Nilson Moreira Da Silva & Muggle
First in to the arena today was Kirsty Johnston riding Opposition Detective. Revelling every moment of her Burghley debut she pointed out: “It’s what dreams are made of, isn’t it?
“I’d rather be first in today than last in yesterday, that’s for sure. I was disappointed with my test though [she scored 52.9], it’s usually our best phase. My horse went in very relaxed and maybe I didn’t push enough – the good bits were good…. but the bad bits were bad.
Shortlisted Sonja Johnson failed to make the final Australian squad for Rio, but the Australian sheep farmer described her first Burghley as a good consolation prize.
“I’m stoked,” she beamed. “Our test was a little like a curate’s egg, good in patches, but we threw in a flying change that wasn’t part of the plan. To come out of the arena in [at the time] 6th place, I’m very happy; [Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison] has so much more to give. There were four quite major mistakes so the rest of it must have been quite nice!”
Sonja lives six hours south of Perth and left her home farm at the beginning of April. Bar one week of intensive sheep work she hasn’t been back, and her parents, who are both in their 70s, have been running the farm for her.
“If I can finish on my dressage score [46.9] I’ll be very, very happy, but just to get to Burghley from the back end of beyond is unbelievable. It shows that if you don’t give in, you can make anything happen.”
Matthew Glentworth and Ultimatt concluded the first morning session of dressage [scoring 64.5]. “It’s not his favourite phase, but he stayed calm and his trot work was as good as he can do. We can’t do flying changes at home so were hardly likely to get them here – I couldn’t have asked for more from him, other than a miracle.
“I also lost my way briefly but the judges didn’t beep so perhaps I got away with it!”
America’s Libby Head couldn’t stop smiling when she left the arena on Sir Rockstar, her pint-sized 15.1hh partner of eight years. The pair scored 53.7.
“It was crazy going in there in that atmosphere,” laughed Libby, 24, who made her CCI4* debut on British soil at Badminton earlier this year. Libby has remained in the UK since May, having based herself with Australian rider Tim Rusbridge for the summer.
“It’s been a brilliant experience. Badminton was pretty overwhelming, but the atmosphere feels even bigger here. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and I couldn’t ask to be sat on a better horse – he’s a crazy jumper.”
American-based Brazilian first-timer Nilson Moreira Da Silva was also all smiles after his test on Muggle, which left him on a score of 57.5.
Nilson and Muggle have been clocking up the air miles this year. They kicked off 2016 in Brazil before flying to the UK for the start of the season, where they based themselves with the Brazilian team trainer, Mark Todd. The combination were named as travelling reserves for Rio, so made the long journey back to South America before coming on here to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Nilson began working in the equestrian industry as a polo groom.
“I didn’t have my own horse for a long time, but I worked for a lot of different people and when I moved into grooming for event riders I travelled to the Atlanta Olympics,” he explained.
Nilson gradually started picking up rides himself and found that the more he did the more he was bitten by the bug. “I started riding Muggle three-and-a-half years ago. We were only doing CCI2*s two years ago,” he said. Nilson will return to the States next week. “I now run a competition yard with 19 horses; America is my home now,” he said.
Ibby Macpherson and Ballingowan Diamond performed a very creditable test to score 47.2. A former stable jockey to William Fox-Pitt found herself in 21st place going in to cross country. Based in Northamptonshire Ibby runs an Equine Hydrotherapy Spa for rehabilitation and prevention of injuries.
Ballingowan Diamond finished 5th at Bramham CCI3* earlier this year, having been produced through the grades by Ibby.
Alexander Bragg was back in front of the Ground Jury on his second ride Redpath Ransom just after the lunch break. Unfortunately the test did not match up to that of his first ride Zagreb, but Alexander was philosophical, saying: “You are never going to learn unless you are here.
“Zagreb coped better with the atmosphere, but it’s now all going to be about tomorrow.”
It wasn’t until Becky Woolven was 17-years-old that she tackled her first affiliated event and just four years later she had produced her first horse to advanced level. In 2010 the now 27-year-old claimed individual and team gold at the Student Riders Nations Cup, and later that year won individual gold and team silver at the World University Equestrian Games in South Korea.
Becky admits that it has always been her dream to canter down the centre line at Burghley. “It feels very good to have got the dressage out of the way, though,” she admitted. “He was a little bit tense in there, but I couldn’t have asked for much more from him.
“When I woke up this morning I felt pretty relaxed as I knew I wasn’t on until 3.30pm, but as the day went on I became more nervous,” continued Becky, who added of tomorrow’s cross-country: “I’ve walked the course three times now and each time it’s looked more jumpable – which I’m told is a good thing!”
Stacey Shimmons thoroughly enjoyed her first taste of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
“It’s fantastic just to be here – a dream come true,” said the Suffolk-based rider, for whom this is a first ever four-star. Her score of 70.8 on Orions Promise didn’t trouble the leaders, but Stacey was pleased with how the 13-year-old acquitted himself.
“He panicked a little up the first centre line when he saw the crowds and I thought ‘uh oh’,” she admitted. “But then he settled the further into the test we went and hopefully the experience will stand us in good stead for next year, if we come back.”
Of tomorrow’s cross-country challenge Stacey added: “It’s big and it’s bold; it’s Burghley. But hopefully it’ll go my way. To jump a clear round would be a dream.”
The penultimate rider of the day was America’s Holly Payne-Caravella riding Never Outfoxed. They posted a score of 55.8, Holly admitting: “I tried to pretend this was just any other show – he’s a hot horse, and I knew one of the hardest parts would be dealing with the applause for the previous rider. I don’t think he’d noticed the crowds until then.”
“This is the hardest 4* I have ever seen. I finished 20th at Rolex a couple of years ago, so that’s my benchmark – but this is Burghley.”