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Friday, September 04, 2009  •  13:34 BST

Alexander Peternell riding TIGER

Alexander Peternell riding TIGER'S EYE II


Twenty-eight-year-old Alex Peternell is not only competing for the first time at this year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, but this afternoon he will also be the first rider to compete for his home country, The Republic of South Africa (RSA).

Alex who is now based on the Wiltshire/North Somerset border, originally produced successful show jumping ponies at his family home but aged 17 made the decision to leave South Africa to pursue a career in horses. His first stop was a job in the huge German yard of former international show jumper and sport horse breeder Paul Schockemohle. “It was a steep learning curve,” says Alex, “I started as a groom and after work begged and borrowed rides. I worked from 6 in the morning to 10 at night and rose up the ranks to become an assistant rider. There were however many good riders in the yard and as I was only 18 and ambitious I thought I might be there a long time before I got to compete, so I moved on.”

Alex then spent several years in private yards in The Netherlands producing and competing show jumpers to national level and then moved across the North Sea to England working in show jumping yards including the Brendon Stud in Sussex. “Eventually someone told me my show jumping ability was fine but that I needed to hone my dressage skills.” Through dressage lessons Alex met his wife Alice (nee Wilson) a dressage trainer and competitor and after getting married made the decision to start eventing – his aim to compete for South Africa at the 2012 Olympics. “It’s everyone’s dream after all but I admit in the first place I was ignorant about the sport and didn’t realise how hard it it,” says Alex. “We can all ride a decent test or produce a clear round show jumping or cross-country individually but getting them all right on the same day and consistently is the difficult part.”

Alex rides Tiger’s Eye a 14-year-old grey by the successful Thoroughbred sire Java Tiger, owned by Tim and Jane Holderness-Roddam. Jane is no stranger to Burghley having won the event in 1976 with Warrior with who, two years later she won Badminton. “Jane is confident but I’ll be much happier after tomorrow – it is quite scary,” admits Alex, who has ridden Tiger for two years. “But the horse is lovely and he is feeling good and is a good cross country horse – but everyone also needs that bit of luck on that day so let’s hope it’s with us.”