As usual, there was a mixture of elation and disappointment for this year’s Land Rover Burghley first-timers.
Best of the bunch at the end of cross country day is Holly Payne-Caravella (USA). The penultimate rider out on course she steered Never Outfoxed to a clear round with 18.4 time penalties, moving up from 50th after dressage to 17th at the close of play today.
“That was amazing,” she said on completing her first Land Rover Burghley cross country. “There was so much trouble out there that while my goal was to get around clean, I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“I watched a lot of the rounds earlier in the day which I always find helpful, but it is nervewracking. Never Outfoxed gave me a great round.”
Fellow compatriot Elisa Wallace (USA), who posted the best dressage score of the debutants to start today in 18th place, also jumped a lovely clear but somewhat more steadily than Holly on the well-named Simply Priceless. They notched up 30.4 time penalties, but completing with a clear was Elisa’s main aim and she was thrilled. The pair drops two places to 20th ahead of the showjumping phase.
“I had three-and-a-half hours sleep last night,” confessed the American. “David O’Connor said to me before I set out that not everything would go to plan and when it didn’t, I should ride instinctively. That happened at the Trout Hatchery when we had an awkward jump in and I had to make a quick decision.”
Best British first-timer at this stage of the competition is Becky Woolven with her 10-year-old Irish Sports Horse Charlton Down Riverdance. Thirty-third after dressage, and one of the last to head out across what had been a hugely influential track, the pair played safe, adding 32.8 time penalties, but still climbed 11 places up the leaderboard.
“[Charlton Down Riverdance] was so good and so straight, even when I didn’t get it right. I hadn’t anticipated how hard those last few fences would be to ride on a tired horse; I was counting them down as we jumped them.
“Going so late in the day meant a long wait, but I have lots of friends and family here who did a great job of distracting me – luckily I have the coolest horse with the biggest heart.”
Also clear, albeit a little lucky through the Land Rover Trout Hatchery, was Arthur Duffort (FRA) riding Herbst Golden Eclipse. He had walked the course with Andrew Nicholson, for whom he used to work, joking: “It’s a shame I couldn’t ride it as well as [Andrew] does it.
“I don’t think a course like this ever rides as it walks and I have a strong horse so I knew I had to be careful. My horse and I are both inexperienced and each back rail looked bigger and bigger as we went round. Our dressage wasn’t good (they posted a score of 66.4) so I just wanted to play safe and enjoy myself – I’ve come here for the buzz and the experience.”
Alexander Bragg was the only first timer with two rides, and he had mixed fortunes. First out on Zagreb, the pair parted company late on the course in Discovery Valley. He made no such mistake on Redpath Ransom, coming home clear.
“For the first half-hour or so after the fall of course I was disappointed, but I chilled out, watched a bit of TV and came back ready to have another go. This guy [Redpath Ransom] didn’t know what had happened so I owed it to him to ride properly.
“It was the most gruelling test I have put either of the horses through; it’s like running over speed bumps, so while [Redpath Ransom] is normally a good jumper I have no idea how he’ll come out tomorrow. For now I’m just really proud of the horses, and over the moon to have jumped a clear round.”
The final first-timer to complete was this year’s youngest competitor, Imogen Gloag. She made one mistake at the Dairy Farm, but the 21-year-old was nevertheless delighted with Brendonhill Doublet. She was held for around 15 minutes at the start while Paul Tapner was being assessed after a fall, but set off positively and kept up a steady rhythm.
“It was pretty nerve-racking waiting at the start, but I just kept going over and over the course in my head,” said Imogen. “He was a bit shell-shocked when he saw the crowds, but once he got used to them he grew in confidence.”
Where first time dreams came to an end:
Nilson Moreria Da Silva / Muggle, retired after 2 refusals (Lion Bridge @4, Anniversary Splash @5)
Stacey Shimmons / Orions Promise, retired after 2 refusals (Anniversary Splash @5)
Ibby Macpherson / Ballingowan Diamond, retired after 1 refusal (Capability’s Cutting @8)
Sonja Johnson / Parkiarrup Illicit Liason, eliminated for unseated rider (Rolex Combination @15)
Nicholas Lucey / Proud Courage, eliminated for 3 refusals (Land Rover Dairy Farm @14, Land Rover Trout Hatchery @21 and Herberts Hollow @22)
Katie Barber / Woodfield Ria, eliminated for unseated rider (Discovery Valley @24)
Kirsty Johnston / Opposition Detective, eliminated for unseated rider (Discovery Valley @24)
Libby Head / Sir Rockstar, eliminated for horse fall – unhurt (Cross Rails @25)
Bunnie Sexton / Rise Against, eliminated for 3 refusals (Maltings Village Green @17, 2 at FEI Classics Leaf Pit @26)
Matthew Glentworth / Ultimatt, pulled up and eliminated after Discovery Valley (fence 27)