Eight riders took to the Land Rover Burghley dressage arena for the first time today, with another five (six if you count Michael Jung on his second ride) starting their challenge tomorrow.
Remarkably, three of today’s contenders are currently lying in the top four: Michael Jung, Niklas Bschorer and Rosalind Canter.
Ros has fulfilled her dream of riding at a CCI4* before her 30th birthday: “I’m 29 and three-quarters, so just made it. I’m over the moon with Allstar B’s test, which was mistake free; he’s very trustworthy in the dressage arena and the more people and noise the better. Two years ago he was struggling at Two Star level but we’ve made it fun for him at home, and he’s been inspired by learning the harder movements.”
Ros, who lives in Lincolnshire so not surprisingly had a large and vocal group of supporters cheering her on, finishes day one in fourth place on a score of 40.2. “I’d hoped for a score in the 40s so to nearly break into the 30s is great. I think Caroline [Moore – Allstar B’s owner] is more than happy; she’d promised Ian Woodhead a case of champagne if we were in the 30s so it’s saved her a fortune!
“Saturday is another day for us. Neither ‘Alby’ nor I have jumped at this level before so it’s a step into the unknown. He’s only 10 and didn’t start eventing until he was six so he’s pretty low mileage – I just want us to come back home in one piece and happy.”
This first-timer is one of three American riders competing at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials this year. She kicked off her campaign with a dressage score of 47.7 aboard the 12-year-old ex-racehorse, Donner, which left her in 14th place at the end of the first day.
“The dressage isn’t an easy phase for him. He’s been wild for the last two days and I’ve had to work him really hard, but I hoped he’d put on his big boy pants in the warm up and knuckle down,” said Lynn, who runs her eventing operation from Virginia.
This is not only a first visit to Burghley for the 32-year-old, but it is also her first three-day event on British soil. “I competed in France [at Pau] in 2013, but this is something different altogether. I’m not used to seeing so much lush, green [grass],” she admitted.
Of the cross-country test Lynn added: “He’s thoroughbred and he loves to run. Sometimes I have to be a bit creative with the lines I ride on him, but he’s bold and goes forever, so this course is made for him.”
Although Charlotte has four CCI4* completions under her belt, this is her first Burghley. She finishes day one on a score of 53.5 in 23rd place, riding the family’s home bred Out Of Africa Two.
“He’s a real family pet,” Charlotte said of ‘Zulu’. “Previously maintaining him through in full health to the end of the season has been tricky so it’s a real treat to be here. I know that on a good day we could be up there on the leaderboard but I’m mostly here to enjoy the experience.
“I thought his trot work was soft and relaxed but he struggled a bit in the canter, and I’m not quite sure when his tongue popped over the bit but that will have cost us marks.”
Charlotte’s thoughts on the cross-country course? “It’s not as kick on and let your hair down as I’d anticipated! Zulu loves his cross-country but it’s pretty hardcore out there.”
One of the few true amateur riders competing at the top level, Alan works full-time for Gain Horse Feeds as a Business Development Manager, and competes two event horses. “I’ve worked on our tradestand here for the last five years, wishing I was riding, so to be standing here in my riding kit is amazing.”
Alan and Bronze Flight posted a score of 56.5 to lie in 32nd place overnight.
“I would have been happy with 10 points worse than that,” said the delighted Irishman. “Dressage is not our strong point – I was just looking for a clear round in there and to get through the movements in the right order. To be playing with the big boys is brilliant.
“The cross-country is massive; I’ve walked it twice now, the second time after last night’s rain hoping that the fences might have shrunk a bit, but they haven’t. Bronze Flight is very precious to us, I just want to complete – ideally with a clear round, but a completion would be amazing.”
It is a first CCI4* for both Abigail, one of the youngest riders this year, and Tilston Tic Toc. With a score of 59.3 the pair lie in 35th place at the end of day one.
“I’ve been riding him for five years, having moved over from a 14hh pony, so to be here now is surreal. Our dressage was the best that I could have hoped for, with thanks to Jeanette Brakewell who has taken me under her wing.
“The cross-country is big and bold but what I expected, and I’ve already decided on one long route, at the Dairy Mound. It’s our strong phase though, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Abigail, who works part-time at a wedding venue near Burton-on-Trent.
Ben impressed many with his competent, attacking riding at Badminton earlier this year, and the 27-year-old from Rugby is hoping for a repeat performance at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, where he will again partner Elisabeth Collins’ and his own Galley Light.
“I’ve been coming to Burghley for years as a spectator, so to be here as a competitor feels quite surreal; it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” admitted Ben, who works full-time as a chartered surveyor and land agent. “This is a four-star that you want to tick off this list; the cross-country always causes trouble and you just want to get round. Galley Light is thoroughbred and he gallops, stays and jumps, so I hope we will have a good time.”
Ben kicked off his campaign on Thursday morning with a dressage score of 60.2 for 36th place overnight. “He got a bit tight in the arena and some tension crept in. His flying changes were better than at Badminton, but some of the other bits weren’t as good.”