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‘I asked for a different colour’ – breeder of Laura Collett’s Badminton-bound chestnut mare shares her story

Laura Collett and Bling at Thorseby 2024.
Laura Collett and Bling at Thorseby 2024.

“I once had a dream to own, breed and ride a horse at top level, but now that I’m nearly 60, I’m not sure Laura would let me take her round Badminton, so I’ve had to stop short of that aspiration,” jokes Yvonne Ferguson, who bred and owns Bling, the chestnut mare Laura Collett will ride at the Mars Badminton Horse Trials next week.

Laura will pilot two mares still owned by their breeders at the five-star, as she also competes Lucy Nelson’s Hester. Bling starts as number three and Hester as number 73.

West Sussex-based Yvonne, who works as a chief information officer, has had horses all her life and was breeding thoroughbreds for Flat racing from a mare she picked up at Epsom sales before she started breeding sport horses.

“My husband’s hunter was getting older, so I thought I could put her to a jump stallion and get something substantial to replace the hunter,” she explains, adding that by the time the foal matured, hunting had changed and her husband had broken his back so didn’t ride any more so Bling needed a different job.

Bling’s dam, Moody Margaret, is by Bahamian Bounty xx and Yvonne chose to put her to Kannan.

“It was before the London Olympics when he became more popular,” she says. “He is more a jumping stallion than eventing, but my theory is always to have a lot of blood and put horses with a good jump or upright dressage types over a thoroughbred mare to breed a horse with a light, capable jump and good paces.

“When she arrived, I asked ‘couldn’t you shove her back in and give me a different colour?’ – Bahamian Bounty was a chestnut, so I suppose I was going to get a chestnut at some point. Now I’m glad she was a chestnut filly – she is what she is.”

Bling was initially with Nana Dalton, then moved to Harry Dzenis before joining Laura Collett for the 2021 season.

“I love being an owner with Laura – she’s easy, down to earth, has no graces, and sends lots of updates. It suits me as an owner-rider combination and Bling really likes her,” says Yvonne.

Working out what tack suits Bling in each phase has been a case of trial and error for Laura Collett and Yvonne. The 11-year-old mare now showjumps in a hackamore. After Laura had some steering problems on the cross-country at Thoresby, for her most recent run at Burnham Market she wore a Barry gag and a noseband borrowed from Gemma Stevens, which she will wear again at Badminton.

“She is a bit of a funny little minx with her mouth, so it’s a balancing game with her,” says Yvonne.

The next generation

As Bling moved up the levels eventing, Yvonne wanted to breed from her, so she says it’s also been important that Laura supports her breeding aspirations and is flexible with giving Bling the time needed for those duties.

Although it didn’t prove difficult for Bling to get pregnant, getting her embryos to “stick” in recipient mares has been less straight forward. Yvonne is now breeding from her using ovum pick-up (OPU) and intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). OPU refers to collecting oocytes (eggs) from a mare’s ovarian follicles, while ICSI is the lab-based process whereby a single sperm is injected into the matured oocyte, which is incubated to encourage an embryo to develop. The embryo is then transferred to a recipient mare.

Yvonne pays tribute to Dr. Amber Clutton-Brock at Equibreed UK for her expertise in this process.

“The ocyte harvesting is done in Britain by Amber, then the eggs are transferred to Italy frozen, impregnated with sperm there and grown in a laboratory for 10 days before being frozen and sent back to England for transfer into recipient mares,” says Yvonne.

Bling’s first foal, by Comme Il Faut, is due in June.

“All my foals are born in my front paddock so I get to bring them into the world and know what I’ve bred, what injuries they’ve had,” says Yvonne.

The breeder also has one of Bling’s thoroughbred half sisters at home, a former polo pony. She is due to produce an ICSI/embryo transfer foal this year by Kannan – “I’m trying to recreate Bling by using her uterine sister and the same sire” – and is also carrying her own foal by Duplexx, who is by Diarado, JL Dublin’s sire.

With three potential future eventing stars due in the next few months and Badminton next week, it’s certainly an exciting time for Yvonne.

“You never think when you do this that in 10 or 11 years they’ll be at Badminton,” says Yvonne.

How to watch Badminton Horse Trials

If you are interested in watching the live action from Badminton Horse Trials from the comfort of your home, wherever you are in the world, you will need to subscribe to Badminton TV. To sign up, visit watch.badminton-horse.tv – click the “Sign Up” link in the top right corner of your screen, then follow the instructions. An annual subscription to Badminton TV costs £19.99 via the website and gives you 365 days of access to all of the content in the Badminton TV library, the ability to watch the action live, and the option to replay all of this year’s action later. Find out more…

Enjoy the best of Badminton with Horse & Hound

To ensure you keep up to date with all the breaking news, behind the scenes insight, and the best of the action throughout Badminton Horse Trials with no limits on how much you can read, subscribe to the Horse & Hound website from as little as £1 a week. Sign up now. And don’t miss our bumper 22-page magazine report on Badminton, including in-depth analysis and exclusive comments from top names, in the issue of Horse & Hound dated 16 May.

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