Five Land Rover Burghley first-timers achieved a lifetime’s ambition when the performed their dressage tests today in an atmospheric and highly-charged main arena.
The 31-year-old American has been raising funds since June to make her first trip to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
“The response from people following me via social media has been phenomenal,” said Laine, whose posts and pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have earned her legions of supporters and followers willing to help her in her quest. “When you post a picture online you just don’t appreciate the reach it has. I’ve been truly astounded by peoples’ interest and generosity.”
Laine’s equine partner, the 16-year-old ex-racehorse Anthony Patch, flew from the States along with Luckaun Quality, the mount of US-based Irish rider Tim Bourke, last Friday.
“It’s a short, 10 day trip, but it’s one that I’ve always wanted to make,” continued Laine. “I’m been watching Burghley on television since I was a little girl. Along with the Olympics and the World Equestrian Games, it is the event that I’ve always dreamed of coming to.”
Laine grew up on the US East Coast and now runs a competition yard in Virginia. She represented America at the Junior Olympics, winning two silver and three bronze medals.
After her dressage test this morning, which earned her a mark of 48.8, Laine said: “I was very pleased with my horse. Back home, and even at Rolex [Kentucky CCI4*], a mark like that would leave you in the top few, but here it’s not enough as the standard is so much higher. But to be able to come and watch riders like Michael Jung and Jock Paget ride is a real treat and I’m looking forward to getting some riding lessons tomorrow – I would never normally get the opportunity to watch guys like these.”
Of the cross-country test, Laine added: “I’m not the first person to say it’s a big course and I think the terrain will be a big factor – it’s not only the ups and downs, but the lumps and bumps on the take-offs and landings which will really test us and I’ll have to be ready in my position and the way I ride to deal with them. It’s a course that needs aggressive, reactive riding – I’ll be going back to my East Coast cowboy roots!”
Ellen is the younger sister of Swedish team rider Ludwig. Based with Oliver Towend since just after Badminton, she made her Burghley debut today riding Southway to a score of 54.5. The 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding was produced to four-star level by Penny Lawn, Ellen aquiring the ride in 2010.
The pair have represented Sweden at Junior and Young Rider European Championships.
“It’s been a long road coming here, something I have dreamt about for a long time,” said Ellen. “Dressage is not the easiest phase for us, there’s a lot of atmosphere in there. We could have done a better test but I’m just excited to be at Burghley and looking forward to cross country – it should be fun!”
This is a first trip to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials for the 30-year-old, who rides for Ireland but has been based in the US for 10 years.
“I’ve not even been here on foot,” said Tim, whose horse, Luckaun Quality, flew to England with Laine Ashker’s Anthony Patch last Friday.
Tim grew up in Westport, Co Mayo, and started riding at his grandmother’s riding school, Knappa Beg stables. He was member of the Clew Bay Pony Club, where he achieved his Pony Club A test, and then on leaving school and graduating from college he went to America to work for Bruce Davidson (snr), where he stayed for two years.
Tim then returned to Ireland briefly and rode showjumpers for Jonathan Reape during which time he found Luckaun Quality. Earlier this year, at the end of another two years spent in America working for Sharon White, Tim set up his own yard, Bourke Eventing, with his wife, Marley Stone.
A few mistakes in the dressage phase left Tim and Luckaun Quality on a score of 65.
“It’s lucky that Burghley’s not a dressage competition – it’s not his best phase,” said Tim, who is looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge. “He’s a fantastic jumper. It’s not many times in your lifetime that you get a horse capable of jumping round Burghley, so I thought after we had a good run at Rolex in the spring [they came 18th] that we should give it a crack.”
Charlotte’s ride, the half-Shire Manor Missile, was given to her as a 21st birthday present and the now 27-year-old has produced him from a foal to four-star level.
“He’s my only horse,” said Leeds-based Charlotte, who works for her family’s business repairing car gear boxes. “My aim with him initially was to compete at Novice level, but he kept stepping up the levels easily, so we kept going.”
The pair have completed five three-star competitions this season in order to get to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. They have never incurred a cross-country jumping penalty in international competition.
“He’s a bold, honest jumper, so I’m really looking forward to the cross-country. I’ll probably take a few long routes as I won’t be going for the time,” she said.
Charlotte walked up to the main arena before her dressage test with William Fox-Pitt [who came out of the arena on Fernhill Pimms as Charlotte went in].
“William said to me that I should be proud just to get this far, whatever happened,” she said. “But it’s all very well him saying that sat on his flashy dressage horse while I’m on a half-Shire!”
Charlotte was nevertheless thrilled with her mark of 64.8.
“Most riders probably wouldn’t be pleased with it, but it’s a good mark for him,2 she said. “He doesn’t really do flying changes and I know I need to work on them over the winter. I heard the crowd laugh when I did my last one, which I didn’t think was supposed to happen!”
Kirsty did not have the happiest of tests riding Cossan Lad – they languish at the bottom of the leaderboard on a score of 72.8.
“Dressage is obviously not Cossan Lad’s best phase so I’m looking forward to Saturday. He’s very strong, so I’m very pleased that there is a long pull uphill near the start of the course which I hope will tire him out a little and make him more amenable. I’ve been coming here to watch since pony club days and it’s just amazing to be here riding.”