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Blenheim Palace International CCI3* Cross Country Course Walk

Here’s your first look at Eric Winter’s CCI3* cross country course at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Team USA has five in the CCI3*: Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot, Holly Payne Caravella and Santino, Will Faudree and Pfun, Kurt Martin and DeLux Z, and Tamie Smith and Twizted Syster. 

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Muggle have also re-routed to Blenheim after retiring early on course at Burghley. Unfortunately, Sinead Halpin has withdrawn Manoir de Carneville from the CCI3* after he sustained a minor injury at Millstreet in Ireland. Kylie Lyman and Lup the Loop are also competing in the 8/9-year-old CIC3*, as are Tamie Smith and Dempsey.

The first horse inspection is underway at 4 p.m. BST, 11 a.m. EST. Stay tuned for a full report plus comments on the cross country from the riders. Go Eventing!

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Chris Burton Wins Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, 3 U.S. Riders in Top 20

Chris Burton wins The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016 Photo by Nico Morgan

Chris Burton wins The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016. Photo by Nico Morgan.

What an exciting finale to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials — the show jumping phase was certainly influential and as the track took its toll it began to be obvious that clear rounds would become very valuable.

Course designer Richard Jeffery speculated that it was the holding going, neither wet nor dry but in between, combined with the undulations, that caught so many riders out. Richard assured us that he took yesterday’s gruelling test in such challenging conditions into account when he amended his course this morning with the Ground Jury.

“The cross country courses are getting more and more technical, the dressage scores are getting lower and lower and I think the show jumping has to keep up with it,” he said. “When we built the course last night the ground was very wet and holding, and when we walked it this morning it was what I would call in-between.”

“We wheeled it a little generously this morning because of all the turns, we didn’t want to see the horses slipping (the time was amended after the first three horses and three seconds were taken off the optimum). Equally the spreads were much narrower than they were last year, we pulled them in and ramped a few more of the oxers with the footing in mind. I think the footing certainly has an effect, and that arena has a lot of ups and downs that unbalance the horses, it does have an influence on the horses when they’re a little bit tired.”

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive finish 18th at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive finish 18th at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Chris Burton, who had four down, agreed, “I think the ground in the show jumping was still a little bit dead today, along with tired horses because of very dead, very holding ground yesterday but that’s the sport of three day eventing.”

Chris also wondered if speed the day before took its toll on the scoreboard of the top riders this afternoon. “Maybe if I’d gone a little slower yesterday then I’d have had three down or two down, or … you start thinking like this and you really don’t know.”

Jonelle Price, 3rd, agreed but added that the course was also more difficult this year. “I think it was a bit more technical than we’ve seen here in the past few years, obviously the terrain on cross country day is always influential and I think you really notice it at the top end, the ones that have gone a bit faster. I thought the horses all came out this morning looking really good, I think it was just more that it was a slightly more difficult track than we’ve seen in the past few years.”

By the time he entered the arena, Chris Burton had an unbelievable four rails in hand over his closest competitor, Andrew Nicholson on Nereo, but even more unbelievably he used them all up before the last fence. I think almost everyone watching breathed a huge sigh of relief when he cleared it and most unbelievably of all claimed the 2016 title.

“I tried to keep it interesting for everyone by getting as close as I could! I don’t know if I’ll ever win a four star in such a way ever again. He warmed up ok, he’s basically a careful show jumper and I expected him to go well but in the end he got a bit tired and had a few down.”

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless finish 14th at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless finish 14th at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Chris never dreamed he would come to Burghley this weekend and lead from the start to the finish, “Not in my wildest dreams. On Wednesday I walked up Winner’s Avenue and saw all these old boys’ names there (gestures at Andrew!) and thought how amazing it would be to have my name on a plaque up there one day!”

Andrew Nicholson moved up a spot to second (the third time Nereo has been second here at Burghley) with just one rail down and two time faults, benefiting from Tim Price’s three down which moved him down to fourth on Ringwood Sky Boy just behind his wife Jonelle on Classic Moet who had one pole fall during her round.

Andrew shared that Burghley probably isn’t Nereo’s favourite event. “It’s one of the few places he feels like he doesn’t really enjoy going round the terrain here. The up and down bits of the course is quite hard for him because he takes a very big stride but he still does it.”

Jonelle was thrilled to finish in the top 3 after what she’d admitted at the time was a disappointing dressage score. “I feel like I’ve been digging myself out of a hole all week really, ever since the dressage and then obviously when I took the long route, unplanned, out of the Dairy Mound, but we’ve managed to stay in the competition and claw our way back and I’m delighted. Classic Moet really does make my job quite easy.”

Frenchman Cedric Lyard and Nadeau Du Roi jumped a clear round and moved up from 8th to 5th while Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 slipped down a place with two down.

Oliver Townend is best British rider in 6th place on Samuel Thomas III, Sir Mark Todd slipped to 9th on NZB Campino after knocking down two fences, and Britain’s Tina Cook rounds out the top 10 on Star Witness.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless complete The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016 Photo by Nico Morgan

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless complete The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016. Photo by Nico Morgan.

All three of our U.S. riders who were still in the hunt today finished in the top 20, which is an outstanding achievement, especially as Elisa and Holly are first-timers here.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless are our highest placed pair, they’ll finish in 14th place, Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive are 18th and Holly Payne-Caravella and Never Outfoxed are right behind them in 19th place.

Phillip Dutton rode Fernhill Fugitive in a hackamore and was desperately unlucky to just have the very last rail down but overall was very pleased with his round.

“He jumped great, he had the last fence down which was totally my fault, I should have waited for another stride but I couldn’t be more pleased with him. He struggled in the show jumping at Kentucky this year so I wasn’t really sure how today would go but he’s really matured and come out great today. He felt good this morning and he’s come out of the event well. I love Burghley, it’s the toughest event in the world but it’s good to be here and be a part of it. Unfortunately we weren’t right up there but … next time!”

Fernhill Fugitive flies home with super-groom Emma Ford on Wednesday and you can expect to see Phillip competing at Plantation Field this weekend.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive complete The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016 Photo by Nico Morgan

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive complete The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016 Photo by Nico Morgan

Elisa Wallace came out disappointed with three rails down but in the grand scheme of things it’s no disaster by any means.

“Well it was unfortunate, I wanted to go clean but on the positive side it’s a qualifying round and we finished, and my horse was trying really hard and I couldn’t be prouder of him. It was really tough out there because it’s a little sticky and then as the course went he realised, ‘Oh this is how I jump show-jumping in a grass ring!’ We started to figure it out and I couldn’t be happier with him.

“It’s been amazing this weekend, all the people, all the atmosphere, it really has been a great experience to come over here, the camaraderie with everybody, it’s really been a pleasure.”

Unlike any other rider I know, and even myself this morning, Elisa swore she wasn’t too nervous. “Actually I’ve been pretty relaxed, I was just like, ‘Well, we’re going to come out and do our thing, it is what it is, I want to be that tough competitor that keeps the rails up and we’ve been working really hard at that and he didn’t feel tired, he just felt like he was trying to figure out the footing. I was a little concerned about that but he was jumping well in the warm-up ring. We’ve had a bit of a tough time figuring out our show-jumping and we’ve been really good at getting just one pole and today we had three, but oh well, we’re just going to keep on cracking at it.”

Elisa intends to apply for a USEF grant to come to Badminton next spring and if that’s unsuccessful she told me she’ll start fundraising. “We’re just going to keep knocking off those goals of ours! He’s recovered great — it’s amazing to have such an incredible horse as he is.”

Holly Payne-Caravella had three down on Never Outfoxed and shared that she had a different horse today than what she’s used to,

“He’s never really show-jumped that rough really; he felt really good in warm-up and I think he just got away from me a bit in there. He felt more relaxed than he normally does and so maybe I should have ridden him a little stronger in the warm-up to make him more like what he usually is. He went in the arena and started off a little bit quiet and then he just started building so I wasn’t really expecting it.

“It was a different experience than normal, he’s normally quite hot all time and I was glad that he was so happy and relaxed and he felt comfortable, and it was just a bit of a different ride from what I’m used to. In the future I think I’ll just need to change my warm-up strategy a little bit so that I have the same horse that I’m used to riding in the ring because he’s usually a pretty good show-jumper.”

Fox will now head to Blenheim with Holly to keep his stable-mate happy as they’re used to being together and travelling together, and then they’ll fly home together after Blenheim. Next Spring Holly thinks they will head back to Kentucky.

“Overall I’m really pleased with him the whole weekend, super-happy, and Burghley has just been such a great experience. It’s been amazing and definitely an experience I won’t forget.”

Holly Payne-Caravella and Never Outfoxed complete The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016

Holly Payne-Caravella and Never Outfoxed complete The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016. Photo by Nico Morgan.

It’s been an unforgettable weekend for so many reasons, and I maintain that we can be very proud of all five of our U.S. riders and their horses. They came to Burghley — widely acknowledged as the toughest event in the world — on a particularly tough weekend and they can leave with their heads held high and know they all achieved something special here.

The horses have grown from the experience and our four ladies, all first-timers, will take away valuable lessons that will serve to make them even better during the rest of their careers. Can Phillip get any better? Possibly not!

Thank you as always to the army behind the scenes that makes an event like Burghley possible, and the army of support behind every horse and rider that makes every event possible. It’s been another vintage Burghley, peace out and catch you at Blenheim!

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All 38 Horses Plus 3 U.S. Combinations Accepted at Land Rover Burghley Final Horse Inspection

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless Photo by Nico Morgan

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan.

All 38 horses that were presented before the Ground Jury this morning at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials Final Horse Inspection were accepted to move on to the show jumping phase.

Sadly first timer Imogen Gloag withdrew Brendonhill Doublet and Bill Levett withdrew 9th placed Improvise before the trot-up this morning.

It’s bright and breezy this morning and a cool wind made lots of the horses fresh but they all passed without incident. No one was held or even asked to jog a second time.

Holly Payne-Caravella and Never Outfoxed Photo by Nico Morgan

Holly Payne-Caravella and Never Outfoxed. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Several spooked at the Land Rover show jump right by the jog lane, especially Tim Price’s overnight 2nd placed Ringwood Sky Boy, and Kirsty Short’s Cossan Lad.

Frenchman Denis Meples trotted up Oregon De La Vigne in his show jumping clothes, complete with boots and helmet, and when we saw how naughty his horse was being we understood why he didn’t take his hat off. The ground jury excused him from halting, for fear perhaps of being ploughed over, and were happy to see him go, I think!

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive Photo by Nico Morgan

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Nico Morgan.

The only nerve-wracking moment came when the Ground Jury took a minute to confer, and then passed Fernhill Fugitive, but apart from that it may have been the quickest, most trouble-free Horse Inspection I’ve been to.

Best Dressed Awards go, deservedly, to our Great Meadow International Team GB riders (hmm, lucky omen?!) Ben Way and Ros Canter. Best Cared for Horse was judged to be Becky Woolven’s Charlton Down River Dance, and the best shod horse Tom Crisp’s Coolys Luxury.

Sunday morning is a fashion spectacle. I admired lots of the outfits and it’s such fun to watch the horses and riders looking their absolute best. We’ll have lots more pictures to come on the EN Facebook later and you can decide your own Best Dressed and let us know.

Show jumping for the first division starts at 11: 15 am GB time, and our 3 U.S. riders are in the final division this afternoon which is due to get underway at 2:25 pm.  As always we owe an enormous thank you to Nico Morgan for supplying us with so many stunning images, and we’re trying not to get too nervous about the show-jumping this afternoon. It’s another exciting day here at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials – Go Eventing!

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3 U.S. Riders in Top 25 at Burghley, Australia and New Zealand Dominate

Holly Payne-Caravella and Never Outfoxed. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Holly Payne-Caravella and Never Outfoxed. Photo by Nico Morgan.

It’s been a long, wet, drama-packed day at Burghley that saw 68 starters, 40 completions, 28 clear rounds and none within the time. Chris Burton hung onto his lead, and 10 of the top 20 positions are held by Aussies and Kiwis.

Paul Tapner fell at Herbert’s Hollow fence 22 and was taken to hospital, but his wife reported that he was up and talking and they hoped it was a not too serious shoulder injury. There were five horse falls and seven rider falls, but apart from Paul they are all reportedly fine. Five horses all stumbled upon landing into the Trout Hatchery in exactly the same place, three of them falling and one unseating the rider. Sam Griffiths’ stirrup broke right before the first water and after trying to get his foot into the leather and jumping another 10 fences or so without it he admitted defeat and retired.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar negotiate the Trout Hatchery at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials  Photo by Nico Morgan

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar negotiate the Trout Hatchery at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials Photo by Nico Morgan

Course designer Captain Mark Phillips admitted that he would have liked less falls and was surprised by how much trouble the course caused, especially the influential Discovery Valley fence which was responsible for eight combinations either retiring or faulting.

“It was harder work for the riders than I thought it was going to be,” he said. “I think all the combinations required a forward ride on the way in. For me the disappointing thing was the number of falls we had today. I thought Discovery Valley was a gimme. You saw every fence ridden really well, a lot of people made every fence look fantastic but I’d like to have seen a better picture overall.”

Phillips blamed the falls on riders having to work extra hard today, “the rain didn’t help,” and on riders being pitched forward on landing. He also speculated that a lot of riders “haven’t learned how to ride Burghley this way round,” explaining that they perhaps used up too much of their horse in the first three minutes.

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against sail over Capability's Cutting Photo by Nico Morgan

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against sail over Capability’s Cutting Photo by Nico Morgan

Christopher Burton seemed to cruise round on Nobilis 18, giving him the trademark smooth and stylish ride we’ve become used to seeing from him. Coming home with just 3.8 time faults, the second fastest of the day after Jonelle Price, he now has a whopping 11.5-point lead over Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy.

Riding essentially an unknown quantity at this level in the lead after the dressage in such horrible conditions meant the pressure was on for Chris.

“I was very nervous today. I sat in the riders’ tent and watched a heap of riders and horses go and that didn’t help me at all. Then I went back to my truck and said to my wife, ‘Why don’t we just curl up in bed and have the afternoon off and forget this whole thing?!’ I’m delighted though. He went really well. He gave me a good feel. I guess I was just lucky today. The distances were coming to me, and he’s a good easy horse to ride forward to a fence so it was nice that he came in so well.

“I had one rare moment where I changed my mind about taking the option — instead of going long at the Trout Hatchery because I’d seen so many do it on four and a half strides I realised how far down on my minutes I was and decided to go straight instead, which is quite unusual for me to change my mind and go the other way instead.”

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Tim Price must be relieved to finally break his duck and get a solid, fast clear round under his belt at a major three-day, and he made it count, adding only 6 time faults to his dressage score to lie in 2nd place overnight. It wasn’t completely without incident though as he was held three quarters of the way round for fence repair (“I stopped myself at Rio at about exactly the same time, 8 minutes!” he joked) after Shane Rose all but demolished the Cross Rails at 25.

“I know Skyboy inside and out. He’s been round here before; we’ve had a good time here before so I was looking forward to his round and he coped with it very well. He grew a leg where he needed to, he found better balance, he wasn’t affected by the going, he knew when to have a second wind when he needed it at the top coming down the hill and he freshened up. It was a nice round and I enjoyed it.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless Photo By Nico Morgan

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless Photo By Nico Morgan

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo were clear with 12 time penalties to add, retaining their third place from dressage. “I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for him. Avebury was lovely to ride and very gentle whereas Nereo is a big strong horse and always found everything a little bit harder than him. I’ve lugged him all around the world and whenever he has to he’s come up with the goods for me. I’m very proud of him. It felt like most of the course he’d looked at the map and was reading the numbers for me because for sure a couple of times I wasn’t in the place I wanted to be. Up at the Dairy Mounds was one of them and he just spotted the corner at the bottom of the slope and took himself to it — that’s what we feed them and work them for, isn’t it?! He knows his job very, very well. The ground felt fine; maybe they were sinking in a little further than in the beginning of the day but it felt fine to me. I got time faults but it’s not because the ground felt too soft, basically I just probably didn’t go fast enough!”

Oliver Townend is the only British rider in the top ten, lying tenth on Samuel Thomas III. Bettina Hoy demonstrated her sheer determination to get a very sticky Designer 10 round clear and she lies 5th. Cedric Lyard’s lovely grey horse Cadeau Du Roi never stopped trying and they are in 8th place going into the final phase tomorrow. At one point during the day we had three New Zealand former Burghley winners out on course all at the same time — Blyth Tait, Andrew Nicholson and Caroline Powell who had a really fabulous ride on Onwards and Upwards to move up to 7th place. Sir Mark Todd is just ahead of her in 6th, and Bill Levett brought Improvise home clear with 20 time to claim 9th place overnight.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Nico Morgan.

After a long wait in horrible conditions, Holly Payne-Caravella finally got to go out and attack the cross country at the very end of the day and that’s exactly what she did. Never Outfoxed jumped his heart out for her and looked more and more confident the further they went. Holly rode strong and forward and positive and Never Outfoxed responded in kind. They never took their foot off the pedal and came home with just 18.4 time to move up to 17th place and best of the Americans.

I asked Holly if she felt Burghley was completely different from Rolex or not: “It was very similar in that I feel like at the three star level it still feels kind of nice, but at the four star level it’s like going to war! You’ve just got to get it done and it doesn’t always feel that great. Kentucky has definitely ridden the same way for me as it did here, so I don’t know if it’s ever going to feel smooth and easy jumping round a four star! It was similar in that it walked harder, and I think stuff may have been tougher but he handled it really well, I think he actually came out of this one a bit stronger, I think he was more tired finishing at Kentucky than he was here. He was super!”

Holly Payne and Never Outfoxed jump clear round the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials XC. Photo by Nico Morgan

Holly Payne and Never Outfoxed jump clear round the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials XC. Photo by Nico Morgan

The only sticky moments for Holly came when she said Fox just jumped so big, like at Cottesmore Leap fence 12 and then she had to squeeze in an extra stride on a turn to the brush hedge at 13, and the same at the Discovery Valley (24). “I took the option because he just jumped huge at the brush and then landed at the bottom of it and I thought I’ve gotten around this far, why risk it? I’d be really kicking myself if I had a run out there.”

Neither was the terrain a problem for Never Outfoxed, “He’s so quick on his feet that it didn’t really seem to phase him, he kind of runs like that normally, he can just throw his footwork in anywhere so I was definitely sitting on a good horse for that.”

Both Holly and Elisa Wallace ride full Thoroughbreds and both remarked to me at the end how much horse they had left at the finish. “Galloping up to the arena I thought, OK, I think I’ve got this done, but he was quite strong and I lost a little of my rideability at the end. I knew if I locked him onto the fences he was going to jump and go home. He was full of running but he had gotten tired where he didn’t really want to turn and listen to me anymore. He had enough power to still be pulling my arms out though!”

Holly will celebrate with a drink or two tonight, “give my pony lots of carrots and just hang out with everybody! I’m so happy all the Americans are here, it’s so awesome to have them all here. I’m so sad for Libby; she was having such a fabulous round and that was unfortunate. I gave Fox a big smack on take-off for that one! (Cross Rails Fence 25). He flew down the Leaf Pit drop. Phillip had told me they would back off and that I would have to kick; it’s a tight turn to it and he didn’t really see it but he did not back off at all, he just took off and went running down the hill and I had no reins but I made sure to put one more stride in before the skinny to be safe!”

Safe and sound, clear and relatively fast around what EquiRatings have confirmed is the toughest Burghley since 2004 with only a 41% completion rate.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Elisa Wallace will head into the show-jumping tomorrow just inside the top 20 after a fantastic clear round earlier in the day, coming home with 30.4 time penalties to sit in 20th place. After a slightly sticky start at the second water crossing Elisa sat down and in her words, grit it out, made stuff happen and got the job done.

“He’s been a little bit peek-y and a little unsure at water since I fell off him in the water at Great Meadow, not that he did anything wrong there but he saw me fall and I think it worried him, so I knew I was going to have to ride him hard. He jumped for me and I was like, ‘Alright buddy, we got it!’ and he just tried and tried and he helped me, and I helped him and that’s what it’s about out there! It’s about gritting it out; it’s not always going to be pretty. It’s Burghley and it’s raining which is what I asked for because I always tend to ride in the rain so it seems to be a good luck thing.”

Like Holly, they got better and better the further they went, and Elisa said it was a massive thrill to jump round the iconic course. “I felt like we just had to go and get this done! It was hard but it was definitely fun, I was like, yeah, we’re at Burghley, let’s go! It was an amazing feeling to start knocking out these famous areas; one of my favourite ones was when we came to the Cottesmore Leap because I’d been terrified of that, and we sliced it and angled it and he just pinged right over it and popped the four strides to the next fence and I thought, ‘Heck yeah! We’re going to get this today!’”

Elisa relished the famous Burghley spectators: “I love the crowds, you can hear them screaming for you and to hear ‘Go Johnny’ even all the way over here rooting for your horse is just incredible. This ranks right up there with my first Rolex, my first four star, it’s incredible. I was so proud of him!”

Elisa didn’t sleep much last night — after finally falling asleep at midnight she woke up at 3:30 a.m. and that was it for her, so I’m sure she’ll catch up on a little of that tonight.

Phillip Dutton was our third U.S. rider to complete and also to bring his horse home clear. “It went pretty well, it is tough no doubt, the ground is getting pretty heavy so they’re labouring every gallop stride; they are big jumps but the take-offs are still good but it’s a real test for the horses. In my opinion this is the biggest and the hardest four-star in the world. It’s designed and meant for the elite four star horses and riders so you shouldn’t come here unless you’re ready for that. This was much tougher than Rolex for Fernhill Fugitive. The up and downs are hard and he doesn’t accelerate very quickly so on uneven terrain it’s hard to get him going and he doesn’t go across the ground like a Thoroughbred would but he tried his heart out. He jumped beautifully and stayed brave and he’s always looking for the flags. He’s a pretty green horse still so this would be a big test for him. We’re going to reward him for putting in a great effort today, and we’ll worry about tomorrow then.”

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Bunnie Sexton told me that despite not having the result she wanted today she’s happy to bring home a sound horse. “I’m home safe, he’s home safe, he’s sound, it’s still been amazing, it’s just a whole different ball game, totally different to anything I’ve ever experienced.”

The rain really started coming down at its worst while Bunnie was held waiting to go at the start and Bunnie thinks had she known the weather would change so quickly she would have used different studs. Rise Against was slipping quite badly behind from the very beginning. She told me, “I learnt what not to do in the wet. He tried his heart out but instead of compensating for his insecurity about the footing by being more aggressive I became more timid. The stop at the skinny brush at the Maltings was completely my fault, that was just a lack of organisation and then between there and the Leaf Pit he threw his left front shoe, which probably made him reluctant to drop down onto that foot. Every other big drop I’ve done, like at Bromont, I’ve let him look at it and slither down, but I know now that I shouldn’t have done that here. Hindsight is 20/20 and who knows, if he’d landed on one foot with a shoe and studs and one barefoot. I’m glad he’s safe and I come out of this feeling like he can jump anything in the world. We did all the jumps I was terrified of — I was scared of just about everything up until the Leaf Pit!”

Libby Head had been having the ride of her life on Sir Rockstar all the way until the Cross Rails at 25. This gutsy and talented little OTTB was eating up the course and Libby was riding with a poise and maturity of a seasoned four-star campaigner. Unfortunately one small error at the Cross Rails so near the end was to be their undoing.

“He was going really well until the oxer before the Leaf Pit. I took a different line than I had walked and unfortunately decided not to act on the first distance I saw, which put us right underneath it and towards the part that was higher in front. He tried his heart out to get over it but it being towards the end of the course he just didn’t quite have the springs he normally has to get us over it. I’m thrilled with how it all went up until that point though, so I won’t be going home completely disappointed!” Libby should be thrilled, they have proven themselves a classy combination on the biggest stage in the world and that’s certainly something to be proud of.

As Eventing Nation’s writer here representing the U.S. riders I couldn’t be prouder of our squad today. Both on and off their horses it’s been such a privilege to be associated with them, and a real joy to report on them. I’m glad everyone is safe and sound tonight, and looking forward to getting warm and dry. Tomorrow is another day — show jumping day — and we’ll do it all over again, in a manner of speaking!

The Final Horse Inspection is at 9 a.m. GB time and the show jumping starts at 10:30 a.m. with the top 24 (yes! all three of our riders will jump in the afternoon!) due in the arena at 2:25 p.m.

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Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive Clear Cross Country at Tough Burghley

Mark Phillips’ tough cross country, the infamous Burghley terrain and some horrible British weather (pelting rain) have all combined to make this one of the most difficult days riding most of the competitors will ever have to face.

If ever you had to rely on a jockey to get the job done it would be Phillip Dutton, and he did just that on Tom Tierney and Annie Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive. We’ve got his initial reaction after coming home clear with 38.8 time and we’ll bring you more later with a wrap up from the top three and news of our last rider to go, Holly Payne.

Sadly Bunnie Sexton and Libby Head put in valiant efforts and so nearly made it home but Rise Against really didn’t want to jump off the Leaf Pit, and they were eliminated there for two stops after an earlier stop at the skinny triple brush at the Maltings. Libby Head was giving Sir Rockstar a fabulous ride and he looked to be jumping beautifully but they came to grief when she fell from him at the Cross Rails at 25.

Stay with EN for more from Burghley and respect to all the riders out there today.

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Elisa Wallace Ecstatic After Fantastic Clear at Big Burghley

We’ll have a full report to come but in the meantime we couldn’t wait to share this video Elisa Wallace recorded with Burghley.tv after her fabulous clear cross country round on Simply Priceless. A clear round with 30.4 time penalties has them sitting in 10th place currently on a very wet day when time is proving very influential.

A massive congratulations to Elisa and her entire team and supporters. We couldn’t be prouder or happier and look forward to brining you much more from Burghley later. Go Johnny!

Follow the action live on Twitter @eventingnation, and you can follow along right on the EN homepage. Our only other American to go so far, Bunnie Sexton, was sadly eliminated on refusals at the Leaf Pit with Rise Against. They are both totally OK.

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Catching up with Nilson Moreira da Silva after Burghley Dressage

Nilson Moreira Da Silva and Muggle Photo by Nico Morgan

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Muggle. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Nilson Moreira da Silva has had an incredibly busy summer, flying over to England with the Phoenix Syndicate’s Muggle to train with the Brazilian squad on the advice of team trainer Mark Todd, then flying to Rio as traveling reserve for the Olympic Games, and now he finds himself competing at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials before he returns to his home base in the States next week.

Nilson kindly stopped to chat after his dressage test about his preparation and training with Mark Todd and his thoughts on being at such a prestigious event.

Many thanks to Nilson and wishing him and Muggle the very best of luck for the remainder of the weekend.

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Chris Burton and Nobilis 18 Dominate to Take Burghley Lead

Chris Burton and Nobilis 18 Photo by Nico Morgan

Chris Burton and Nobilis 18. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Friday afternoon is generally exciting at any three-day event and this year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials proved no different. By the end of the day the top of the leaderboard is awash with Australian and New Zealand flags — ten in the top fifteen. Chris Burton and Nobilis 18 lead 30.2, followed by Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 in second on 34.5, and Andrew Nicholson and Nereo in third on 35.2.

Andrew Nicholson laid down the gauntlet right after the lunch break with a very smart test, almost mistake free but for an awkward moment when Nereo trod on his own hind leg with a front foot during the rein back. Apart from that they nailed it, and it wasn’t a surprise to see him leave the arena on a sub-40 score: 35.2 coming dangerously close to Bettina’s leading 34.5.

Not to be outdone, compatriots Blyth Tait and Caroline Powell, the very next in, also rose to the occasion and juggled the top ten even more. Caroline’s test was beautiful and she sits fourth overnight right behind Andrew Nicholson on 37.8, while Blyth conjured every single point possible out of Bayr Necessity to score 42.2 for 10th place going into the cross country.

Andrew Hoy and the former Sandra Auffaurth ride The Blue Frontier looked like they might challenge the top three until a couple of mistakes in the last change and canter let them down. Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy also were looking golden but uncharacteristically missed two changes; nonetheless both riders are still in the tightly packed top ten with everything to play for on cross country tomorrow. Oliver Townend is the sole British rider in the top ten, pulling a 38.1 out of the bag on MHS King Joules to lie in 5th place.

Chris Burton and Nobilis 18 take Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials dressage lead Photo by Nico Morgan

Chris Burton and Nobilis 18. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Chris Burton went into the main arena about halfway through the last batch of riders and blew everyone else out the water, scoring 30.2 and smashing the British record for a four-star dressage score. Chris knew the horse was capable of doing such a good test and knew the horse had been in good form lately and so had been optimistic coming into today.

“He was just fantastic today, he was very relaxed, he let me ride him, he let me ride the movements and I was really proud of him. He’s done some good tests before and I’d told the owners I was hopeful because he’s been very relaxed all week; at Badminton he got very lit up by the crowd … so I’m pleased I was able to do a good test today.

“It’s always hard to feel confident when you’re facing the Burghley Horse Trials cross country course. (I’m) more terrified, but he’s a good blood horse and he’s a special cross country ride, so I hope he copes well. I think Mark’s built a fantastic course here and it really makes you attack it and if you’re lucky enough to have a good ride, you’ll really feel very special.”

There’s nothing in particular that Chris could pick out on course as terrifying: “Fence 1 to 30, they all are! It’s Burghley! It’s always big, it’s always tough, it’s relentless. I walked a friend up to the Leaf Pit the other day and it doesn’t matter how many times you walk that bloody fence, it never gets any smaller, and it’s a long way round. Of course I’m looking forward to having a go, but I can’t say I’m excited about it.”

Bettina Hoy now slips to second place and admitted she wasn’t sure if she’d retain her top place all day: “I expected Burto to go ahead of me,” she laughed, “it was a beautiful test. It was technically so well ridden and the mark is well-deserved.”

As for the course: “I think you need to have it very clear in your mind where you want to ride at each individual fence and it’s certainly an attacking fence and I think we three (her, Chris Burton and Andrew Nicholson) are all glad we’re sitting on such good jumpers because I think you’ll need a seriously good jumper and obviously a very fit horse.”

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo Photo by Nico Morgan

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Andrew Nicholson is another rider here this week making a remarkable recovery; last year he watched the event on television after a neck injury that was potentially life-threatening but it never occurred to him that he wouldn’t return. “I was quite sure I’d be back and here we are, I’ve always been very confident about it.”

Not just back, but back in the top three after the first phase, with his best phase still to come tomorrow. “Nereo is very, very nice to ride in the arena. He’s not a naturally gifted dressage horse — he’s a big, powerful galloper, he’s not meant to be crammed into a small arena — but he’s 16 years old, he’s done a lot of work, he’s been to an awful lot of events and he’s a pleasure to ride in there. You know he’s going to go in, he’s going to focus on what he’s got to do, not look at the crowd or the flowers or be surprised by anything, he basically makes my job very easy.”

Andrew, like all the riders, has respect for the test ahead tomorrow. “I think the cross country course is very nice, I think it’s very demanding, I think it’s pretty difficult all the way around. I think the way Mark Phillips has got the jumps very close together at the beginning — three water crossings in the first two minutes — will make you be slower I would have thought, then you start chasing the clock to make up time and you get to all the big, technical fences.

“You’ve got to ride it properly for the whole course, not doze off anywhere, know where you’re going and ride it properly. I think it’s very fair to the horses where they’ve got to jump and it’s up to the riders to show them where they’ve got to go.”

Holly Payne Caravella and Never Outfoxed Photo by Nico Morgan

Holly Payne Caravella and Never OutFoxed. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

We had to wait until almost the very end of the afternoon to see our last U.S. rider Holly Payne Caravella go with the Never OutFoxed Syndicate’s Never Outfoxed. By that time we were all reeling somewhat from Chris Burton’s scores and the ever-changing top end of the scoreboard and the mid-test elimination of Frenchman Rudolph Scherer Makara De Montiege after his horse was judged to be unsound. You could say the atmosphere was somewhat electric.

Luckily there was no such drama with Holly and Fox. They went in and did as good a test as they could in the circumstances, and Holly was pleased with her score of 55.8,.“He’s always a difficult horse on dressage day but I was really happy with him. I had no idea how he’d handle this atmosphere and the long hack up through the cross country is a little bit challenging for him but I was really pleased with him. I thought he was really good.

“I was just trying to stay calm and keep him calm and keep him relaxed. He definitely got a little bit amped up when he heard the crowd applauding the rider before me, then he settled a bit again. He went hot and cold a bit, but he’s only ten and he hasn’t been around that much. He’s done Kentucky twice but this is his first time overseas and I’m really proud of him. He’s got a big future ahead of him and I think this was a step in the right direction.”

Holly Payne-Caravella and Never Outfoxed after their dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials Photo by Nico Morgan

Holly Payne Caravella and Never Outfoxed after their dressage test. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Holly has competed at Blenheim before but this is her first Burghley. “It’s huge and intimidating. I’m sitting on a really great cross country horse so that should make me feel a bit better, but it’s enormous and it’s long and there’s just so much to do out there. He’s totally capable of doing it but I think it’s going to be a big challenge. It’s definitely the hardest four-star I’ve ever seen.

“Hopefully the weather holds off. I heard it’s supposed to start raining and being the second last to go the footing is always a concern. He’s actually run both times in Kentucky in pouring rain so we’re used to it.” Holly will probably walk while people are going tomorrow and watch to see how the course is riding, and then she said she’d probably go back to the riders’ tent and watch some more and ‘stress out’ while she waits some more.

Thank you to all the riders for all their time and patience talking to us, and wishing them safe and speedy rounds tomorrow. You can catch up on comments from more riders in the top 10 here and read quotes from Phillip Dutton and Libby Head here. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Nilson Moreira da Silva!

Cross country starts at 11:15am GB time (6:15am US eastern) and the last horse is due on course at 3:45 pm (10:45am US eastern). Elisa Wallace will be first out for the US squad at 12:23 GB and she’ll be wearing a jockey cam for the BBC and Burghley TV coverage so we’ll get to see her and what she’s seeing!

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against set off at 1:21pm GB, and then Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive at 2:04pm. Nilson Moreira da Silva and Muggle are due to leave the start box at 2:12pm GB, followed by Libby Head and Sir Rockstar at 2:27pm. Holly Payne Caravella, second last to go, 3:41pm.

Eventing Nation will be live tweeting most of the day as much as possible and then bringing you our U.S. riders’ reactions and wrap up of the day. The cross country will be live streamed in the U.S. on Burghley TV, but it will be shown on a delay and will not start until 8 a.m. EST. Hoping we all get some sleep tonight and that the weather behaves tomorrow. It’s been another fantastic day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and we cautiously excited for the next two.

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A Busy Friday Morning of Top Dressage Tests at Burghley

Sam Griffiths and Happy Times in the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016 dressage arena Photo by Nico Morgan

Sam Griffiths and Happy Times. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Sam Griffiths and Happy Times, his loyal campaigner who he calls the Roger Federer of Eventing, were the last to go before the Friday lunch break at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, but you’d have kicked yourself if you’d snuck off early and missed his test. With an Olympic Games (London) under their belts together and two third places right here at Burghley they, know when and how to turn it on.

“I was really pleased with my test. Warming up he was actually quite tense and I thought it might all go pear-shaped but he trotted out into the middle of the arena and went, ‘Oh, it’s Burghley, I’m just going to relax and do a nice test!’ There were a couple of little mistakes in there but he went really nicely. I’m really pleased with that score, that’s got me really competitive but there’s a couple more days of competition to go with a really demanding cross country track, but my horse is experienced, I know he goes well around here, so hopefully I can be right up there at the end.”

“I’d love to say I’m really relaxed but it’s a daunting cross country and it’s a tough competition, but I’ve done it a few times before so I know I can go well here. Whenever you say the word Burghley you know it’s going to be massive, whenever you watch it on telly you never quite get the idea of the size of some of the fences but you’ve got to have a super-talented horse, a really brave horse and a well-trained horse to go well around this course. I’d love to win it if you really want to know, my horse is getting towards the end of his career and I feel he could still really win this but a lot’s got to go right over the next couple of days.”

Happy Times was inducted into the Event Riders Hall of Fame for horses last night. This is his seventh time at Burghley and his 11th CCI4* start.

Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino Photo by Nico Morgan

Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino had already gone earlier in the day and performed as expected for a horse with four CCI4* starts and four placings under his belt, did a nice test. “I was very happy, the horse is pretty experienced now. He’s not flashy in this phase but he’s pretty solid, there was just one little mistake in the first change and I was very happy with the mark. There’s a lot of good horses here and the course is tough and will play a big part but it’s always nice to be up amongst the leaders before you set off across country.

“I think it’s a typical Burghley, it’s big all the way round, I think we jump something like ten or eleven fences in the first two minutes so it’s pretty intense with two water crossings, the second water is a difficult fence and then all the way around there’s just big questions, there’s no let-up and of course you’ve got the ups and downs, the hills as well. That’s my biggest worry with this horse and why he hasn’t been here before, he hasn’t got a lot of thoroughbred in him and he’s not the fastest thing on four legs but we’ve got perfect going and that will help him and we’ll see what we can do.”

Sarah Cohen and Treason Photo by Nico Morgan

Sarah Cohen and Treason. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Sarah Cohen, who now professes to be a ‘semi-retired’ eventer as she only has Treason and is also a mother to two children aged 3 and 7, also staked her claim on the sharp end of the leaderboard this morning with a very nice test and as I type this the only Brit currently in the top ten.

“He was great! A little bit of tension crept in towards the end but we held it together, I was really pleased with him, he did some lovely trot work, it’s one of the best tests he’s perhaps done. I couldn’t have asked any more. It’s a bit frustrating about the first couple of changes because he is great at those but when the tension creeps in they can just go a little bit not to plan, but generally I was really pleased with him.”

Sarah is a local rider, she only lives half an hour away, and when she competed here on Treason 3 years ago she’d only just had her second baby some six months prior. Between that and an insignificant but annoying injury four years ago that put paid to their London 2012 team chances. Sarah feels this might be their year.

“I’d say he’s fitter than he was three years ago and he had a great round back then so I’m hoping for an even better round this time. Because I do it just for a bit of fun now and I only have him at home, I wanted to give it our all, not that I haven’t before but this was a bit the last chance and he’s feeling so fit and well and we’ve got nothing to lose!

“I think it’s a really nice track, it’s a big track but it’s Burghley, it’s always going to be big. I think there are a lot of places you could have silly mistakes but there are a lot of places where if something doesn’t go right there is always plan b, plan c and even plan d here. He’s been a bit cheeky a couple of times this year but he’s had two really good runs at Barbury and Gatcombe so we come here full of confidence.”

Ben Hobday and Ramilo at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016 Photo by Nico Morgan

Ben Hobday and Ramilo. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

This time last year Ben Hobday was watching Burghley from his hospital bed, but he didn’t let himself think about that before he went into the arena this morning on Ramilo. Instead he focused on helping get the best performance he could out of his first time four-star partner. Once he’d finished though the enormity of what he’s achieved began to sink in.

“It’s pretty amazing to be back here doing it. I just focused on keeping the horse together and keeping his focus on me. Once we’d finished the test, well, I’m just letting it all soak in really. I’m pleased with the horse, he tried, he doesn’t find the dressage very easy, I thought they were a touch harsh on him, he isn’t going to challenge the leaders by any means in the dressage but it is what it is and we’ll have to kick on tomorrow and try and make up the difference.

“You can never come to Burghley without respecting the jumps, he’s (Captain Mark Phillips) has done a real job of building a big, technical course so I hope my horse is up to it and so am I. It’s the horse’s first four star so to complete and give him a safe round is the number one priority and number two is to try and chase the leaders as best we can!”

Ben Hobday and Ramilo finish their Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials dressage test Photo By Nico Morgan

Ben Hobday and Ramilo finish their dressage test. Photo By Nico Morgan Photography.

Ben was also supposed to bring Mulry’s Error the super cob to Burghley but the horse “missed a couple of canters due to little niggles and he’s a big lad and needs to be on top of his fitness.” Ben and the owners decided to err on the side of caution: “I just felt he wasn’t as fit as I’d like him and although it’s a shame it would be more of a shame to bring him here and not do him justice. ” We’re happy to hear that all is okay with him and look forward to seeing him out again soon.”

Still more dressage to come this afternoon especially USA’s Holly Payne Caravella and Never OutFoxed, and the leaderboard keeps changing. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive went earlier in the day, and you can catch up on their comments on their tests here. We’ll have a full round up and quotes from the press conference at the end of the day, but until then go eventing!

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Phillip Dutton Scores 50.5 at Burghley, New Personal Best for Libby Head

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive Land rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016 Photo By Nico Morgan

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo By Nico Morgan Photography.

Friday has dawned grey and gloomy at Burghley with the persistent threat of rain, a completely different day to the bright sunshine and warm temperatures we basked in yesterday. There’s a lot more people here and also a lot more atmosphere. We thought that Bettina’s score of 34.5 yesterday would be hard to beat, and as we head into the lunch break on Friday only Sam Griffiths and Happy Times have come close, the only other combination to break the sub-40 barrier scoring 39.6.

Mark Todd and NZB Campino have taken over the number three slot so far on 42.2, just 0.1 ahead of Sarah Cohen and cross country specialist Treason in fourth place. We’ll bring you pictures and reports from them shortly.

Phillip Dutton was first to go today for the U.S. squad near the end of the first group in the morning and scored 50.5. Tom Tierney and Annie Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive looked fantastic in the warm-up and indeed Phillip said he started off feeling better than ever. “I’m a little disappointed; it started off as good as I’ve ever started, he was really good and then he just got a little bit backed off in the last part and missed three changes, which was very costly.

“He was going so well maybe I got a little bit too relaxed on him. He does tend to back off and not express himself so I should have anticipated that and ridden him a little better.” Olympic medalists are their own toughest critics!

Phillip acknowledged that Burghley is far from a dressage competition but wonders if he’s left himself too much to do. “It’s a big track tomorrow so we’ll take it a day at a time and see if can do a bit better there. There’s not one area of the course that stands out, it’s strong all the way. It brings you back to realising that you still need a really fit horse that can gallop for four miles and can jump big fences.

“Every jump is big and wide … you’ve got to have a horse that’s going to fight, they’ve got to have a lot of fitness, a lot of endurance. It’s a pretty special course; it’s a fair bit different to everywhere else in the world. The degree of difficulty and the terrain, it’s a real endurance test and Mark Phillips has built a really strong track. They have to gallop for a really long time and they also have to jump about 40 big jumps as well.”

Fernhill Fugitive after his Land Rover Burghley 2016 dressage Photo by Samantha Clark

Fernhill Fugitive after his dressage test. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Fernhill Fugitive stayed at home at True Prospect Farm while Phillip was in Rio and was ridden by Jenny Caras and Emily Hamel, but before that underwent quite a demanding summer as he was still an Olympic prospect and so is apparently very happy now to be settled in at Burghley.

“He’s had a pretty tough summer. We did the Great Meadow CICO3*, and then we had to travel to Ocala and train in the heat there, and then back again so it hasn’t been the easiest time, but he likes it over here. It’s much cooler for him. It’s pretty horse-friendly for the summer.”

Luckily, Phillip is constantly being asked how it feels to be the newly minted Olympic bronze medalist. “It’s good when everyone reminds me! It’s obviously a childhood dream to stand on the podium, and I’ve done it fortunately in a team situation but not in an individual situation so it was a lifelong dream come true.”

And if he were to win Burghley? “Well, this would be another dream come true, this one! I might be a bit too far back I think to win from here but maybe another time we’ll give it another shot. This guy (Fernhill Fugitive) deserves his chance. He’s done Rolex twice now, and this is a bit of a step up for him but hopefully he’s ready for it. It’s fun to be in England where everybody is pretty much an educated event person and they know what they’re looking at, so it’s cool for us to come over and be a part of it.”

Nilson Moreira da Silva went a couple of horses after Phillip with the Muggle Syndicate’s Muggle, scoring 57.5 to best their score from Rolex by nearly 10 marks. We’ll bring you a video interview with him later, wifi permitting!

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016 Photo by Nico Morgan

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar warmed up with Shaun Mandy, who’s been helping her a little this summer, and they looked like dynamite outside the arena. Happily, they carried that with them all the way through the test, and they also came out with a four-star personal best of 53.7.

A beaming Libby told me afterwards: “I couldn’t be happier! He went in there and did some of his best work and he actually did it in the ring, I’m just so happy he held it together really! He does tend to feel better on grass to me. I think it just feels like a little bit less of an atmosphere, it’s seems like it’s not such a big change from warm-up into there, so he keeps his cool a little better and I think getting into atmospheres like this more often, he’s finally settling down. I

“t was kind of crazy to be going in there in that atmosphere, but he walked in pretty quietly and that made me happy immediately, so I could enjoy it a little bit better. Usually I’m still holding my breath until he’s entering the arena and he seems like he’s going to be good, and then I can take a deep breath and know we’re going to be okay.”

Libby Head, Devon Brown and Sir Rockstar share a moment after their Land Rover Burghley 2016 dressage test - a new personal best Photo by Samantha Clark

Libby Head, super groom Devon Brown and Sir Rockstar share a moment after a personal best test! Photo by Samantha Clark.

Libby will probably walk the course a couple of times this afternoon and tomorrow. “I’ll just try and keep calm and not get too nervous, try not to think about it too much. I like to watch some go out, and that will be good because I’m later so I can see how the course is riding. I’ll definitely go out there by myself in the morning and walk it again.”

Well done to both Phillip and Libby. Stay tuned for more riders’ assessments of their tests. We talked to Sam Griffiths, who’s right behind Bettina, Sir Mark Todd lying third currently, Sarah Cohen in fourth and fab favorite Ben Hobday. Also still to come after the lunch break: Burghley specialist Andrew Nicholson on Nereo, Tim Price, Chris Burton and our very own Holly Payne Caravella. Don’t go away. Go Land Rover Burghley Eventing!

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Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 Lead After First Day at Burghley

Bettina Hoy and Designer 10. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Bettina Hoy and Designer 10. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Bettina Hoy is always a force to be reckoned with in the dressage arena and today was no different at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials as she took a commanding lead with Designer 10 on 34.5, eight penalties ahead of Bill Levett and Improvise, who are a further four points ahead of third-placed Paul Sims and Glengarnock.

No one could begrudge Bettina any success though as she’s so delightful and always gives all the credit to her horse despite her beautiful riding. “He just felt great outside and actually great all week, and I’ve had some fantastic help obviously from Christopher Bartle our coach, but also my home trainer Sebastian Langehanenberg.

“We’ve worked a special programme out for him that works really well; when I feel him getting a bit excited in the last few minutes, I do rising trot and then he relaxes his back and lets me ride him much more in the test. He felt amazing today. I’m so excited and so happy for my horse because there’s not one horse that I’ve had that tries harder than him. He really wants to do the right thing, and I think he had a chat with his stablemate, Seigneur Medicott, who kept beating him in the dressage, and I think he wanted to show him he could do it as well!”

While she’s thrilled to currently be leading, Bettina said she knows anything can happen on Saturday. “It’s a very good score and it’s nice to be on that score but this is definitely not a dressage competition. This will all be decided on Saturday and Sunday, so fingers crossed. I don’t feel any pressure going into the weekend now because I just take every step as it comes; I’ve got great support here and I’m positive. I was hoping for a good dressage test and I’m excited to be here.

“I was a trainer in Rio (for Russian rider Aleksandr Markov) and was really inspired by all the great riders and fantastic horses I saw, and I feel really motivated. For me it’s very important to have a very good relationship with my horses because as an event rider you get into situations, especially on cross country, where they have to help you out.”

Burghley will always hold a special place in Bettina’s heart: “I won the European Championships here many years ago. I think the course is big, even the in-between fences are all up to height, maximum width. You do need to sit on a proper, proper jumper and they need to be really fit, as they always have to for Burghley.

“I’m glad I’ve done Badminton twice on this horse (and Luhmühlen once) and I’m glad I’ve had all these runs with him because they’re certainly important to attack a course like this. So far I would say I’m going to take all the quick options but I’ve only walked the course once.”

Bill Levett and Improvise. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Bill Levett and Improvise. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Bill Levett and Improvise are slightly adrift in second on 42.5, but Bill maintains there are still points on the table and that this 12-yea- old slightly quirky gelding has a lot of improvement to come yet. “It’s probably his best test at the four-star level so that’s really pleasing. I took him up to Blair last week and he did a 37 at three-star, and it’s nice to know there’a few more marks in there.

“I think he’s a potential leader after the dressage. He’s not easy, he’s quite a difficult little horse and I’m in second, so I’m pleased. There’ll be some very good tests tomorrow no doubt, but hopefully we can keep in touch with the leaders, and then around Burghley you’ve always got a chance.”

Bill has walked the cross country twice already, and this horse jumped clear here last year with just four time penalties. “It’s very strong … you’ve got to have a particular type of horse with engine and jump. My fellow has been around here before; I know he’s got enough stamina. You don’t want to bring a horse here if they don’t have enough stamina because the hills will find you out, and my horse has got that so I’m confident in him and hoping for a good run.

“The ground is for us which is great because if you get a lot of rain it can turn the whole competition on its head. Like always, you’ll have to give them a good ride round here, otherwise they’ll start losing their confidence. The rider’s responsibility is just as important as the horse’s around a course this size.”

Bill has had several top 10 four-star finishes but is still chasing that elusive podium finish. “I’d like to finish in the top three if I could. That’s always been an ambition and I’ve never done it; sixth is as close as I’ve got. Burghley is like one of our grand slams; it’s always one of the highlights of the year.”

This is Paul Sims’ third appearance at Burghley, and it worked a charm for him as he sits in third place on 46.6 overnight after a calm, professional test early this morning on the striking Glengarnock. “This is fantastic. I always knew he was capable of doing a test like this, but to actually have done it and be sitting here (in the press conference) is pretty incredible.

“We all try and target the big events for our best performances but it’s hard to get it all right on the day. I think possibly going earlier in the day helped. He’s been here a couple of times now and he was second to go last year. He’s been really relaxed all week since he’s been here; he was really relaxed this morning. He’s been working a lot more within himself, and maybe if I’d gone later in the day it might have been more difficult.”

Paul had just returned from walking the course, and he commented: “It looks as strong as it always does: big fences, big questions. We’ll see how it rides on Saturday!”

Of course we’re thrilled that our own Elisa Wallace and the Simply Priceless Syndicate’s Simply Priceless sit in fourth place after the first day on 46.8. We caught up with Elisa earlier in the day, and you can read all about her test and see quotes here. Ros Canter, whom we also spoke to earlier in the day, rounds out the top five on 47.0 with Allstar B.

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet.

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

The ultra-competitive Jonelle Price came out of the arena and shrugged her shoulders after her test with Classic Moet, which left her in sixth place overnight on 48.5. “It was fine for me, probably a little bit more exciting for her! I don’t understand why horses think dressage is exciting but some do, and she does verge on that side but she tries and she did keep it together.

“She just perhaps didn’t show as much quality as we needed to. She’s a few marks adrift of her personal best which is probably the 45/46 mark. It’s not a million miles away, it’s certainly not a disaster, but naturally I would have loved to somewhere around the low 40 mark. Thankfully it’s a three day event and she’s going to be in the hunt. Aside from Bettina we haven’t seen anything particularly classy today.

“Tomorrow is another day, of course, but it is Burghley. The cross country is typically very influential here, the time especially. There were only two us last year that got the time and this mare was one of them, so hopefully if it pours with rain on Friday night then the cross country could play its part and we could be in the mix! She’s magic to ride cross country, she’s got experience at this level now so hopefully it’s influential and we can climb the leaderboard a bit.”

Jonelle followed Bettina into the arena but naturally that didn’t phase her in the slightest. “That’s the perks of living in England. We ride alongside each other day in day out, it’s just another day at the office.”

And how does Jonelle feel about riding at Burghley? “It would be my favourite competition on the calendar. It suits the brave and the bold. It’s absolutely beautiful riding up from the stables to the main arena every day past the house. It’s a really magical place, certainly when it’s bathed in sunshine like it is today.

“The Kiwis are a small but mighty group I would say. There’s not many of us, but everyone we have is very involved and very supportive. Both Tim’s mother and my mother are over from New Zealand for this week, so we’ve certainly got a good bit of support here.”

Finally, Jonelle shared her thoughts on Saturday’s course: “You certainly respect it as Burghley. The fences are big, every fence is big, and that can definitely have a cumulative effect so it’s important you get a good start and keep them confident and hope luck’s on your side.”

We’re also extremely proud of Bunnie Sexton, our other U.S. rider who went today, scoring a personal best of 61.0 with 17-year-old OTTB Rise Against to sit in 29th place. Bunnie was all smiles and happy tears after her test, and you can read her comments here.

Wishing the best of luck to all the horses and riders on Saturday, but we have a whole day of dressage to get through tomorrow first, including our three remaining U.S. riders and our adopted Brazilian rider Nilson Moreira da Silva. The day starts at 9:30am GB time, and Phillip Dutton enters the arena on Fernhill Fugitive at 10:26am (5:26am EST).

Nilson Moreira Da Silva and Muggle are first to go after the first break at 11am GB (6am EST), Libby Head and Sir Rockstar are half an hour later at 11:32am (6:32am EST) and then we wait for Holly Payne Caravelle and Never Outfoxed, the penultimate combination of the day at 4:18pm GB time (11:18am EST). Check here for the live stream link tomorrow. Signing off after a fantastic first day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and looking forward to Friday. Go Four Star Eventing!

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Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against Steal Hearts at Burghley

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography. Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Bunnie Sexton may not feature on the top of the Land Rover Burghley leaderboard this evening, but you can rest assured she won over everyone’s hearts today. She and her little horse that could, Rise Against, the little 17-year-old OTTB that was originally sent to her as a project horse, went into the main arena and achieved a personal best of 61.0 at four-star level to sit in 29th place.

When she came out she fought to hold back the tears and emotions, explaining how much it meant to her to be here. “I’m just so, so grateful to be here and I’m looking so forward to the rest of the weekend. Since I was a kid Burghley was always THE event, but I never imagined it was a possibility.

“The atmosphere bothered him a little bit more than it usually does as far as the crowd when I was going around, so I didn’t get him really though his back and really forward in the trot work, but as far as when he started to escalate I thought I did a good job of keeping it in hand because he can go from zero to sixty in no time flat, doing some very interesting moves across the dressage ring that are not appreciated by the judges so I’m very, very pleased overall.

“We took a lot of points off his Rolex score. We still have a long way to go but it’s headed in the right direction and it’s only his second show in a snaffle so I think we’re only going to get better and better now that we’re out of the double bridle. He came out of it a better horse and I definitely came out of it feeling like I’d made the right decision.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s cross country: “What a venue wow! I’m really looking forward to it! I’m going to go and do another walk, everything looks huge and impossible when you first walk it but he’s an amazing horse. I’ll have to feel how he feels about the changes in terrain, that’s my concern, and see how he deals with all the ups and downs and road crossings.

“It’s a beautiful course and I’m just really looking forward to having a chance to get out there and do it. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’m looking at this as he may be 17 but there are still more Burghleys to come, and I want to go out there and be safe and bring home a sound horse.”

Bunnie talked a little bit about how Ecko came into her life: “He came to me as someone to tide me over while my other horses were getting better and he just trusted me and it’s just gone in directions that I never ever would have dreamed, and I’m just so grateful.

He means very, very well, he’s just really ADD and takes things to heart, so any shift in my weight, any movement in the crowd, anything like that means so much to him that I have to not be this emotional person when I’m on him. I have to calm myself down and make it seem like everything is safe for him, whereas out on cross country he does that for me so it’s a good trade. Because he was such the underdog I can’t help rooting for him like crazy. I’m not looking at the scoreboard, let’s face it, I’m here to really have a great time.”

Day one of the 2016 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is already in the books, and we have both our U.S. riders turning in personal bests and Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless sitting in fourth place overnight. We’ll bring you quotes from the press conference and more Nico Morgan pictures of the top riders later. Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 lead on 34.5, with Bill Levett and Improvise in second on 42.5, and Paul Sims and Glengarnock in third on 46.6.

We’re also looking forward to Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive, Libby Head and Sir Rockstar and Holly Payne Caravella and Never OutFoxed tomorrow as well, and our honorary American Brazilian Nilson Moreira da Silva and Muggle. The sun shone and we substituted wifi in the press tent with Pimms — it’s been a good day! Go Land Rover Burghley Eventing!

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‘Burghley Is the Holy Grail of What We Do’ + More Morning Quotes

Oliver Townend and Dromigurrihy Blue. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Oliver Townend and Dromigurrihy Blue. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Oliver Townend was fourth in the arena this morning on the first of his three rides at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Matt Ryan asked if he’d like to finish one, two, three (duh!) and he replied that he liked all of them pretty much the same although perhaps MHS King Joules is the greenest, and that Andrew Nicholson might get in his way on Nereo.

On Dromigurrihy Blue’s test, which scored 50.7 to sit just inside the top 10:  “It’s improving all the time in terms of his work but there were a few mistakes that crept in that probably shouldn’t have at this stage, but that’s dealing with horses and animals, and his strength isn’t dressage, hopefully it’s cross country and that’s what we’re here for.

“I don’t get particularly nervous anymore, it’s more excitement, I feel very comfortable in the dressage arena these days and I enjoy doing it more and more as the horses have got better and better, and hopefully this is an okay start to a positive week.

I’ve been out to see the course — definitely tough enough without any shadow of a doubt and there are a few things out there that you wouldn’t know how the horses are going to read them. It’s a proper Burghley test and obviously the terrain here is very special which is what makes it the toughest event in the world.

“I think Burghley is one of the best events in the world in every way, shape and form, the atmosphere’s always great, we’re coming towards the end of the season which has been a very long one and everybody’s just a little bit more relaxed. To say it’s a four star but at the same time it’s still the biggest test in the world.”

Ben Way and Galley Light. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Ben Way and Galley Light. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Ben Way has his Badminton top-10 finisher Galley Light here hoping to complete Burghley after a fall last year. They scored 59.7 to sit inside the top 20 currently. Ben has been working with Ruth Edge on the flat for about a year. “All the horses’ work has improved massively, but for Galley Light here it’s great having a trainer who’s been here, ridden round here, knows the atmosphere.”

He’s also brought along stablemate Willows Tipster, who of course was his partner at Great Meadow International as he’ll be contesting Blenheim with him next weekend and needs to keep him ticking over. “He travelled back amazingly well, he coped with it brilliantly.”

Another of our Great Meadow International GB team members Ros Canter is here at Burghley this week on the lovely Allstar B and once again rose to the occasion to move into third place right behind Elisa Wallace on a score of 47. This year Ros said the pressure was on after her good performance in 2015.

“It’s just as exciting as it was last year but there’s definitely a bit more pressure that you put on yourself, and I am coming here hoping to be a bit more competitive instead of feeling my way around just wondering if I can even get around. The horse is really consistent and he generally does do really good tests; last year’s was exceptional and I had it in the back of my mind that I’d be lucky to pull off another one of those, everything just worked perfectly that day and it hasn’t quite gone that way today.

“He’s still done a really good test but there were a couple of things I’d like to go back in and have another go at, but I’m really pleased with him. I really enjoy the dressage and I love working on it and improving a horse on the flat, but it wouldn’t be his favourite phase. He’s a big lad and he isn’t naturally forward thinking on the flat particularly when he gets into that arena so it is something that he would find a little more challenging but he’s got a lovely brain to work with and he’s always giving his best.

“The nerves will definitely kick in on Saturday, I’ve had a walk of the course, I’ve looked at all the straight routes and this year I’m determined to give it a good shot, we’ll try our best.”

Kerry Varley and Bluestone Luke. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Kerry Varley and Bluestone Luke. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Kerry Varley is a local rider from Stamford coming back for her fifth attempt at Burghley; she completed for the second time last year. Her horse Bluestone Luke came for the first time as a 9-year-old, missed one year, and is now back for his fourth consecutive attempt. This means Kerry’s become accustomed to constantly being hailed as the girl from down the road!

“So many people know who we are and I haven’t got a clue who they are! They all wish me luck and know my name and Luke’s name, and I have no idea and feel a bit rude sometimes, but local companies and businesses have emailed and asked if they can wish me luck in their newsletters so I definitely have a following.”

Kerry was holding ‘Luke’s Berry Pony,’ a relative of Wilberry Wonder Pony, after her test, which scored 67.4. “We’ve called him Whoaberry, purely because I spend most of my time getting Luke to try and slow down! I’m taking Whoaberry around with me this week to try and raise awareness for Hannah Francis’ charity.”

Kerry Varley and Woahberry after her test. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Kerry Varley and Woahberry after her test. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Tim Price was pleased with Bango’s score of 49.5, and although this is the horse’s third CCI4* he still considers him very much a developing horse with a big future ahead of him. “While it wasn’t a winning test today I know it will be one day, it was on the right track.

“What you lose with a horse like him in this stage of his career in the dressage you gain back in the jumping because he’s a really natural jumper, he can gallop all day long, super bold and scopey. I’ve always thought of him as a good horse for coming here to Burghley so hopefully we have a good day on Saturday and then be tidy on Sunday.”

Tim was second here last year on his second horse Ringwood Sky Boy and he told me earlier this morning that he’s pinning his hopes on going one better on that horse. Ringwood Sky Boy ran round Rio for seven minutes, the equivalent of a CIC3* before slipping on the flat, and Tim reported that he returned to England with more weight on him than when he left.

Tim Price and Bango. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Tim Price and Bango. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

He plans on setting off on cross country a little slower on Bango than in Kentucky and giving him time to get used to the 12 minute course, and he’s looking forward to riding Sky Boy second, acknowledging that he’s taken a few knocks this year and it’s a good feeling to come back to a place where it’s gone well on a horse that has a good history here, plus there’s no place like Burghley.

“Burghley is like the holy grail of what we do. It’s a nice time of year, it feels like we’re wrapping up a little bit, it’s like coming to the home of eventing, the place is just so perfectly laid out for this sport, the whole thing is such an amazing experience and the back drop of Burghley House, it’s pretty cool! It’s all about compiling three good scores and carrying it through until Sunday and that’s the beauty of Burghley, it’s not a dressage competition or any one of the phases, it’s about putting it all together and coming out on top on the last day.”

Until then though, we’re all concentrating like crazy on the dressage and as pleased as punch of course with Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless, who are still holding second place at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Looking forward to Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against at 4:10pm (11:10 a.m. EST) when we’ll bring you a full report and a wrap up of our day then.

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Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless Score Personal Best at Burghley

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Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Elisa Wallace kept a strong mental game in the biggest arena of all to smash her personal best and move into second place at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on 46.8, just .2 behind leaders Paul Sims and Glengarnock, at the lunch break on Thursday.

“I’m crying! It really is a mental game. There’s so much build up. I’m really comfortable at Rolex so I really tried to trick myself that I’m not at Burghley. He’s such a good boy, and when we’re able to get it to happen we can be right up in there. There’s no words that can describe the amount of pride that you have to be riding here, just the dreams that you have as a kid and the fact that they’re coming true.”

To quell the tears, and yes, dad Rick Wallace was also crying [sweet!] we changed the subject and talked about her test.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

“He was so good, and honestly it didn’t feel that good, but I kept telling myself David [O’Connor] kept saying ‘more expression,’ so I kept thinking it, and it was one of those tests where I was hoping it was scoring well. The best part was to just come down the centre line and he was with me the whole time. He’s been a very difficult horse in the dressage, when I got him he was scoring in the upper 60s and 70s, so the fact that he can come in and do our best four-star test here is just so cool.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s cross country: “It’s one of those big mental factors where I can’t think ‘I’m at Burghley, I’m at Burghley.’ I just need to ride the course in front of me. It’s very doable I think Capt. Mark Phillips has done an excellent job of making it a course that people can finish.

“I do think I’m on a very good cross country horse, that is his favourite thing. We are human so we’re scared but we’ve got to ride smart and ride safe and hopefully we can finish on our score. Realistically I want to finish but the competitive side of me wants to win, right?! If I could be in the top 10, top 20, that would be amazing. We’re at Burghley amongst the best riders in our sport, so it really is incredible just to be here.”

Wiping away tears after a personal best! Photo by Samantha Clark.

Wiping away tears after a personal best! Photo by Samantha Clark.

What does keep Elisa so strong mentally, and how does she keep her mental game together? “My support system has been amazing. I have my husband Timothy here, my dad, my groom Loreen, and everybody back home, everybody who has contributed and donated to help get us here. Having those two Rolexes and having the Mustangs helped me mentally prepare myself. You know it’s a game, so if you can really get your brain to work then you have that part on your side.”

Elisa has a whole lot going for her on her side, and we can’t wait to see her get out there on that course and Saturday and storm round. We’re so incredibly proud of her performance today, and many thanks for talking to us through the tears. Keep it up, and well done! Go Johnny Go!

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against are the next U.S. pair to go today at 4:10 p.m. BST, 11:10 a.m. EST. You can watch live for free on Burghley TV’s YouTube Channel. (We have beautiful photos from Nico Morgan Photography to bring you, but unfortunately the internet in the media center has been down all morning. Keep checking back.) Go Eventing!

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U.S. Riders Talk Cross Country at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials

Phillip Dutton and #1 Elisa Wallace support crew members Rick Wallace and Briggs Surratt get their first look at Capt. Mark Phillips' cross country course. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

Phillip Dutton and #1 Elisa Wallace support crew Rick Wallace and Briggs Surratt get their first look at Capt. Mark Phillips’ cross country course. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

I managed to catch up with most of our U.S. riders this afternoon during the first horse inspection at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, and warned them I’ll be bugging them all weekend! All horses passed the inspection this afternoon, and you can view beautiful photos from Nico Morgan and the full report on all the action at this link.

Supermodel Holly Payne Caravella told me The Fox Syndicate’s Never Outfoxed has settled in great. “He seems really happy. (The horses) got delayed a day so they got in on Sunday, and we went to a farm near here and stayed there two days, and he seemed to settle in really well. He’s been happy here, so, all good so far!”

Holly has her first look at Capt. Mark Phillips’ cross country course (which you can preview here) this morning with David O’Connor, Phillip Dutton and Elisa Wallace. “It’s big, which I knew it would be — big and long and technical and there’s a ton to do. They do have very nice options, so if you jump into something and it’s not going your way, there’s an easy way to pull out and go and do something else in a lot of places which is nice.

Holly Payne Caravella and Never OutFoxed. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Holly Payne Caravella and Never OutFoxed. Photo by Samantha Clark.

“You could commit to going the direct route all the way round but you don’t necessarily have to pick up a 20 if something goes a little off. You could just decide to pull out and take another route. It’s going to take a lot of walks to figure out all the routes and options and my back-up plan everywhere.”

Holly’s next walk will be on her own, and then her mum (uber judge and Rio ground jury member Marilyn Payne) is coming over soon and will “definitely” walk with her, and then perhaps a couple more times with Phillip or David to draw on their experience.

As a Thoroughbred, Never OutFoxed’s strength lies in his talent for the cross country phase, and that’s why Holly wanted to bring him here. “There are good galloping breaks, which hopefully will help him settle into a rhythm but it definitely seems way more intimidating than Kentucky,” she said.

Poor Holly is drawn second last of the 72-horse field and so will have a long wait on Saturday. “It’s hard because I’m going to stress all day, and he [Fox] knows it’s cross country morning and he’ll actually start shaking in his stall and pawing. On the plus side I’ll get to watch.

“There were plenty of things I walked today that I had no idea how they’re going to ride so it will be nice to watch everyone else go and see how it’s riding and then make a firm plan. Hopefully the weather holds out. The footing is really good right now and that was my major concern that if you go 80 horses in and it starts raining …”

Looking good, Bunnie! Photo by Samantha Clark.

Looking good, Bunnie! Photo by Samantha Clark.

Bunnie Sexton was smart enough to walk the course with GB Team legend Pippa Funnell, who she’d met during a clinic at Galway Downs. On this first look at the track none of the riders are really discussing the finer points, they’re just getting a feel for what they have to do, and Bunnie’s first impressions are much the same as everyone’s.

“I think that things happen very quickly in the beginning, I’m going to have to really ride to that first water and I think that I’ll know more about how he’s going to respond to all the terrain after that,” Bunnie said. “I’m really looking forward to the first two waters because I think they’ll tell me a heck of a lot about how the rest of it’s going to go.”

Pippa’s advice to Bunnie? “Pippa was very logical and didn’t have anything particularly groundbreaking to say, just that horses are horses and you’ll feel what you need to do underneath you, and if you don’t come in with enough power you’re in trouble. I think it’s just words you live by!”

Bunnie had come prepared to be awed by the size of the jumps but not so much Burghley’s particular countryside. “I think the fences are as I expected. I wasn’t aware of strange things like road crossings where you go down a very steep embankment and then come back up one [Capability’s Cutting, VERY steep!].

“I don’t know what he [Ecko/Rise Against] will think of that. I imagine he’ll be fine because he’s very agile, but they are just unexpected things so I’ll be riding very much by feel.” On actually making it to Burghley? “I just feel so lucky, so lucky, and so grateful for everybody who helped get me here, it takes a village for sure. I’m sorry if I’m a bit emotional [there may have been a few tears], not enough sleep and a lot of excitement!”

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar have been based with Tim Rusbridge just outside Gloucester on the advice of Mike and Emma Winter since their oh-so-impressive run at Badminton. They’ve competed at Aston Advanced and Hartpury CIC3*and feel ready to tackle big, bad Burghley.

“I think he gained a lot of confidence over the Badminton course and he’s seen more different questions over here, on cross country especially, that I think he’s really learned from. I think over the last year he’s just got better and better at every event and he’s really settling down and I can actually ride him in the ring now, which is a whole other experience and I’m having to learn to ride him differently.

“He’s even a bit fitter than he was at Badminton. With it being so close to Burghley he didn’t lose as much fitness from that and now he’s just built on that and it will be nice for the hills here. I think the course looks great and hopefully very doable, and I think it will be a really great course for him the way it’s set up with the terrain and everything.”

No matter what happens Libby and Sir Rockstar will be headed home to the States next week. “I’m really excited, I miss my dog and my friends, and everything!”

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Rio bronze medalist Phillip Dutton last competed at Burghley in 2009 with TruLuck, finishing in fourth place, and he said it’s still the same massive course he remembers. His mount Fernhill Fugitive has completed Rolex twice and will benefit from every ounce of that experience.

“It’s quite relaxing being at an event with one horse that’s very quiet and doesn’t need much riding. My relaxed state ended when I walked the cross country though,” Phillip said. “As expected it is very big and wide right through to the last jump. Add the hilly terrain to the course and that’s why Burghley has gained the reputation as the toughest four-star in the world.”

U.S. Coach David O’Connor told me he comes to Burghley in a slightly different role from that at Rio. “I think you do coach differently. Some of the people that are here you’re not working with a lot so you just offer whatever help you can, if they want it. If you can be eyes on the ground for them, that’s fine.

Bunnie's daughter Maddie Sexton and Rise Against on the move with David O'Connor. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Bunnie’s daughter Maddie Sexton and Rise Against on the move with David O’Connor. Photo by Samantha Clark.

“They’ve gotten here on their own, and if they feel like they’ve got their own people that’s fine also. We’ve been here so much and so we try and make some of the details easier for them, especially as it’s their first time for most of them.”

Despite the fact that all the females on the U.S. squad here are tackling Burghley for the first time, David feels quietly confident that they’re all on good cross country horses, and Phillip Dutton, well, he’s Phillip Dutton.

“Phillip obviously brings great experience to the table, and he’s going to really test his horse out this weekend. Everybody’s got different goals that you can look at for what they want to achieve out here, but the first time at Burghley is a big experience.”

David’s shared specific thoughts on the cross country: “It’s quite strong at the beginning, a lot of big, wide jumps at the beginning leading all the way up to the Cottesmore Leap at 12, and so hitting those easy and having those conserved is a big part of the course as a whole. It’s strong enough.

“The Rolex Combination — the ditch to the corner — it will be interesting to see how the horses read that ditch; there are lots of options there so it will be interesting to see as the day goes on how the horses actually read it. I think the rest of the course is fair. Very big, but fair.

“Parts of it are more difficult than last year but the end feels a little softer to me, without the width. Most of the width is up to about minute six and then he [Capt. Mark Phillips] really backs down on the width and I think that’s a good thing, a very smart thing. I think there’s plenty enough to do but I think the end is a little softer than last year.”

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Samantha Clark.

My sincere apologies for missing Elisa Wallace, but looking forward to catching up with her after dressage with Simply Priceless tomorrow. I was lucky enough to walk some of the course this morning with Horse & Hound esteemed photographer Peter Nixon and I was telling him about the U.S. contingent here this year, and as tough as the cross country looked as it unfolded before us, I feel a real confidence.

We have our newly minted bronze medalist superhero Phillip Dutton leading the pack, I only hope he gallops with his medal tucked furtively under his vest (english = undershirt) and that it thumps slightly against his chest every stride!

All of our gals, and yes, I’m going to go all Kentucky and call them that, have such special stories, and such great verve and inner strength and sheer determination. I told Peter how lucky I am to be here with them and I have utter faith in them. You’ve got this ladies! Let’s get dressage underway and out the way and on to the real stuff!

Go Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and let’s go Eventing!

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U.S. All Clear at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials First Horse Inspection

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan. Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan.

All 72 horses that were presented at the Land Rover Burghley First Horse Inspection passed, but not without a couple of scary moments for the U.S. contingent. There were some long pauses before the Ground Jury (Sue Baxter, David Lee and Anne-Mette Binder) accepted all of our horses and Holly Payne-Caravella’s Never Outfoxed was one of three sent to the holding box. Along with Roo Fox’s Fleet Street and Stacey Shimmons’ Orion’s Promise all three were accepted upon re-inspection.

Maddie Sexton and Rise Against Photo By Nico Morgan

Maddie Sexton and Rise Against.  Photo By Nico Morgan.

Bunnie’s daughter Maddie once again did the honours for her on the runway as “she has better legs,” Bunnie’s quote, not mine! Hopefully this will turn out to be a lucky omen for her as Maddie also substituted for Bunnie at Rolex this Spring.

Looking particularly fit and well are the New Zealand squad, and if I had to pick a sentimental favourite to win it would be Tim Price, on either of his horses who look fabulous but I’d prefer it to be Bango! With the withdrawal of Clifton Lush who’s taking a bit more time and re-routing to Pau, Ringwood Sky Boy is the only horse in the field to have come straight from Rio.

The field this year might be more wide open than it has been in a long time, and of course this is Burghley which means it’s about the jumping, and especially the cross country. Discount Tina Cook and Star Witness at your peril, they looked so good at Badminton.

France’s Arthur Duffort and Great Britain’s Becky Woolven won the Best Dressed Awards, although personally EN thinks the U.S. team rocked it, and we were especially partial to Holly Payne’s pink and white dress; chatter in the press tent would seem to agree.

Holly Payne Caravella and Never Outfoxed. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Holly Payne Caravella and Never Outfoxed Photo by Nico Morgan

Dressage starts tomorrow morning with the guinea pig ride at 9:10 — Emilie Chandler on Cooper’s Law, and then the first test proper, Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury, at 9:30. We have two of our U.S. combinations doing their dressage tomorrow: Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless at 12:04 GB time (7:04 a.m. US Eastern) and Bunnie Sexton at 4:10 p.m. GB time (11:10 a.m. US Eastern).

Many thanks to our star photographer Nico Morgan for all the beautiful photos from today and looking forward to collaborating with him all weekend — check out his website for equestrian, wedding, hunting shots and more and also his blog.

Stay tuned for some of our riders’ and David O’Connors thoughts on the course. Go #LRBHT and Go Eventing!

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Loughan Glen Recovering After Rio Olympic Games

Winning the 2015 Blenheim Palace CCI3*: Part of Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen's long term strategy to prepare for the Rio Olympic Games

Winning the 2015 Blenheim Palace CCI3*: Part of Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen’s longterm strategy to prepare for the Rio Olympic Games. Photo by Samantha Clark.

It goes without saying that Clark Montgomery and his long time partner Loughan Glen had some great expectations to fulfill heading into the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer. A CCI3* win at Blenheim last year, second in the CIC3* Event Rider Masters class at Bramham in June and a win in the CICO3* at Great Meadow in Virginia in July — it looked as though they were poised to rise to the occasion and take on some of the top horse and rider combinations in the world.

Clark has been gracious enough to sit down with Eventing Nation and reflect on his experience in Rio, and look ahead to what comes next.

“Our move over to England in the fall of 2012 was all in preparation for Rio. I wanted to immerse myself and my horses into the most competitive atmosphere I could get to in an effort to raise my game and I felt like my time there certainly allowed me to do that. We felt absolutely ready for the Olympic challenge and as if we had planned Glen’s preparation for the Games down to the very last detail.”

EN: Unfortunately though, Glen didn’t have the performance that everyone was anticipating. Can you elaborate on what you think went wrong?

“Hindsight is a wonderful but annoying thing. To look back at Glen’s record over the past two years and know the formula for preparation that I used to get those results versus the summer of travel and changes in environments and footing that he was put through over the past two months, we really let him down. At 13 years old, it was his year and his time and we let the preparation change to a point that he couldn’t cope.

“All of the transition finally reared its ugly head in the form of a bone chip that had to be taken out of his knee just after his release from quarantine in Miami. We have him home now at our new facility in Virginia and he is on the road to recovery. He knows that he didn’t perform well and to think that he was physically limited from doing so makes me heart sick for him. He’s a fantastic horse that I have so much respect for. I hope for his sake that he has his chance to redeem himself some day in the not so distant future.”

Loughan Glen recovering at Crosswinds Farm in Virginia. Photo by Jess Montgomery.

Loughan Glen recovering at Crosswinds Farm in Virginia. Photo by Jess Montgomery.

The U.S. selected the Olympic eventing team on June 20, which set in motion a summer of travel for Clark and Glen, who left England at the end of June to make their way to the inaugural Nations Cup at Great Meadows in The Plains, Virginia.

“Glen is pretty laid back in the stables and generally travels really well. With all of the competitions being in such close proximity in England, he hasn’t traveled much in the nearly four years that we have been away so I was curious to see how he would handle the travel from England to Belgium and the flight over. He seemed to get along super and arrived in Virginia fresh and ready to run.

“I have only been to Great Meadow in the past for Twilight Polo and the Virginia Gold Cup, so I was excited to get there and see all of the development that has gone on for the Nations Cup. They have done a fantastic job in such a short time period and I can only imagine what the next few years of development will do for it.

“Glen felt great all weekend. He loves an occasion and really enjoyed the main arena and the course there.”

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen win the Great Meadow CICO3* and also team gold for Team USA

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen won the Great Meadow CICO3* and also helped Team USA win the Nations Cup. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Following his win in the CICO3* at Great Meadow, it was time to head south again on another long ship down to Ocala, Florida for the team training sessions and polish things up before the trip to Miami, and ultimately the flight to Rio.

EN: Compared to his normal preparation in England, you must have had concerns about all of the travel. What if anything did you do to safe guard from him becoming road weary?

“Other than leaving us in England for his preparation, the USEF did everything that they could for Glen. They gave us Gastrogard to protect his stomach, he was fed Standlee Hay which is super high quality with a guaranteed continuity ,and Dr. Susan Johns (the team vet) was amazing.”

EN: You mentioned being at a new facility in Virginia. Where is it? Can you tell us a little about it?

“We are at Dave and Patricia Vos’ Crosswinds Farm in Delaplane, Virginia, right near Middleburg. It has everything you could ask for. A beautiful stables, a nice arena and cross country. I am really looking forward to working from there. I am back now and available for lessons, clinics and training for anyone interested.”

Wishing Glen a speedy recovery, and many thanks to Clark for talking to us. We’re glad to have him back in the U.S. and look forward to seeing him out on the circuit again soon. Go Glen and Go Montgomery Eventing!

Feeding the Olympics: What Gold Medal Athletes Have in Common

How many pounds of carrots have the Olympic horses eaten in Rio? Read on to find out! Photo courtesy of KER. How many pounds of carrots have the Olympic horses eaten in Rio? Read on to find out! Photo courtesy of KER.

Just what does it take to supply the entire Olympic equestrian operation with all their feed, hay and bedding? If you really want to know there’s no better person to talk to than Dr. Joe Pagan, who’s been doing exactly that for the last 24 years as founder and president of KER.

While several KER team members, including Dr. Pagan’s wife, event rider Anna, are still in Brazil for the remainder of the Rio Games and the Paralympics, he’s already back in his office in Woodford County, Kentucky and was happy to debrief me.

“It needs to be said: The Rio Olympics have done a really good job. There was so much doom and gloom but this is the sixth Olympics I’ve been to and it’s been the best venue ever, it was a great venue. It was big, there was plenty of room, there was lots of storage, the stalls were big, it had great exercise areas, great exercise rings, lots of grazing areas, it was just really comfortable. The stadium was good, the footing was good. They really almost couldn’t have done a better job, it surprised me,” Dr. Pagan said.

“I’d put it up there as the top venue. Greenwich was beautiful and iconic and really cool, but the stabling was small and compact and up a hill, and it was hard to manoeuvre; our stuff was in Blackheath which made things more complicated with a very small storage area. In Rio it was a whole lot easier, and the grooms’ accommodation were these high rises that were like a mini version of the Olympic Village that will then become housing for military officers.”

Dr. Pagan, his wife Anna and the KER team stayed in a condo within the Olympic Village region and used their own transportation to get back and forth to Deodoro every day. “There was a huge military presence. I never felt unsafe at all. I don’t know that I would go out in a taxi cab somewhere downtown at 3 a.m, but it’s a huge city of six or seven million people and I honestly didn’t feel unsafe at any point in time, particularly when we stayed on the routes that were provided for Olympic transportation,” Dr. Pagan said.

“Actually having been in Rio and then having seen some of the coverage, I think there’s been a tendency to probably focus a little too much on the things going wrong rather than the things going right.”

Perhaps everyone went into these 2016 Games remembering 2007 when the Pan Am Games were held in Deodoro and the grooms were housed in shipping containers and it was a completely different experience altogether.

Dr. Pagan himself admits he was amongst the many who, having visited the site multiple times during the year prior to the Games, was wondering if everything would be finished in time, and yet, “We got there and showed up for the actual competition and it was great! I’ve heard no negative feedback from any of the teams regarding the venue; they all think the same too. I think it was a real success, perhaps unexpectedly so!”

Protecting Brazil’s Native Plants

Logistically, planning to feed, hay and bed the horses in Rio has been a long and complicated process for KER, and particularly Dr. Pagan. They were at the test event last year sorting out the bedding (some very nice Brazilian pine shavings) but they won the bid for Rio a year before that and hit the ground running, essentially at least two years before the Olympics took place.

“Brazil is very conscious about preventing invasive plant species from coming into the country, and so they should be, to prevent plants that aren’t normally there from getting out into the environment and then competing with the native plants. Feeding horses is based on feeding plants, and so the Agriculture Ministry was very concerned about what the horses were actually going to eat, so a lot of the drama going in was making sure that the products that were brought to Rio conformed with their Ag Ministry’s regulations to be free of invasive plants,” Dr. Pagan said.

“That took a lot of time and effort and some anxious times, but in the end everyone was able to bring feeds that they wanted to feed. We were able to bring very high quality hay that the teams were very happy with. It was just a lot of bureaucracy in terms of making sure the appropriate permits were there, and that they could have a sense of security that the feeds that were brought in weren’t going to cause a problem. Once they all arrived, it was easy.”

The hay especially seemed to throw up one obstacle after another for Dr. Pagan and his team. “Most times in Europe the hay that’s fed comes from farmers’ fields and is not a single species of hay, and there could be weeds in it. In Europe that’s not a big deal because they’re endemic, but there was concern about bringing that hay to Brazil because there would be some species that would get into the environment,” Dr. Pagan said.

“The problem was most of the horses that were competing at the Olympics eat what are called cool season hays, cool season grasses, that have a different taste than warm season grasses which are grown in Brazil. Brazilian hay is great, they had some very high quality hay which we did have at the Olympics, but the European and American horses wouldn’t have been used to it and so there was a lot of angst amongst the teams about switching the horses to a different hay.”

Once again, Dr. Pagan and his team worked with the Ag Ministry to ensure the horses could eat the correct type of hay in Rio. “We went to the FEI, the Ag Ministry and the Olympic Organisers and told them we could source hay that wouldn’t be a problem because there’s a company, Standlee Hay in Idaho, that grows a particular type of hay, a Timothy hay which is a cool season hay that’s popular in Europe also that’s certified free of weeds. The reason they do that in Idaho is not for the Olympics but if people ride their horses on federal property, they have to feed their horses forages that are certified weed free so that they don’t spread the weed seeds into our national parks,” Dr. Pagan said.

“Since that already existed and the Ag Ministry in Brazil agreed that we ticked all the boxes, they gave us a special one-time permit that allowed us to bring that kind of hay. Timothy hay is actually available in Europe so many of the teams actually chose to switch their horses onto that before they arrived in Rio so that they’d be accustomed to the similar type of taste, so that actually worked out very well, but that took special types of permits because typically you can’t import hay into Brazil.”

450 Different Types of Feeds

Such was the concern for the environment that an effective quarantine was implemented for the horses and feed shipping in. “It was bubble to bubble; the airport and the venue were considered the same, secure area so when the horses and the freight landed at the airport they got into lorries that were shipped over from Germany, police escorted to the venue, and then police escorted back, so in a way the horses and the feeds were never really in Brazil.”

Considering the mass export of such valuable horseflesh over such a long distance, Pagan was pleasantly surprised at how well all the horses coped. “There were very few digestive issues; there were very few veterinary issues. There was a horse or two that maybe had a little bit of shipping fever and had to have some fluids after arriving, but it seemed like there were minimal problems for as many horses travelling as far as they did. It was pretty uncomplicated. I’ll be glad when it’s over so we can say it went very smoothly because I don’t want to jinx it right now but it all seemed very routine.”

Think about when you pack to go to an event for a weekend, and then imagine if you were told to pack for your entire barn for an event in six months time but you weren’t sure which horses might be going. That’s the type of challenge KER was up against but on a global scale.

“In the case of Brazil the teams actually flew their feeds with their horses, and that made it logistically easier because they could bring exactly what they needed to bring. But in advance of that, back in December, the teams were asked what feeds and supplements they’d like to bring, and at that point they didn’t know which horses would be coming so they made really long lists of feeds. One of our jobs was to go through those lists and, working with 37 different feed manufacturers around the world, figure out the ingredients and how the ingredients were processed, send that to the Brazilian Ag Ministry and have them approved.

“At the end of the day there were 450 different feeds that the teams could choose from. One of the problems is that the teams don’t really know what horses are going to come until very late in the game, sometimes days before they’re shipped, so trying to make all these advanced logistical decisions about taking stuff thousands of miles to have for the horses when you don’t know what horses are actually going to come is the big challenge. If you get it wrong and you don’t have enough, it’s not like you can run down to the convenience store for another bag.”

10,000 Pounds of Carrots

With the equestrian competition at the Games nearly complete, we’re pleased to report that KER got it right: All the horses had the right feed and plenty of it! So what do gold medal winners Valegro, Sam FBW and Usain Bolt all have in common? They’re all eating the same carrots. Someone is missing out on making a fortune there methinks!

“Carrots are massive at the Olympics! I did the calculations. The horses have consumed well over 10,000 pounds of carrots so far. It’s a massive amount of carrots; they love carrots at the Olympics. The horses have travelled a long way and when you feed a horse carrots it gives them something to do. They’re succulent so you’re getting a little water into them, it stimulates water intake so it’s a healthy thing to do,” Dr. Pagan said.

“To get things into a venue, however, is not simple. With hay we send whole shipping containers in advance of the security lockdown so it’s all there; carrots and apples (over 1,500 pounds of apples so far) are perishable so you have to bring them in every day, and to bring them in through all the layers of security is hard to do. So in this instance we used the same caterers who supply the food for the on-site athletes, and we would just place our orders with them every day. So yes, the horses are eating the same carrots as Usain Bolt, Simone Biles and Michael Phelps.”

Is KER committed to doing this all over again for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? Dr. Pagan isn’t giving anything away yet.

“All of the Games have been great experiences once they start and everything’s in place. It’s the 3 a.m. waking up and thinking, ‘God, I hope that container doesn’t get stuck in the Panama Canal,’ because what happens if it does? London wasn’t a problem because you could get a hold of stuff pretty easily, but if you’re in Hong Kong or Rio it’s a big deal. There’s an amazing amount of pressure from that side because there’s a lot of teams counting on you. There were representatives from Tokyo in Brazil, and we’ll continue to speak with them.

“Every Olympics has a different type of challenge. Rio is obviously a long distance away and the first time the Games were held in South America. There was also the challenge of avoiding the importation of plants that could carry invasive weeds. Tokyo will be super organised in that there’s already a history of importation of feeds and hays into Japan because of the racing industry. Most of the racehorses are fed Timothy hay from the Pacific Northwest so it’s probably going to be a much easier type of competition from a feed standpoint.

“There’s still a problem though that the vast majority of the horses that compete in the Olympics are housed in Europe. They may be representing whatever country in the world they’re representing, but because Europe is the centre of high level equestrian competition, most of those horses are housed there, and they want to use feeds that most of those horses are used to being on so there’s going to be the same issues of how we get those feeds transported to Japan, which is a long way away.”

A long way and a long time away with many good nights of sleep to catch up on before then. Many thanks to Dr. Joe Pagan for his time, and wishing the rest of the KER crew a safe journey home from Rio!

Quotable Quotes from Saturday’s Great Meadow Press Conference

Phillip Dutton, Clark Montgomery, Jodie Amos and Waylon Roberts. Photo by Samantha Clark. Phillip Dutton, Clark Montgomery, Jodie Amos and Waylon Roberts. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Great Meadow leader Clark Montgomery attended this evening’s press conference along with Phillip Dutton, Waylon Roberts and Jodie Amos, who all spoke on behalf of their respective Nations Cups teams, to chat about the day and their expectations for Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross country course tomorrow. Read on for what they had to say.

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On Marc Donovan’s show jumping course

Jodie: “From our point of view having a couple of fences as an option it not something we’re particularly used to, and I think people tend to jump a similar route, but I think the course rode really well. It was a really interesting course, up to height and certainly having the footing was incredible. I think the horses jumped really well.”

Phillip: “I think everyone loves to ride Marc’s courses. It is a thinking course, and he’s doing a lot of them over here for us now. It’s exciting for us to have a course designer like Marc who’s still young but prepared to try things. Sometimes they don’t work perfectly, but I think everybody thought it was a good education for the riders and horses.”

On riding as part of a team

Waylon: “It changes the way you approach the competition. We’re so used to competing against one another that it’s a real treat to be able to come together and work together and go forward as a unit. It’s a special thing, and I look forward to hopefully being on more teams here in North America.”

Jodie: “We met Justine for the first time this week, and it’s worked out really well. At a competition usually you’re there as an individual, and the whole team ethic is something that’s really nice to be part of. You go into it thinking a little bit differently. Certainly in our group we’ve got a really, really nice bunch of people, and everyone’s very supportive of each other, so we all come up and watch each person do their test and jump.”

Phillip: “Obviously it is more of an individual sport, and the way I look at it is if you’re doing the best for yourself, you’re going to be doing the best for your team, so to me it doesn’t change too much. But like these guys have said, it’s kind of fun having everyone else around. We’re all aiming for the same goal. When you’re on the team everyone wants you to do well, so the camaraderie that we’ve got in this group — I think we spur each other on for greater things each day.”

On tomorrow’s cross country

Phillip: “The course looks nice. It’s very inviting — good, solid, big jumps, which is pretty appropriate for the horses going to the Olympics. The first part of the footing is great. It’s not so great out on the back on this newer ground, but I’ve seen the water trucks out there and hopefully that’s going to improve for tomorrow. I think Mike has done a good job of making it a good experience for the horses without over-taxing them for the big event they’ve got in a few weeks.”

Clark: ”I think the first water looks a little bit tricky just because it doesn’t really look like a water, so you probably have to ride the horses a bit strong to get in … I think the corners in the arena could cause a problem, especially if you’re trying to be fast. You could easily glance off there. (Click here to preview the fences on the course.)

“Then the drop down to the triple brush — you’re going to have to make sure to be really good on your four strides because if your horse jumps off too big and you end up on three and a half, then you’re just asking for a run out. It’s the same if you just pop off too quiet and get there in four and a half, so I think it’s important to make sure you’re on the right stride. I think the rest is quite fair but big enough, and it should be a fun course to ride.”

Jodie: “I think not having ridden here before it’s lovely to come out and have a really nice galloping track. It’s beautifully presented: nice big, bold fences. There’s a few places where you could easily get caught out, but on the whole it’s a really nice course, and it’s so lovely to come over and have that to ride round.”

Waylon: “I haven’t been able to ride round too many of Mike E-S’s courses, but I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow and I imagine for the horses heading off to Rio it’s going to be a good final prep.”

 

Let’s Get to Know the British Nations Cup Team at Great Meadow

Team GB for the Nations Cup at the Land Rover Great Meadow International

Team GB for the Nations Cup at the Land Rover Great Meadow International. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Team GB, with thanks to Great Meadow International sponsor Land Rover, have flown three horses and riders out to Virginia to compete in the first ever Nations Cup to take place outside of Europe. EN decided we’d probably all like to get to know them a bit better, so it’s our mission to stalk them all weekend! U.S.-based Brit Justine Dutton was featured on EN a few days ago, and we will catch up with her again soon. Let’s meet our UK squad.

Ros Canter brings her own and her mother’s Zenshera to the Great Meadow International, a horse she gained most of her experience on and who’s coming back after some time off.

Some good news for Allstar B fans — Ros confirmed that after a heart murmur put paid to their Badminton plans in the spring (they withdrew after the dressage), he is now completely back to normal. They  just finished third at Strzegom in Poland, helping Team GB to a Nations Cup win there, and will be aiming for Burghley in September.

Ben Way was so impressive at Badminton in the spring for a 12th place finish on Galley Light, but he brings a relatively new ride to Virginia.

Jodie Amos and Wise Crack have perhaps the most experience together on the team, having been highly placed at both Bramham and Blenheim together and completing Burghley, and Jodie is clearly thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to the U.S., a first for them both.

We’ll be keeping tabs on Team GB all weekend and posting more updates, as well as catching up with some of our U.S. competitors and international riders. It’s going to be a long, hot Saturday but an exciting one, and we’ll be bringing you everything you need from the Land Rover Great Meadow International for the next two days.

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Great Meadow International Horse Inspection Photo Gallery

Emily Beshear and Shame on the Moon. Photo by Samantha Clark. Emily Beshear and Shame on the Moon. Photo by Samantha Clark.

It’s an action-packed afternoon at the Land Rover Great Meadow International: the first horse inspection (click here for the full report), then a press conference with the U.S. Olympic team, followed by the Opening Ceremony (which is live on USEF Network at 6 p.m. EST!) and then the Morningside Bareback Puissance.

We shared these photos on Facebook earlier in the afternoon, but for those of our readers who aren’t on Facebook, scroll down for a full photo gallery from the horse inspection. Keep checking EN’s Facebook and Instagram all weekend for more photos.

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Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against Ready for a Second Go at Rolex Kentucky

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against are happily installed at Three Day Farm in Midway, Kentucky, and will ship to the Horse Park on Monday. Photo by Samantha Clark. Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against are happily installed at Three Day Farm in Midway, Kentucky, and will ship to the Horse Park on Monday. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Bunnie Sexton and her little OTTB that could – the California-bred Rise Against known in the barn as Ecko – have arrived safely in the Bluegrass State, ready to take on the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* for a second time. Ecko looks about half his 17 years, and Bunnie told me proudly he continues to improve all the time, especially on the flat which has historically always been his most difficult phase. The most difficult phase for Bunnie this year might be the Horse Inspection as she’s dealing with a torn meniscus and so her daughter will jog Rise Against for her.

Bunnie manages to juggle being a mother (of four!) and a professional horse woman with such a wonderful sense of humor and calm, and seems to resonate patience, acceptance and joy — I don’t know how she does it, but I would dearly love to, and then bottle it and sell it! Second best is to be around her, and failing that…maybe this video?

Many thanks to Bunnie for letting me swing by and chat the morning after she arrived, and to Tanya Davis at Three Day Farm for letting me stop in. Bunnie and Ecko will ship to the Horse Park on Monday. Wishing them both the very best of luck this week!

Sinead Halpin Wins Kentucky: Part 1

Kathryn Schick and Supernova jumping in the Sinead Halpin clinic at Antebellum Farm. Photo by Samantha Clark Kathryn Schick and Supernova jumping in the Sinead Halpin clinic at Antebellum Farm. Photo by Samantha Clark

It was slightly surprising to find Sinead Halpin teaching a full two days of lower level eventers this weekend at Antebellum Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky, as in just a couple of weeks time I’m hoping to see her cutting a swathe through the Rolex Kentucky track at the Kentucky Horse Park just a few miles away, and I thought she’d have far more important things to do.

Not at all, she reassured me, the basics that she’s so keen to ingrain on the students here are the same that she’ll be trying to finesse in the final few days with Manoir De Carneville next week as she puts the finishing touches on her test, does her final gallop, cross country school and jump lesson.  In fact, she went on, it’s almost a relief to escape for a couple of days, especially as one of the days was Tate’s scheduled day off anyway.

Most of the lessons were groups of four, concentrating on grids and jumping exercises the first day, and building up to course work on the second day, although Sinead also taught a few private dressage lessons as well.

To wit, it was all about the quality of the canter, rideability and organisation before the jump. There was nothing revolutionary — just proper, old-fashioned horsemanship, lots of great exercises and pole work, and Sinead’s eagle eye for detail and endless patience, tact and humour to dispense her advice.

Most Wanted: Heather Thomas and Vanessa Coleman's Rooster, a seriously stunning OTTB that we all drooled over. Photo by Samantha Clark

Most Wanted: Heather Thomas and Vanessa Coleman’s Rooster, a seriously stunning OTTB that we all drooled over. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Sinead was vigilant with riders about their position and pointed out little adjustments that made a big difference: keeping their shoulders open and facing the direction of the jump or the turn away from the jump, using their core and not arching their backs.

Balance, forward, being in control — your horse reacting to your leg, but also to a half halt, thinking of cantering on the spot, or a downward transition to trot before picking up canter again if he was getting too onward bound.

Sinead probably didn’t tell the riders anything they hadn’t heard before but she maybe told them in a different way, or phrased it so that it became more applicable and easier to remember.

For one horse that was getting excited about the fence, she told her rider to make sure that her aids were strong enough to be louder than the ‘volume’ of the jump, so that the horse heard her, and not the jump, that the rider must always be heard first. Thus if you need to turn the volume of your aids up temporarily to make your point, then do so, and then turn them down again once the horse hears you so you’re not constantly ‘shouting’ at him and then he tunes you out and no longer hears you.

Kentucky Kentucky! Lest Sinead forget for a minute! Photo by Samantha Clark

Kentucky Kentucky! Lest Sinead forget for a minute! Photo by Samantha Clark.

Everyone I talked to not only learned a lot and enjoyed the lessons but were bowled over by how approachable and lovely Sinead is, and they can’t wait for her to return already, not just for that particular horse show looming on the horizon, but to teach them again as soon as possible!

Let’s hope both happen, and both are just as successful as this trip. Many thanks to Daina Kaugars for organising the clinic and letting me sit in for a little while, to Antebellum Farm for hosting, and of course to Sinead for her time and patience as always.  Go Team SHE at Rolex Kentucky!