Saturday, May 07, 2016

Re-visiting the Big-Footed Event Horse at Badminton Horse Trials: Ben Hobday, Mulrys Error, and Paul Conway

A photo posted by Ben Hobday (@benhobday) on
British farrier Paul Conway preparing a shoe for Ben Hobday's large-footed event horse Mulrys Error before Badminton Horse Trials in 2015.

Half-draft Mulrys Error has the most
feet in international eventing.
His rider, 
Ben Hobday of England,
both the big feet and his
farrier. (photo 
courtesy of Paul Conway.)
In August 2014, the Hoof Blog introduced readers to Mulrys Error. The Clydesdale cross event horse known by his team as "V8SuperCob" has a following in the international eventing world like few others. One of the legends about him is that he was bought at the Ballinasloe travelers’ horse fair in Ireland. His big feet have been captured in cartoons and illustrations, and all eyes are on his hooves during the horse inspection trotups. Owned by Sallie Ryle, Mulrys Error is ridden by Ben Hobday and has his own Twitter and Instagram accounts.

It's not commonplace to write about a horse on this blog, but there seemed to be something special about this horse. He came to my attention when he won the Worshipful Company of Farriers' "Best Shod Horse" award at the International Festival of Eventing at Gatcombe Park in England in 2014. His feet don't even look like they would be attached to a sporthorse, let alone carry a rider to the highest level of international competition.

Everyone seemed to be in good humor about this horse, and his farrier, Paul Conway, was happy to share photos. At Burghley Horse Trials that fall, he competed at the four-star level and in May 2015, there he was at the world's most famous four-star event, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, flaunting those hooves. He and rider Ben Hobday finished 54th. Finishing at all at Badminton is noteworthy.

At the horse inspection on Wednesday this week, Mulrys Error showed off his big sloping feet as rider Ben Hobday runs beside him. (Instagram embed via Ben Hobday)

Fast-forward to this week. Once again, Ben Hobday and Mulrys Error traveled to Badminton Horse Trials amidst a blizzard of social media, including many comments about the horse's feet. Paul Conway graciously provided an update on the horse's shoeing; he's been switched to British hunter style shoes, and has lost a chunk of outside heel on one of his hind feet.

Mulrys Error now wears a classic
hunter-type shoe that appears to be
wider than it is long. (Paul Conway
Paul Conway tweeted photos of Mulrys Error's spare shoe dangling from his car dash as he drove to Badminton. In dressage on Friday, Hobday and his popular horse performed a dressage test on the grass with an enthusiastic audience cheering them on, and they nailed a personal best for the horse.

In an interview after the ride, Hobday reflected on how pleased he was, because dressage is not the horse's forte. He said that the big hooves get tangled up when trying to do lateral movements.

Going into Saturday's cross-country phase, Hobday is in 53rd place out of 78 horses entered, one place better than their final score a year ago. It seemed like little has changed.

A video produced by the event hints at the fact that Hobday and Mulrys Error weren't expected to be at Badminton this year.

That's where Mulrys Error and Ben Hobday are now, but where have they been for the past year?

A photo posted by Ben Hobday (@benhobday) on

Rider Ben Hobday was diagnosed with Burkitts Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma soon after the Badminton Horse Trials in 2015. He already had a large social media following. Ben credits his followers with his can-do attitude about getting through the chemotherapy that was part of the treatment for the disease. He admits he's not fully fit yet, but didn't want to miss the thrill of competing his sound, fit event horse against the best riders in the world this year.

A photo posted by Ben Hobday (@benhobday) on

When Mulrys Error and Ben Hobday gallop out on cross-country on Saturday, they'll have a passenger. Ben will strap the "@Chiefchemopony" (a.k.a. Willberry Wonder Pony) social media icon horse to his back, in honor of young rider Hannah Francis. She is battling bone cancer in her pelvis, and has created a social media campaign featuring a gift teddy horse purchased for her at Badminton last year. Hannah's gift horse has been photographed in all sorts of poses and places.

On Saturday, the horse will probably be photographed thousands of times, as Ben hopes to raise the profile of Hannah, her enthusiasm for the sport of eventing, and the courageous fight she and so many other people fight daily. Mulrys Error will make good use of those big feet to carry those important messages home. For once, his feet won't be the main target of the cameras, and that's just fine.

To learn more:

Bigfoot on Course: Is Gatcombe's Best Shod Horse the Biggest Shod, Too?
CNN Interview with Ben Hobday about his cancer treatment

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