THE winner of both Badminton and Burghley in 2009, and Burghley again in 2017, Oliver’s success has always been based on hard graft and a love for the horses he works with. He inherited this love of horses from his parents. Oliver’s dad, Alan, was also an event rider, while mum, Eve, showed side saddle at county level.
Oliver began riding when he was 7 years old. His first success came when he was 11, with his pony Cool Mule at the Horse of the Year Show. At 13 he went on to represent Great Britain on the Pony eventing team at the European Championships, and he quickly moved through the ranks. For three years he was stable jockey to the late British Event Team show jumping trainer, Kenneth Clawson, in Leicestershire.
When Oliver eventually set up on his own at Lubenham Lodge, Leicestershire, he had just a few pounds in his pocket but an unquenchable thirst for success. Less than five years later he was able to buy his own farm in Dudleston Heath near Ellesmere, Shropshire where he is still based.
In 2005 the late Hon William Russell’s Topping provided Oliver’s first crack at Badminton and he made the most of it by finishing in 12th place. This earned them an individual place at the European Championships at Blenheim Palace the same year.
Team GB at the Pratoni European Championships 2007
Edward & Robert Nicholson’s Flint Curtis took over as Oliver’s top horse in 2006 after placing third at Badminton, the horse’s first four star event. Oliver remained on the British Squad, riding Flint as an individual at the Aachen WEG that year, before gaining his first team place – and a European Championship gold medal – at Pratoni in 2007.
Flint Curtis wins Badminton 2009
Then came his most successful year to date: 2009. Riding Flint Curtis, Oliver won his first CCI4*, at Badminton. He then went on to win Burghley CCI4* on his other top grey horse, Andrew Cawthray’s Carousel Quest.
Carousel Quest en route to winning Burghley 2009
Armada at Badminton 2014
May 2014, and at one of the toughest Badminton’s in decades, Armada finished in the runner up spot. Meanwhile Black Tie II placed 4th at his first ever CCI4*, Luhmuhlen, resulting in a place on the British Squad for the 2014 World Equestrian Games, with Armada named on the Reserve list.
Exciting new equine faces arrived on the yard in 2015, notably PJ Hegarty’s Fenyas Elegance. Consistently good results earnt the pair a place at the European Championships at Blair Castle, one small mistake costing them an individual medal.
Fenyas Elegance at the European Championships
Oliver also claimed both the British Novice and Intermediate Championship titles that year.
In 2016 Oliver bagged an incredible 2,341 British Eventing points, leaving him top of the BE Rider Rankings for the third year running, with a lead of over 1,000 points. He also comfortably broke the 50 FEI wins barrier.
He was again crowned British National Champion, this time riding Cillnabradden Evo – the pair also winning the inaugural Event Rider Masters title thanks to a further win at Blair Castle and runner up spot at Blenheim. Oliver wrapped up his season with a CIC3* win in Adelaide.
Cillnabradden Evo at Blair
On to 2017 and, remarkably, Oliver posted his 10th Burnham Market CIC3* win since 2007, Cooley Master Class successfully defending his title. It was a great start to what was to prove a great season.
Lanfranco gave Oliver the CCI3* at Ballindenisk, and the British Intermediate Championship trophy returned to Gadlas Farm, courtesy of Khoi Traveler.
In the summer Oliver was again called up to the British team, for the European Championships in Strzegom – this time with Angela Hislop’s Cooley SRS. Another gold medal found its way to Shropshire.
However, the best was yet to come. In September, at Land Rover Burghley, that elusive third CCI4* win was in the bag. Ballaghmor Class stepped up to the level for the first time in some style, another Townend grey a four-star winner.
Ballaghmor Class at Burghley
Oliver retained his place at the top of the British Eventing rider rankings for a fourth year, with 1,698 points to add to his overall total.