of stones at the bottom and, actually a spectator filmed it, as he’s coming down the stairs he suddenly sees the pile of stones, dives off to one side, I pull the rein to get him straight and he jumps the narrow brush at the bottom; that’s how sharp he is! But he does cope with the challenge really well.

We did Pau double clear at the end of last year, had a little winter break and then he was third at Thoresby in the Advanced. But he knows his job really well now, he’s 15, I’ve ridden around Badminton a lot of times so we’re looking forward to it and ready to give it another go!