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Thursday, August 30, 2007  •  14:08 GMT

BIG EL GIVES DEE A FIRST TASTE OF THE BIG TIME


Dee Kennedy is one of nine British riders who are making their first appearance at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials this year.

Thirty-year-old Dee a former singer with the 90’s all-girl pop group Paper Dolls, rides the 16-year-old Swedish-bred Big El (no. 41). She only began eventing six years ago and Big El, no doubt named as he stands over 17hh high, is her first event horse. “If, six years ago at my first pre-novice event at Osbaldeston, anyone had said to me I would get to four-star level on him I would never have believed them,” said Dee who is based in Cheshire. The two came to prominence at Gatcombe in 2005 when they came second in the British Intermediate Championships. “The commentator there referred to him as a ‘cross country machine’ and that has stuck and is how he is now known,” said Dee who is as diminutive as Big El is huge. “At Bramham this year he was brilliant. And while he might be big it is only because he has long legs – I always feel safe him.”

Yesterday evening Dee walked the course for the first time with partner Haydn Hankey and trainer Tuffy Tilley. “It was more of a walk-by-the-fences without looking too hard,” said Dee. “Everyone said not to look at the ditch at the Cottesmore Leap (fence 19) but needless to say I did – but I certainly won’t go near it again.” Dee admits to feeling first-time butterflies. “The nerves are beginning to kick in but I don’t think you’d be normal if you didn’t feel nervous and I am really excited at being here.”