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Kim Severson Crosses Borders To Take Blenheim CCI3* Title

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

It’s been sixteen years since Kim Severson last visited the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, winning the CCI*** aboard the legendary Winsome Adante.

Today, the Star-Spangled Banner rang out across the Marlborough Arena again as history repeated itself on this happy hunting ground and Kim took the title with her ‘unreal’ partner, Cooley Cross Border.

Photo by Libby Law.

For Kim and Cross, the victory caps off a long summer dedicated to improving the horse’s fitness and performance.

After fitness issues surfaced at the horse’s 4* debut at Rolex earlier this year, Kim rerouted to Tattersalls. Here, she says, he was ‘totally overwhelmed’, and so it was decided that he would spend the summer at Cooley Farm, from which he was bought. Richard Sheane, who owns the sport horse empire in Co Wicklow, Ireland, has been instrumental in revolutionising Cross’ approach to the job.

“I have to thank the team at Cooley Farm – they’ve done the fitness work and looked after him all summer, and I’ve been able to fly back and forth to compete him,” said an elated Kim. She made six trips to Ireland throughout the summer, competing at unfamiliar venues where, she says, she just had to ‘show up and ride!’

“It was so good for me to come over and do it – I just had to show up and jump what I saw, without thinking about what it was going to be like. I’ve been able to compete him a lot more than I would at home, too, because the ground’s so good in Ireland. Coming over has helped me get back to where I used to be.”

Where she used to be – and arguably is again – is at the forefront of the world stage, collecting accolades aboard the special sort of horse that comes along once in a lifetime – and then only for the lucky ones. Now she finds herself with another exceptional talent in her string.

“He’s an amazing jumper – he’s just unreal,” she enthused. “I can really trust him to go in there and do it. I always knew he had this sort of win in him, but it’s just taken a long time to get there. You never go in expecting it, so to win it is pretty incredible. I’m elated, I’m thrilled for the horse, and thrilled for the owners.”

Kim’s head groom Andi Lawrence has been working with the horse for two years, and says that she has found being separated from her charge hard.

“It’s been amazing working with him,” she said. “Not seeing him all summer has definitely been tough – he’s just the best, and he’s always the same, whether he’s in the barn or in the field. He’s amazing.”

The sentiment was shared by Team USA connections and supporters in the collecting ring as Kim and Cross took their lap of honour.

“To come back and do what I did sixteen years ago is pretty special – although it makes me feel old!” she laughed. “The last time I came here I was the baby, and now I’m one of the older ones.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZJbSGJAZGW/?taken-by=goeventing

Laura Collett and Mr Bass put in a flawless double-clear over Di Boddy’s tricky showjumping track to move up to second place, after Julia Krajewski and Pippa Funnell each pulled two rails to drop to third and fifth, respectively.

Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter. Photo by Libby Law.

Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter dropped from sixth place to twelfth after four poles hit the floor.

“She wasn’t really jumping like she normally does,” she said of the chestnut mare, who’ll now head back to the US and have a well-deserved holiday.

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Libby Law.

Doug Payne and Vandiver may not have had the day they had hoped for, with three rails dropping them two places to fourteenth, but they earned a coveted qualification for next year’s World Equestrian Games, and valuable experience working in new conditions.

“Man, it’s frustrating!” said Doug after his round. “I should have used bigger studs, but you live and learn – we don’t really jump on grass in the States. It’s all a learning experience. In normal conditions he’s right there with me but out there he was just slipping a little bit.”

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Libby Law.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 pulled just one rail to move up from 31st to 25th position.

“I’m super stoked  – it’s been a good redemption weekend,” said Andrea. “This is her third CCI this year so she’ll have a holiday now, and then we’ll look ahead to Rolex and Burghley next year. I’d lie to spend more time over here, but on a planned trip next time! It’s been really educational to be over here.”

Lauren Kieffer and DA Duras. Photo by Libby Law.

Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo stood 13th after cross country, but after a fall from DA Duras in the CIC*** earlier in the day, she opted to withdraw before showjumping.

Chris Burton and Cooley Lands. Photo by Libby Law.

The eight and nine-year-old CIC***, which is considered a great showcase for the sport’s future stars, was won by another Cooley graduate – Cooley Lands, ridden by British-based Aussie Chris Burton.

“He’s very smart and so clever to ride,” said Chris of the exciting young horse, who will contest Boekelo’s CCI*** next month.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z added just 8.8 time penalties to finish 5th in the class.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Libby Law.

One of the great heartbreaks of the weekend was the last-minute cancellation of the high jump class this afternoon, in which riders pay the price for poles down by removing an article of clothing. I’m told it was too slippery to run the class – I think the riders were just being terribly windy about the cold snap. So no bulging British biceps for you this time – but, dear readers, I shall make it my mission to provide you with what you need at the earliest possible opportunity.

So that’s a wrap on an incredible week of competition at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, and what a way to end it! I like to think that Kim has figured out which side of her shiny new SsangYong Tivoli to get in and is currently doing donuts in the Marlborough Arena to some serious Beyonce bangers.

…a girl can dream.

Thanks for following along with all the barminess from Blenheim – absolutely #chuffedtobits to have had you all along for the ride. I’ll be bringing you more madness from across the pond soon, but in the meantime, go Americans abroad, go Kim Severson, and GO EVENTING!

The top ten at the conclusion of the 2017 SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI***.

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Five American Horses Accepted, Two Withdrawn at Blenheim Final Horse Inspection

Good morning sports fans! It’s the last day of competition here at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, and this morning’s final horse inspection dawned bright and early. (Okay, okay, less bright, more early – like, 7.30 early. I’m not sure I can reliably identify a horse at 7.30am, let alone run alongside one.)

Five of our American partnerships will go forward to this morning’s showjumping. Unfortunately, Tiana Coudray and Liz Halliday-Sharp withdrew Under the Clocks and Carpe Diem IV – it’s a shame not to see them jump today, but we’re excited to see what these great partnerships have in store for next season!

The showjumping commences at 9.30am BST/4.30am EST, and will run in reverse order of standings. Our Americans left in contention are:

  • Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 – 31st after cross country – 3.05pm BST/10.05am EST
  • Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo – 13th after cross country – 3.39pm BST/10.39am EST
  • Doug Payne and Vandiver – 12th after cross country – 3.41pm BST/10.41am EST
  • Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter – 6th after cross country – 3.53pm BST/10.53am EST
  • Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border – 3rd after cross country – 3.59pm BST/10.59am EST

Stay tuned for all the updates on their progress – go Americans at Blenheim!

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Be Touchable is Untouchable in Event Rider Masters Finale

Izzy Taylor wins the final leg of the 2017 ERM series! Photo by Libby Law.

The 2017 Event Rider Masters series roared to a thrilling finale today at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials as Izzy Taylor topped the podium for the first time. The win is the latest in a string of great results this season, with 8 of her 15 career international wins taking place in 2017.

“The horses have really stepped up in calibre and we’ve got a really good team of grooms, owners, and sponsors, so it’s all come together,” explains Izzy, who runs a yard of approximately 20 horses alongside raising her two children. “It’s a big unit, and everyone is massively supportive – the girls on the yard know that sometimes their job description will include school runs!”

Izzy Taylor and Be Touchable. Photo by Libby Law.

Izzy claimed the win aboard Be Touchable, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding who has been 1st or 2nd in his last four CIC*** runs.

“He was mega in all three phases,” she said. “He can be cheeky, so with him you really have to go and you have to mean it. He has to be concentrating every second of the way – if he’s not, then you have to be. He was fantastic today.”

Tim Price and Ascona M. Photo by Libby Law.

New Zealand’s Tim Price took second place on the grey mare Ascona M, who is one of the horses he’s been campaigning for wife Jonelle this year.

“I’ve always had geldings, but have gotten into riding mares this year,” he said. “They really take the bit between their teeth and if you can channel that, it’s great. She’s very on the job, and now she understands the diversity of the job and the different fences – she also knows she’s good, and puts her best foot forward. She’s a real talent for the future.”

Ascona M is one of several talented horses that Tim will have to hand back to Jonelle now that she’s made her return to international competition, but he’s not about to give in easily: “shall I just get her pregnant again?” he quipped.

Chris Burton and Graf Liberty. Photo by Libby Law.

Aussie Chris Burton – the fastest rider in the world – set a blistering place to be the first rider home inside the time, and with that he earned himself third place aboard Graf Liberty.

“The course caused more trouble than we thought it would – I’m gutted for my mate Shane [Rose, who suffered 20 penalties]; I thought we might have another Aussie podium, which would be been fun. But that’s the thing about this sport, you reverse the order and it does put the pressure on. I had a lovely round – he’s quite experienced now and he knows his way around, although he did get pretty excited in the warm-up,” he said.

Your 2017 ERM series podium. Photo by Libby Law.

With the final leg of the 2017 season in the books, the overall podium could be decided. Gemma Tattersall held such a commanding lead after the penultimate leg at Blair Castle that she couldn’t be caught, but the battle for second and third places raged on.

“Chris and Lisa Stone [Gemma’s patrons and the founders of the ERM] are both so supportive, and have been throughout my career,” said Gemma. “I actually really enjoy the pressure – I love that about this series, and have really embraced it this year.”

Ultimately, it was to be Sarah Cohen in second place, despite her withdrawal before cross country today.

“He’s very cross he hasn’t run, but he’s done enough, and I want to have him for next season,” she said of her stalwart companion Treason, with whom she’s contested every leg this year.

Third place for the season went to Mark Todd, who well and truly broke his ERM curse this season with a string of solid results.

The ERM has committed itself to bringing eventing to a wider audience without compromising its authenticity, and its campaign of creative thinking has certainly proven successful so far, with 1.4 million livestream views and 2.5 million Facebook views this season alone. The team is already hard at work on some seriously exciting plans for next season, including further international expansion, more advanced technology, and increased viewing opportunities, so watch this space: we’ll be bringing you all the latest updates!

The top ten at the conclusion of the Event Rider Masters CIC*** at Blenheim.

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Ride the Blenheim CCI*** with Doug Payne

Fancy taking your own trip around the influential track at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI***? How about doing it aboard the incredible Vandiver? Silly question, right – who wouldn’t! Check out Doug Payne’s helmet cam footage of his fantastic clear round today – go Doug and Quinn, and go eventing!

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Julia Krajewski Holds Lead; Two Americans in Contention after Blenheim CCI***

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border. Photo by Libby Law.

Two Americans are well in the hunt for a top placing after the cross country phase of the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI***.

Kim Severson may not have contested the track for sixteen years but she rode it like she’d written course plan, posting one of the eight valuable double-clears with Cooley Cross Border.

“He did nine minutes at Kentucky this year and wasn’t fit enough,” explained Kim. “Then, when I brought him over to do Tattersalls [CCI*** in Ireland] he was totally overwhelmed, so I pulled him up. He then spent the summer here at Richard Sheane’s at Cooley Farm, where I got him from, and so his fitness now is something I have to thank them for. They took care of him and got him fit and I would fly in – I did six trips to Ireland this summer so I could compete him a lot, which was really good for him. He went out there today and I thought, ‘is he tired?’ And then he spooked at the water, by the duck sculpture and I was like, ‘okay – it’s on!’ He was really good, and he’s finally starting to step up for me when I’m not quite right.”

Kim and Cross sit in 3rd place going into tomorrow’s showjumping phase, with 4.4 points separating them from leaders Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH, and 2.1 between them and second-placed Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street.

Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter. Photo by Libby Law.

Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter proved that their relatively new partnership is well and truly cemented by adding just 2.8 time penalties and staying in sixth place overnight.

“She was amazing – I had a blast on her,” enthused Hannah after her round. “There were a couple of hairy moments and I was like, ‘just stay between the flags!’ and she just went for it. She just loves it. We all thought the coffin at 19 would be difficult, but it was even more difficult than we expected, but she was really clever through there.”

Photo by eventing superdad Richard Payne

Doug Payne and Vandiver stormed around the cross country to add just 5.2 time penalties and move up to 12th place, with the horse still looking fit and full of running at the end of the course.

“I couldn’t ask for a better horse to head out on – he’s about as genuine as they come and honestly, he made it easy,” said Doug. “I was probably a little conservative speed-wise early on, so I had to try to catch up, but he’s an incredible horse – that’s all there is to it. I’m lucky to have him. I have to thank, too, the USET Foundation and Jacqueline Mars, who have allowed us to come here.”

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Libby Law.

Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo just missed out on a double clear, adding just 1.6 time penalties to move up from 41st place to 13th.

Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo. Photo by Libby Law.

“He was really good,” she said. “After Badminton we decided to do a three-star with him, just to get his confidence back up, and he was great – he just skipped around out there.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Carpe Diem IV. Photo by Libby Law.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Carpe Diem IV added 13.2 time penalties to move up to 20th.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with him – he’s only done two Advanced and he’s not done a CCI since he was seven,” said a beaming Liz. “He’s so honest. He got a bit tired in the last minute and that’s where the time penalties came from, as I had to take the odd conservative route. The dragons [at 7ABC] rode tougher than I thought they would – he went a bit wild and feral there! But I’m so pleased with him – hopefully I’ve got a great 4* horse for the future.”

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Libby Law.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 added just 8 time penalties to move up an incredible 50 places from 81st to 31st.

Time proved to be a hugely influential factor on David Evans’ course, which also saw him use distances, rather than fence height, to challenge horses and riders. Riders couldn’t rely on obvious strides in the combinations, but rather, were encouraged to think on the job, lengthening or shortening the stride depending on their initial jump in order to make it through cleanly. Only eight riders delivered double-clears and for Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky, and Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch, this offered a valuable window to move up. Respectively, they moved up 20 and 30 places to sit in the top ten at the end of the day’s competition.

Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift. Photo by Libby Law.

Fence 19ABC, the Shires Equestrian Wooded Hollow, caused the most trouble on course, with 23 riders faulting there. A meaty coffin complex with a skinny triple brush on an angled line, it had very little margin for error and a slight misjudgment or a big jump over the ditch opened the door for horses to slip out to the right without ever seeing a take-off point.

Tiana Coudray and Under The Clocks. Photo by Libby Law.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Libby Law.

It was this fence that caught out Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks, as well as crowd favourites Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift and fourth-placed Kitty King and Vendredi Biats.

“He jumped the ditch too big and couldn’t quite get the line, which is a shame as he was brilliant everywhere else,” said Kitty. “He doesn’t deserve that 20 penalties. His steering has been an issue in the past but it wasn’t a problem today – it wasn’t even in the back of my mind on course.”

Laura Collet and Mr Bass sail through the Shires Wooded Hollow #lauracolletteventing #bpiht17 #blenheimhorse #ssangyong

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Laura Collett and Mr Bass finished bang on the optimum time to move up from 9th to 4th place.

“This year we’ve had a few steering issues and we’ve had to slightly go back to the drawing board,” explained Laura. “He’s come out thinking he’s the absolute dog’s danglies, and that he doesn’t need me, so I sometimes have to remind him!”

Pippa Funnell’s double-clear allowed her to hold onto second place aboard MGH Grafton Street, who is owned by long-time supporters Jonathan and Jane Clarke.

“William will probably be cross that I got such a buzz [on cross country] – he wants me to stop!” laughed Pippa. “MGH Grafton is a horse that can be a little bit on his head in his balance – I’ve never tried to go for the time on him, so that was quite brave for me!”

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Libby Law.

The star of the day was once again Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH, who performed a nearly foot-perfect round to go double-clear.

“I didn’t sit so well over the ditch at 19 and I thought, ‘oh sh*t! Please do it!’,” said Julia. “He pricked his ears and he did it. I thought about going long, but I’m in a very competitive position and I wanted to make the time – it’s risky, but it has to be done. I’m so proud of him, and I’m so glad he got the result he deserved. He was very genuine until the last.”

The showjumping will commence tomorrow at 9.30am BST/4.30am EST, but first, there’s the final horse inspection to get through – keep an eye on EN’s Twitter and Instagram feeds for live updates on our fantastic American riders and the leaders of the pack.

Until then, go celebratory champagne, and Go Eventing!

The SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI*** top ten after cross-country.

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Taylor Cut from Finer Cloth on First Day of Blenheim ERM, Liz Halliday-Sharp Breaks Top 10

Pressure? What pressure? Hannah Sue Burnett celebrates another good dressage test at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Photo by Libby Law.

ERM afternoons are always a bit of a pressure cooker, as the seeded order of go means that the crown is passed from rider to rider in quick succession as increasingly competitive scores are thrown into contention.

This afternoon’s competition was no different. The first rider in the ring after the lunch break — for the full morning report, click here — was China’s Alex Hua Tian, riding Don Geniro. The pair, who won the Bramham leg of last year’s ERM series, had obviously found one of the better burger vans on site and delivered a sterling performance, earning them a 36.4 and putting them nearly six points ahead of the morning leader, Sarah Bullimore.

The Don is BACK. Photo by Libby Law.

“I’m so delighted, because the horse is so scopey on the flat and we’ve always known it,” said Alex. “He had some crazy scores at two-star and some good scores when he first moved up to three-star, but last year he just went a bit wild — last year and this year we’ve had Psycho Don! We’ve really worked on it and finally he’s able come into the arena in an atmosphere and do what he does. He had a mistake in there, in one of his changes, but I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Treason is the reason for Sarah Cohen. Photo by Libby Law.

Sarah Cohen, known as Cutty, has been a firm favourite in the series this year, although her approach to eventing has changed over the past few years. Formerly a full-time rider for sport horse operation Preci-Spark, she made the decision to focus on motherhood, but the horse with which she had built up such a partnership stayed with her. He’s now her only horse, and together they’ve notched up consistent results all season, including a win at the Wiesbaden leg earlier in the summer.

“We just had this special bond when I first started riding him. When I left Preci-Spark a few years ago his owner offered to let me have him at home — not necessarily to event, I could have taken him to do whatever I wanted to, which is lovely,” she said. “He’s just a nice person to have about — the kids lead him around, and he loves the attention and he’s great to have around. I would have preferred to do a better test, but he’s been so consistent all year that I can’t complain. As long as he does his usual thing tomorrow and I stay switched on and ride him, we should be alright!”

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot make their final trip between the boards in their UK season. Photo by Libby Law.

Hannah Sue Burnett rode a test in two halves — initially tense, but settling into a beautiful cadence — aboard Harbour Pilot to score 48.8. They lie in 26th overnight, but their previous track record at Blenheim, a fifth-place finish in the CCI*** last year, should stand them in good stead for a climb in tomorrow’s most influential phase.

The Brad Pitt of the horse world: Fernhill By Night struts his stuff with Liz Halliday-Sharp. Photo by Libby Law.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and the stunning Fernhill By Night sit in 9th going into tomorrow’s competition, having scored 40.3 in a fluid test with some minor errors.

“I’m pleased — there were a few bits that I’m annoyed with, because I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” said Liz. “Blackie can do such a good test, but he’s not been in that big an atmosphere since Rolex. He’s quite a lazy horse, so I purposely didn’t do any arena walks, so he was a bit like, ‘woah!’ He can be a bit cheeky in certain situations. There were some major marks lost that we’d never normally lose; he’d never normally jog in the walk but he was anticipating a bit. He’s normally so quiet — he was quite spicy today! My goal was to be in the 30s but we didn’t quite get there.”

Shane Rose gets his campaign for a podium place off to a flying start with CO Qualified. Photo by Libby Law.

Australia’s Shane Rose comes to Blenheim fresh from his win at the penultimate leg at Blair Castle, and he didn’t disappoint, delivering a 35.8 with CP Qualified.

“He was super — he felt really good from the moment I got on him, really soft in his mouth and taking me forward. Then I really just had to present him in that fashion,” said Shane.

With Gemma Tattersall already crowned the overall series leader, Shane is one of the six riders in contention to take a podium place on the overall series leaderboard. Does this come with added pressure?

“Not at all — I want to do well, and if I do well then it gives me a chance to get on that podium,” he explained. “It’s a bit annoying, actually. I tried to have Happy Times [Sam Griffiths’ top horse, who Shane has been competing while Sam is out of action] in the ERM at Gatcombe, but instead he went in the Advanced and won it. If he’d been in the ERM he could have put a bit more pressure on Gemma Tattersall. But now, it’s just one step at a time. If you do well in each phase then you stand to claim the rewards at the end of it. I think [course designer] David Evans has given riders a few interesting opportunities to really go for it, so I’m going to try to do that tomorrow.”

    Izzy Taylor leaves nothing to chance with a foot-perfect test aboard Be Touchable. Photo by Libby Law.

But the top spot was to be taken away by the slimmest of margins as Izzy Taylor continued her recent incredible form and posted a 35.7 with Millstreet CIC3* winner Be Touchable.

“I’m delighted with him,” she said. “He’s always shown that he has three beautiful paces, so you’re halfway there. His brain’s very good, and since I’ve had him he’s upgraded very quickly, which is great in some ways, and then you pay for it in other ways. This year I would say he’s really become an established three-star horse and I can really ride him and get as much as I can out of him. What’s exciting is that there’s definitely still more to come from him. He loves his job, all three bits of it — he loves showjumping, and he loves his cross country.”

Be Touchable was produced to Intermediate by his owner, Sophie Dodds, before university commitments meant she had to pass the reins to another rider.

“I took him to his first Intermediate and came second and then thought, ‘right, that’s enough!'” said Sophie. “My mum absolutely loves Izzy, and we both thought that she’s such an amazing rider, especially cross country, so we thought we’d give it a chance — it was just lovely that she answered the phone!”

You can catch up on all of today’s ERM action at eventridermasters.tv, and make sure to tune in tomorrow to see the excitement as it happens, with showjumping starting at 10.30am BST/5.30am EST. Go #ERMeventing!

The top ten after the first phase of the Event Rider Masters at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

The Blenheim Cross Country Courses, Demystified

Someone obviously got wind of the fact that Jonty Evans is the absolute MAESTRO of cross country course previews, because the lovely lot behind the Cross Country Course app have put together these brilliant interactive previews of the CCI3* and ERM courses at Blenheim. They feature in-depth and insightful commentary from Jonty and course-builder David Evans (no relation, insofar as I’m aware, and no secret marriage either — sorry to any budding Jilly Cooper types!)

Times for tomorrow’s CCI3* cross country have been released and can be found in full here.

  • Liz Halliday-Sharp and Carpe Diem IV – 9.27am BST/4.27am EST
  • Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo – 9.45am BST/4.45am EST
  • Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks – 11.12am BST/6.12am EST
  • Doug Payne and Vandiver – 11.36am BST/6.36 am EST
  • Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border – 12.03pm BST/7.03am EST
  • Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter – 12.27pm BST/7.27am EST
  • Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 – 1.00pm BST/8.00am EST

With thanks to Charles Foot for all his hard work in putting these previews together — long may technological advances in eventing continue!

CCI3*

CIC***/ERM

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Lunchtime Report: Sarah Bullimore Takes Early Dressage Lead in ERM Finale at Blenheim

There’s an interesting phenomenon that happens in England once Burghley wraps up: winter. If you want to know what it’s like at Blenheim, imagine a lot of confused penguins, bundled up beyond recognition and bouncing off one another in the collecting ring because we’ve all gone delirious from a heady combination of icicles in the brain and horse madness. It’s rather good fun, actually.

Chasing Andrew Nicholson for an interview like…

With three days of dressage this year, rather than two, the CCI3* entrants are given the day off to relax (or panic about the enormous fences they’ll have to tackle tomorrow, probably). This opens up the main arena for the first phase of the final Event Rider Masters leg, while the 8- and 9-year-old CIC3* dressage continues in the second ring. Basically, there’s a lot going on, and more than once I’ve found myself wishing I had a Marauder’s Map so I can keep track of where these pesky eventers keep wandering off to. Also so I can keep an eye on Tim Price and regularly schedule in cuddles with his puppy, Scooby. #priorities.

Really — can you blame me? LOOK AT HIS TINY PUP-SIZED STICK. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Price family — including baby Otis — was out in force supporting new mum Jonelle, who made her long-anticipated comeback to international eventing this morning, riding Classic Moet.

“I’ve surprised myself with how keen I am to be back — it feels so normal!” she said. “I’m not nervous to be back at all, but you do hear all sorts of stories about how it affects different women, but I feel just like I used to and I’m keen to crack on.”

Jonelle credits her quick return to the top levels with regular gym sessions and continuing to ride throughout her pregnancy. Husband Tim took over the ride on some of her horses and has posted some consistently impressive results with them, but “it was made very clear from day one that they were all coming back — he’s trying to put forward a case for a few of them, but tough luck!”

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet in the ERM CIC***. Photo by Libby Law.

Fellow Kiwi Andrew Nicholson rode through some tension with Jet Set IV to post a score of 43.9, with which he currently holds second place.

“He hasn’t done a big event since Barbury last year, and he’s quite a buzzy horse,” he explained. “Even when he gets tense, he keeps trying hard, so it’s probably not as quality a test as he can do, but he really is world-class.”

Katherine Coleman rides Back To Business. Photo by Libby Law.

British-based American Katherine Coleman had a shaky start to her test with Back to Business II, but put the pieces back together to score 53.3, putting her into 15th place.

“She tripped coming up the centreline for her first halt, quite badly,” explained Katherine. “I’m really pleased with her, though. She’s still quite green, and has struggled a bit with the changes, but those were really good today.”

Your morning leader: Sarah Bullimore and Lilly Corrine. Photo by Libby Law.

Our ERM leader at the lunch break is Sarah Bullimore and Lilly Corinne. The chestnut mare hasn’t always been easy — hands up if that’s a sentence you can identify with — but the pair looked in great harmony with one another, posting a competitive 42.1 to hold pole position at the halfway point.

“I’m absolutely chuffed with her,” beamed Sarah. “She was a bit sharp going in, and she wanted to spook at the flowers and the displays and such, but she was on side and when I said ‘no, you’re OK, let’s do this movement now,’ she actually listened and said yes, which is a nice answer from her. She’s an amazing jumper, although sometimes she gets a bit excited and lets the occasion get to her, but she’s a real machine, so hopefully she’ll have a good crack in both phases to come.”

Sarah has been a familiar phase in the series, and says that to find herself in this position tomorrow afternoon would be a highlight of her season.

“We’ve not had the best season,” she explained. “It’s not been awful, but there have just been some little disappointments — so to win here would make it all worth it.”

Stay tuned this afternoon for the rest of the action from the final leg of the Event Rider Masters series, and don’t forget that you can tune in and watch every test, accompanied by expert commentary, by clicking here. Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night ride at 3:56 p.m. BST/10:56 a.m. EST, and Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot will enter at A at 4:28 p.m. BST/11:28 a.m. EST.

If you haven’t downloaded the SAP judging app yet, I can’t recommend it enough — especially if you’re trying to shirk your responsibilities in the office. It’s the new Flappy Bird, guys.

The top 10 after the lunch break in the exciting final leg of the 2017 Event Rider Masters series.

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Your Big Bad Blenheim CCI3* Dressage Report: Krajewski Leads, 2 Americans in Top 10

The Beyonce of eventing? Let’s roll with that. Photo by Libby Law.

We all saw it coming, right? Julia Krajewski, the Queen of All Things, was BOUND to put a competitive score on the board – and when she did, she really did. Riding Chipmunk FRH, she threw her cards down on the table in the final group of the day at Blenheim and scored 33.4.

I can only assume that Julia will scrap the salute and finish her tests like this from now on.

“I normally don’t get nervous before dressage, but when you’re right at the end you have time to think about it,” she said. “This is the highlight of Chipmunk’s season – he was my reserve horse for the Europeans, so he was fittened up for that, and we thought Blenheim would be a good alternative.”

Chipmunk may have been overshadowed by the success of stablemate Samourai du Thot, but Julia rates him as a serious horse for the future – and his impressive international record would agree.

“I think he’s happy that he’s here on his own, and not with the little monkey with him, who’s always more important because he does more stupid things,” she laughs. “He wants to please and he’s very genuine – if he understands something, he’ll do it. He’s very clever.”

Apparently spurred on by all the #girlpower in the air, Pippa Funnell entered the arena straight after Julia and clocked up a 35.7 aboard MGH Grafton Street.

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border show off their best moves to sit third in the CCI***. Photo by Libby Law.

An impeccable test earned Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border a score of 37.8, catapulting them into the lead before the lunch break today. The gelding has spent the summer in Ireland after retiring on course at the Tattersalls CCI*** in May. The duo have since recorded a second-place finish at Millstreet’s CIC***, putting them in a confident position ahead of the rest of the week’s competition.

“He was very, very good, very obedient, and very relaxed,” said Kim after her test. “I missed the timing on the last change, and the last halt was a bit abrupt, but it was a lovely test, and I felt that we were both present and in the same picture.”

Kim, who is contesting Blenheim for the first time in sixteen years, hopes to fly Cross home after Blenheim.

“As long as he’s good!” she laughed. They sit in 3rd place overnight – a promising start for Cross’ dreams of returning to his own bed!

Hannah Sue Burnett means business in her last competition in the UK with RF Demeter. Photo by Libby Law.

In the ring directly after Kim was Hannah Sue Burnett – and her performance with RF Demeter only bolstered spirits in the American camp. Their score was originally announced as 38, slotting them into second place, but this was later revised to 39.7. This puts them into 6th place going into Saturday’s competition.

“It’s still a new partnership but every time I take her out I feel like she’s more and more with me, and like she’s really my horse now,” explained Hannah about her relationship with the mare, known as Demi. “What an incredible animal – I can’t say enough good things about her. She knows her job, and she loves showing off, and it’s just really fun – I enjoy every moment riding her.”

Hannah has spent the summer based in the United Kingdom, and will return to her Virginia base next Wednesday – but first, she aims to have a strong result here to take home with her.

The palace/porta-loo dichotomy in the collecting ring is a searing metaphor for Britain’s ongoing grapple with class…either that, or I didn’t notice it until it was too late and my Photoshop skills aren’t up to toilet removal. You decide.

Doug Payne and Vandiver flew out to the UK after the American Eventing Championships a fortnight ago, and spent a few days at Jesse Campbell’s yard before moving into Blenheim base camp on Monday. This is Vandiver’s first international trip, and he’s obviously been totally unfazed by the entire experience: “he loves the grass arena – we did the familiarisation yesterday and he was chowing down, helping the lawnmowers,” laughed Doug. “He’s very comfortable here, and that’s a big thing for him.”

Doug was one of the recipients of the USET Foundation’s Jacqueline B. Mars Competition and Training Grant, which supports American riders, giving them the opportunity to compete on the world stage. No stranger to competitive pressure, Doug gave the horse an educational experience in the ring.

“I think it’s the best he’s been yet, and hopefully the beginning of things to come. He’s getting stronger every day and I think in time he’s going to be great,” he said. The pair earned 46.6, and stand equal 18th overnight.

British-based Tiana Coudray has been steadily building her business on this side of the pond over the past few years, and her entry in the CCI*** this weekend is a new ride to her – in the international rings, at least.

“It’s a bit of an unusual story, actually,” she said. “I’ve had the horse in my yard for about three years and would do all the work at home and all the fittening work with him, but I don’t really know him in the competition ring.”

Her horse, Under the Clocks, was bought off the racetrack as a five-year-old by Australian eventer Murray Lampard, who produced the horse to CCI**** level and contested the team trials for the London 2012 Olympics. The pair didn’t make the team, but because the flight is so taxing on the horses – and expensive for the people responsible for them – Murray made the decision to keep ‘Ninja’ in the UK, and make the trips back and forth himself to ride and compete him.

“I would do a Prelim on him, then an Intermediate on him, and then Murray would fly in and go ride round Burghley!” explained Tiana. “But the Lampards eventually realised that it didn’t make sense for them to keep spending the money on coming back over here, and so they made the really hard decision that he needed to be sold, which was heartbreaking for everyone. Then somebody rang me up and said they wanted to help me, and they bought him for me. Losing the ride on a horse has happened to me a few times over the last few years so when I got the call I was speechless – I didn’t know what to say. It was amazing.”

Tiana and Ninja produced a quiet, consistent test to score 48.2, putting them in 28th place going into cross-country.

“It’s all still trial and error with him,” she said. “I’m still working out how long I should warm him up, whether I ride him before or the day before, whether I take him for a gallop. But I’m really happy with him – he was impeccably behaved, maybe even a bit conservative and lacking a bit of sparkle. In his test at Barbury he got really lit up by the atmosphere, so my goal for today was to keep him quiet and get him to settle, which he did.”

Andrea Baxter rerouted Indy 500 after an early fall at Burghley, but some costly errors dropped them down the scoreboard, and they posted a 63.1 to sit in 81st place.

“I’ve been working really hard since Burghley to change her outline, so in some ways it was very good,” she says. “But there were a lot of mistakes – I think I was just thinking too hard about what my trainer would want, and so I just forgot the test!”

But the dressage is just the first phase, and Blenheim’s meaty course – and palatial setting – is the real draw for riders.

“It’s not Burghley, but it really builds as it goes along and gets a lot trickier – it looks good,” said Andrea.

The People’s Horse goes into 8th place with Jonty Evans after the second day of dressage. Photo by Libby Law.

The biggest cheer in the main arena was earned by Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift, who produced a lovely test to post a 40 on the scoreboard. They go into Saturday’s cross-country in 8th place.

“It feels great to be here. When we finished the test and came out there was a big cheer from the crowd, which was fantastic – it’s lovely to have their support,” said Jonty. “The test felt good, although possibly not quite as clean as his test at Badminton, but it’s only his second time in a dressage arena since then, so we’ve got to give him his due – he did really well, and I’m pleased with him. I don’t feel the pressure of the crowds – it feels like they’re here to support him, and it’s just lovely to know they appreciate him as much as we do.”

The level of appreciation and enthusiasm I have for Cooley Rorkes Drift is approximately this much. No shame, and shrug emojis galore.

The prestigious 8 and 9-year-old CIC*** kicked off today with the first day of dressage. In the lead at the end of the day is Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto, who scored a 40.7 with Brookpark Vikenti. Kazuma has spent the season based with William Fox-Pitt, and has obviously benefitted from his tutelage – this is only his second season eventing.

“William and Jackie Potts, his head girl, give me a lot of help,” he explained. “But when I walked the course with William, he said, ‘it’s easy!’ But it’s not to me!”

I feel you, Kazuma. Those pesky Very Tall Eventers always seem to find everything easy.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more eventing madness from across the pond, as the 8 and 9-year-old CIC*** dressage continues and the ERM dressage kicks off. Stay tuned and source yourself an end-of-summer Pimms for an authentic Blenheim experience!

The top-ten as it stands going into cross country at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

The US rider results going into cross country in the CCI*** are as follows:

  • 3rd – Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border – 37.8
  • 6th – Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter – 39.7
  • =18th – Doug Payne and Vandiver – 46.6
  • =24th – Liz Halliday-Sharpe and Carpe Diem IV – 47.1
  • 28th – Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks – 48.2
  • 41st – Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo – 50.5
  • 81st – Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 – 63.1

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Kitty King Leads CCI3* at Blenheim, Team USA Ready for Battle

A rather shellshocked Kitty King burst into a broad grin upon hearing that her impressive score of 38.6 had catapulted her and Vendredi Biats to the head of the leaderboard in the CCI3* at Blenheim.

“Maybe I was a bit mean about him!” she laughed to her team, with whom she had just finished a post-test debrief. But what may not have felt like the 8-year-old’s best work looked consistent and mature, earning the pair just the second sub-40 score of the day.

“He’s been pretty consistent this year, so I was really hoping he could go in and do a good test,” she explained. “I didn’t feel that it was quite as good as he can do, because he was just being a bit looky, and then he gets a little bit behind me, whereas when he’s more relaxed and his ears are floppy he gives me a really good ride around.

“Today, although he was really good and he did everything I asked of him, I was waiting for him to do something – his ears were nearly touching at the top, which is never an ideal sign! When they’re floppy and relaxed you know you can go in and really ride him, but today they were like little radars.”

The horse spent time in various riders’ yards, including William Fox-Pitt’s and Lucy Wiegersma’s, but was moved along for his bad behaviour as a youngster. Kitty saw the potential and gave the gorgeous grey the time and compromise needed to flourish.

“It’s been about building up a real relationship with him, and sometimes I do have to meet him halfway. He likes to be cheeky and naughty, and I do think that if you squash that too much then you can ruin their personality. If you meet them halfway you have to hope that they’ll work with you in the arena.”

Now, with 13 top-ten finishes out of 16 international starts, Vendredi Biats is widely regarded as one of the most exciting up-and-coming talents on the British eventing scene. So does Kitty feel the pressure when she rides down the centreline?

“Not really,” she says. “You have to hope that because he’s been so consistent, the judges will expect him to do well and mark accordingly. They’ll hopefully be looking for the good in him, rather than when they’re judging a horse they don’t know or one who does a bad test – then they’re already looking for the bad. It’s to the rider’s benefit if they’ve been consistent in this phase.”

Two American riders contested the first phase today. Liz Halliday-Sharp splits her year between East Sussex and Ocala, Florida, and the educational opportunities that this approach offers her up-and-comers shines through. She posted a 47.1 with Carpe Diem IV after a mistake in the flying changes knocked some marks. The pair currently sit in equal 10th.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Carpe Diem. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

“He’s not done very much at the level and would still be green,” says Liz. “He’s not the easiest to ride on the flat but he’s got more relaxed and tidier, and I’m really pleased with him. He tries really hard and he’s such a nice person. It’s a shame that in the second flying change — which he can do! — he just got a bit confused and thought I wanted him to trot.”

Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo scored 50.5 to sit in 20th place overnight. We will be doing our very best to bring you all the latest news on all of the American and Canadian pairs competing in the CCI3*, CIC3* and Event Rider Masters CIC3*.

Five U.S. riders will take to the main arena tomorrow in the CCI3*:

  • Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks – 9.16am BST/4.16am EST
  • Doug Payne and Vandiver – 10.38am BST/5.38am EST
  • Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border – 12.24pm BST/7.24am EST
  • Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter – 12.32pm BST/7.32am EST
  • Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 – 2.38pm BST/9.38am EST

Liz and Lauren will also be tackling the 8/9 year old CIC*** — because who needs a day off anyway? — aboard Deniro Z and D.A. Duras, respectively. Liz will ride at 9.38am BST/4.38am EST, and Lauren will ride at the arguably more socially acceptable hour of 2.48pm BST/7.48pm EST.

We updated this morning’s horse inspection report with beautiful photos from Libby Law Photography. Click here to see more photos of Team USA.

Go Americans, go Blenheim, go (away) rainclouds, and Go Eventing!

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Your top ten after the first day of dressage in the CCI*** at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

U.S. Combinations Fly Through Blenheim’s First Horse Inspection

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

It’s a blustery morning at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials – perfect for what can only be referred to as flying an equine kite. Fortunately for collective stress levels, everyone kept hold of said kites. How anyone can trot up a fit event horse while wearing heels remains one of life’s great unsolved mysteries – I suggest a MythBusters-style inquest into the ankle strength and general tenacity of eventing’s leading ladies. The Bionic Birds, if you will. (If you won’t, I understand.)

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

An astronomical 85 horses were presented at this morning’s first horse inspection for the CCI***, in front of the ground jury of Eric Leiby, Ciska van Meggelen and Jane Tolley. The entry list reads as a who’s-who of international eventing, with legends of the sport and first-timers at the level battling it out for the title at this prestigious event.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Libby Law Photography

Seven American riders will fly the stars and stripes in this class, and all were accepted without incident — despite the wind, crowds and more than one excitable terrier adding a bit of pizzazz to proceedings.

Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Everyone’s favourite event horse was also presented this morning, to a steady cascade of camera shutters. Cooley Rorkes Drift, known as Art to his friends, is firmly in the spotlight after rider Jonty Evans successfully crowdfunded his purchase. He’ll certainly have earned the prize for being the subject of the most selfies this week – although as a consummate professional, I certainly haven’t been one of those selfie-takers.

Okay. Fine. I took about thirty.

Dressage starts today, with Liz Halliday-Sharp riding Carpe Diem IV at 11.37am BST/6.37am EST, and Lauren Kieffer riding Landmarks Monte Carlo at 12.30pm BST/7.30am EST. The remainder of the American contingent in the CCI3* will ride their tests tomorrow:

  • Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks – 9.16am BST/4.16am EST
  • Doug Payne and Vandiver – 10.38am BST/5.38am EST
  • Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border – 12.24pm BST/7.24am EST
  • Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter – 12.32pm BST/7.32am EST
  • Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 – 2.38pm BST/9.38am EST

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Carpe Diem. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Keep an eye on EN, as we’ll be bringing you updates throughout the week on Twitter and Instagram, as well as full reports of how our riders are getting on in the CCI3*, the finale of the Event Rider Masters series, and the 8/9 year old CIC3*. You’ll be able to follow along with all the action from the cross-country and show jumping phases on BETV’s live stream, too. And, of course, the entirety of the ERM will be broadcast live on Friday and Saturday.

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive Stream, Event Rider MastersEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram

Overheard on the Battlefield: Riders Talk Burghley’s Influential Final Phase

Our top three – Piggy French (2nd), Oliver Townend (1st) and Gemma Tattersall (3rd) in the final press conference. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s something about a CCI4* that just brings on an intense emotional reaction regardless of the result. When that CCI4* is the biggest, toughest track in the world, and the winner hasn’t tasted victory at the level in eight years despite being the hardest-working man in eventing, it becomes extra special. By extra special I mean, of course, that I wind up crying on everyone sporadically and shamelessly. Sorry, Piggy.

Richard Jeffery’s show jumping track at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials was a masterclass in how to design a fair but influential final phase, taking into account the constraints that both horses and riders will be working under — stay tuned for our full report for a play-by-play of what went down, who made it happen and how they got the job done.

In the meantime, enjoy the reactions from some of our final 25 riders, who rode into the pressure-cooker and came out with coveted Burghley completions — and, in some cases, placings. From the mouths of babes, people. Imagine a continuous quiet sobbing noise in the background and it’s basically like you were in the mixed zone, too.

Burghley: WebsiteFinal ResultsEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

QUOTES FROM SHOWJUMPING DAY

Mackenna Shea and Landioso (8 faults, 24th place): “I’m just so happy I finished — that’s pretty much it! He was so good and so rideable, which I was happy about, because sometimes he can be a bit feisty, but it backed him off a bit. Maybe that’s the trick — Burghley!

“I don’t know if I’ll ever really believe it happened — it’s all gone so smoothly and he felt so good that I don’t know if it really happened. I thought I’d be alway more scared the whole time but I was actually able to enjoy it. He came into the atmosphere today and lifted his head, which I was happy about because he was napping an hour earlier, so I’m glad he kind of woke up!”

Paul Tapner and Bonza King of Rouges (8 faults, 19th place): “It’s a little disappointing to have those two down — he went in there and started to spook a bit, but he can be a bit tricky like that. When I first got him he used to ride like that sometimes, and I don’t know why he did it today, but that’s horses and we’ve got our completion.

“It’s actually a really hard question of a course, with lots of related distances on long strides, so it’s hard to keep the horses compact and up in the air — it’s suited to having poles down. I got through the finish flags in all three phases, so I’m happy!”

Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury (5 faults, 16th place): “I didn’t know what my time was — needless to say, he’s not the quickest and he spends a lot of time in the air. As my youngest son said, ‘It was the wind that knocked the fence down, not Cooly!’ You’ve just got to ride what you’ve got for the week and let the results look after themselves.”

Harry Meade and Away Cruising (4 faults, 15th place): “He’s an average jumper, but I’ve always felt that in the show jumping you can get an average jumper to go clear sometimes, which you can’t do in other phases. All the ducks fell in a row today, and I’m delighted with that. It’s a good match for the cross country — yesterday opened them up, and then today the distances are quite short, so it counterbalanced what the cross country had been testing us on. I think that if you nail the process, the result just happens.”

Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden (clear and inside time, 14th place): “The more you dare him and say, ‘There’s the fence, go on, jump it’, the higher he goes. I’ve thought for a really long time that he’s a really good horse, but his record hasn’t shown it. It’s nice now to be able to show how amazing he is, with double-clears at both Burghley and Badminton.”

Clare Abbott and Euro Prince (4 faults, 13th place): “He was jumping superbly, but I over-collected. Sometimes he can be quite alert in his mind but his body can be tired — today he felt soft, and relaxed, and athletic so I’m delighted with how he finished. With every four-star you learn more about your horse and his capabilities, and then you can come back and use it next time. It’s a pretty big achievement to get to the finish line.”

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica (1 fault, 12th place): “Veronica was great ‚ she wants to be a careful horse, and she felt great after yesterday. It was a fair course if you rode well — it caught out little mistakes but there was nothing unfair about it. The plan would have been to win, but you know, it’s all gone to plan otherwise. Burghley really tells you about what type of horse you’ve got — you just don’t know until you get here.”

Harry Dzenis and Xam (8 faults, 11th place): “It was quite pressurised in there — the first horse felt the nerves, and Xam got nervous but I had to just get him through it. I’m absolutely over the moon and I couldn’t ask for more, really.”

Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie (8 faults, 10th place): “It’s a brilliant event — one of the best in the world — so I’m very pleased with him. He had the last fence down, which was a bugger, but to finish in the top 10 is a great achievement and I’m really proud of him. He was a bit all over the place in there — yesterday really took it out of him, but it’s a great result. This is by far the biggest, toughest four-star in the world — it takes a special type of horse and a brave rider. It’s an epic event.”

Izzy Taylor may not have had the round she’d hoped for, but is looking ahead to Trevidden’s future. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor and Trevidden (12 faults, 9th place): “Obviously I’m disappointed — he just went a bit green in there, like yesterday; it’s just more expensive in the show jumping ring. I’m thrilled with him though, to finish where he did in his first four-star. There’s always a big atmosphere, the pressure’s on in the top three, and it’s a good four-star course in there. It’s very exciting, and we’re always looking forward — we’ve got a lot of homework to do but the overall picture is very exciting.”

Andrew Nicholson dissects his showjumping round aboard Nereo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo (10 faults, 8th place): “I jumped the triple bar very well and he landed quick — the distance for him was just a bit quiet for him, and it got a bit too quiet. I ended up adding a stride. He’s for sure the best horse I’ve ever sat on. I don’t think many international riders have 3,000 points in their career and he has that — if that’s correct — I let my kids do the maths! It’s the top four-star in the world, we’re competitive, and we love winning.”

Tina Cook and Calvino II (8 faults, 17th place) and Star Witness (clear and inside time, 7th place): “I’m so pleased with Star Witness, because he’s fairly shocking in the one-days. He finds the dressage difficult and can be a bit naughty but he loves his jumping and tries his socks off. It’s beyond expectations — he has his physical problems, and I spend most of my time managing them. Every time he gets to an event like this it’s a bonus.

“I thought with Calvino II that I had a four-star win in my clutches, but with the way he jumped today we wouldn’t have won it anyway, so that’s fine. To have three horses at the very top and to be here at Burghley is amazing, and brings back so many memories — most of them good!”

Lynn Symansky in the mixed zone. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lynn Symansky and Donner (4 faults, 6th place): “He was actually jumping really well but on a tired horse, going into the crowd, he lost focus for a second. I’m just kicking myself in the pants because we could’ve had a clear round. You need to ride according to the plan of your own horse and have a cool head about it. I’m much more relaxed this year, having done it last year, and I’d love to come back. You have to rely on the partnership. When you can taste it, it’s pretty disappointing, but I can’t be upset — I’m really pleased with him.”

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy (five faults, 5th place): “It was good for him — he was popping a few good jumps there. We had one down, but for him that’s like a clear round! We needed a bit of luck but we didn’t have it. That’s life with him — I reckon he’s got a big win in him, but it’s not today. This competition is great fun; I really enjoy coming here and giving it a chance.”

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser (clear and inside time, 4th place): “He’s a special horse — the only factor that would make him have a pole down would be me! He was super consistent the whole way — I didn’t know how I was doing on the time, so I had to pick it up in a few places.

“Today I walked it by myself so I asked a few people, like Tim Price, for help while they were walking. Eventing is a community and people are always willing to help out a young person like me. We just need to tighten up the dressage, but I’m super excited for the future. I didn’t realise how tough it’d be to get back here and how tough it was — I was so lucky with Dry Old Party. To come back on a special horse is so special.”

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul (4 faults, 3rd place): “Without a doubt, Team GB are ascending — we’re all sat here and there’s plenty behind us as well which is really exciting — Tom (McEwen) and Izzy (Taylor) and plenty with very exciting young horses. Chris Bartle and Dickie Waygood have contributed to me and my career definitely; they’ve helped me a huge amount and I’m very grateful for that.”

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira (double clear, 2nd place): “It’s amazing, isn’t it? She’s just been such a good girl. I’m so proud. It’s amazing the difference a year makes — it’s amazing to be here and up the leaderboard. I don’t think it was that pretty but it doesn’t matter, the poles stayed up. These are really brave horses and to get them to respect the poles is a mission in itself.

“Burghley is the toughest four-star with the terrain and it’s probably my favourite, as it’s so friendly, so it’s always been a dream to do well. It was surprising watching, really — it’s amazing — for her, for my team, for the sport. Not in a million years did I imagine this! I didn’t actually find it that difficult to come back; I’m still a very competitive competitor. I find the drive to do it quite easy. I’ve paid more attention to the fitness side than I ever have done — we had a personal trainer once a week which was hell but physically and mentally it really paid off.”

Your Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2017 winner – Oliver Townend! Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class (5 faults, but nonetheless our WINNER!): “It’s very, very special — I keep crying! We’ve had him from the word go, and he’s a top class horse. It was up to him to do his job and up to me to do my job, and we both did. I was looking around the collecting ring and I thought, whatever happens, I wouldn’t swap him for any horse in here, and it’s been a long time since I last said that. I’m just desperate for top class horses, and I’ve had to play the numbers game to try to find them. I’m trying to cut down numbers now so you can see me perform like I did this weekend.

“It means the world to me — I have so much faith in this horse, and I’ve been blowing wind up him all week, so I’m glad he proved me right! When I had the gate down I thought, if you’re going to have one down you might as well do it right! I’ll have a look back and give myself a smack. It’s been a rough old year one way or another — I lost a good friend a year ago on Friday, and I’ve never spoken about it but everything shook me a bit.

“With being such a young horse, a lot can go wrong — he’s only just learned flying changes and only just learned a lot of things, so everything had to go 100% his way. On cross country I gave him as much time as I could before I pressed go, and he was just fantastic — a different talent than I’ve been used to sitting on for a long time. In the show jumping he can still be a bit babyish coming into a crowd, but I couldn’t be happier with him. When he’s naughty, I think he’s just had a fright at some stage — when he arrived he was fairly wild and fairly rank and we’ve all fallen off him properly, but I don’t think it’s nasty. I think it’s a bit of fear and a lot of blood.”

Riders React to Influential Cross Country Day at Burghley

Andrew Nicholson speaks to reporters in the mixed zone. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It would be amiss to say that the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials ages like a fine wine – rather, it ages sort of like a bottle of black-market tequila that your best mate tries to get you to try at a party – the prospect never gets any less terrifying, but the pay-off is (usually) brilliant. And there’s a lot of dancing on tables.

Today’s action-packed cross-country session didn’t disappoint, and saw favourites fall from the leaderboard and outliers climb. I’ve nearly recovered from the several minor heart attacks I suffered throughout the day – most of which can be attributed to Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy – so until my heart rate evens itself back out, I’ll let the stars of the show tell their own story. Here’s how the day played out, as told by the rockstars who tackled the course.

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QUOTES FROM CROSS COUNTRY DAY

Mark Todd and Leonidas II (overnight leader after dressage, rider fall at Discovery Valley): “If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting to be on the ground — it’s not what I like doing! I probably had too nice of a jump, he launched, and just lost his footing. He’s been a very good horse for a number of years now and always just missed out on a good one. He had a very good dressage and it was there for the taking, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. You have to pick yourself up, put things behind you, and go on to the next competition.”

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW (retired at Trout Hatchery) – “I was really too slow in my reactions and I lost the reins. That was my fault. The horse couldn’t see the jump and what he had to do. Now we have a really long drive home so we can think about everything. I will ride him at home and see how he is feeling. It was a stupid mistake from me and not from the horse. He galloped 7 minutes, so I can think he will do another round this season. At the moment he is in top form. He felt very super when he came out of the box.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class, 1st (clear, 0.4 time) – “I definitely lost the second in the air at fourteen of the fences, but he’s different to what I’ve sat on for a lot of years, but he’s come here and proved what I’ve been saying all week. A few people said I shouldn’t have brought him here, but I thought, why am I listening to them? I know horses.

“He gave me a fantastic ride. I always planned to go long at the Trout Hatchery, just because I didn’t know what he’d do at the third element. He’s a big striding horse and a baby, so I wanted to take the long route. He’s 10 years old, so hopefully I’ve got him for another six, with any luck.

“I’ve seen good jumpers get four down in the Burghley show jumping, so who knows what will happen next. He’s done his bit for me, so I’m looking forward to the future. The feeling in team GB is very positive. We all really like and respect the two new managers. It’s good timing for them to step in and it gives us all a good feeling.”

Gemma Tattersall after being one of three riders to make the time. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul, 2nd (clear, inside time) – “He was seriously aggressive today and wanting to get the job done. He’s incredibly honest and he knows he has to go through the flags. I’ve had a horrendous cold all week and it’s gone to my chest — I didn’t feel strong enough to sit back and make the turn so I made the decision to go long at the Trout Hatchery. It rode massively, even on a big, scopey horse, and the time will really take some getting.

“Every day’s a clean sheet — you come out and what you did the day before doesn’t matter.”

Izzy Taylor and Trevidden, 3rd (clear, inside time) – “The highlight of my round? Coming through the finish line! It was one of those rounds where I was having such a nice time that I had to remind myself not to fall off at a silly fence. He’s finished super — he’d like to go again if there’s a spare slot!

“He was mega; he felt phenomenal! He’s only done one CCI3* but you can see that he’s a scopey horse with a scopey stride so you have to hope they have it in them.”

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy, 4th (clear, 5.2 time) – “It was still a bit hairy, but his experience played a significant part there. He’s one to throw his heart over and then we have to figure out how to land from that, which sometimes equates to a hairy round, but he’s a real trooper and we know each other inside out.

“I wanted to be inside the time and in hindsight perhaps I could have pressed him on sooner, but sometimes you do that and you end up with a nasty situation. With him, I have to manage him in front of a fence and take away the pressure, giving him time to evaluate — that all takes time. The ground is definitely deeper this afternoon. His recovery has been superb and his heart rate came right back down, which is a testament to the team at home.”

“I’m a bit of a natural rider and he’s a horse who you need to throw away the rulebook with, so I try to use that to my advantage.”

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, 5th (clear, 3.2 time) – “She was absolutely brilliant — the best she’s ever been by a country mile. She didn’t fight as much as she usually does; she was just relaxed and was so super. She’s one of those mares that sees the flags and does whatever she can to get through them. I’m annoyed now — I shouldn’t be greedy, a few seconds is a few seconds! I was down on my second minute marker and thought, ‘You’ve got to get a move on, old girl!’

“I used to think my whole life depended on it, and it was all a disaster. Now, I’m not going to cut my head off if it doesn’t happen, but while I’m competitive, I’m hungry. You have so much running through your mind when you’re here, but she was fantastic and I’m so grateful to everyone who got us back after my year off.”

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo, 6th (clear, 7.6 time) – “Qwanza is a very bouncy, buzzy little thing and she felt fantastic, but the fence before, she looked at it, so I gave her a squeeze which I don’t usually do and she flew at it. She jumped into Doris big and I’m sure there was room for a second one, but that’s what she’s like at the start of a course. I thought for a second she was going to make it, but I think I was kidding myself!

“I got winded earlier but I’ve fallen off enough to know immediately if I’ve broken something. Getting winded is the worst for the first few minutes, but once you’re not suffocating anymore and you know you’ve not broken anything, then off you trundle.”

“I got it wrong a few times, but he’s so honest and experienced that he can get himself out of it. He might lack a bit of the pace, but it’s like he’s read the course plan before he goes. All I can do now is jump a clear round and make the others do their bit. It’s Burghley — all sorts of things can happen on the final day. For me, he’s the best horse in the world. What Nereo has done for me is incredible, and if he can win two four-stars this year then maybe people will treat him like the legend he is.”

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, 7th (clear, 1.6 time) – “It’s not about the lead — I’m thrilled with him. He’s careful, and when I moved him to CCI4* a lot of people worried he was too careful. A horse that’s willing is worth a thousand of them; I’m very grateful for him. I got some slightly too-tight lines but he sorted himself out. I took the routes I wanted and went straight, and I’m delighted with him. He reacted when I asked, even to the end.”

Lynn Symansky and Donner, 8th (clear, 3.6 time) – “I’ve really come to rely on him. He comes out and is so reliable and so quick that I could afford to take a few long routes. … For him, it actually rode a little bit better than I anticipated. He’s struggled with right-hand corners and runouts in the past, but now we can really put that behind us. The highlight was definitely the finish line! I had the advantage of seeing lots of people go, and seeing what worked and what didn’t work. There wasn’t one thing that I was really worried about, it’s just about keeping your head in the game and reacting to what’s in front of you.”

Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie, 9th (clear, 2.0 time) – “This is Eddie’s third CCI4*. He’s a funny one; I tried to sell him for two years and couldn’t get anyone interested. Then it all started to click into place. To have him get to Burghley is pretty unbelievable. The course was pretty tough. I had him very fit and he was still tired. It’s the toughest four-star in the world. To be honest, I was in my own little world at the stables, listening to music, so I didn’t know about Hannah Sue and Andrea. There’s no shame in having a crack at something so they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves.”

“There was a long time when Eddie looked like a real lemon and I was trying to get my money back. He broke my leg awhile back and I just wanted to get rid of him, but in the last 18 months he’s really come right. I was talking to Toddy this morning and he asked me who he was by. I said he was by Jetbull, who’s a New Zealand stallion, and Toddy said, ‘Jetbull! They’re all f*cking mad!’

“He nicked a pastern a bit but he’s absolutely fine. I’m kicking myself a bit — I should have gone straight at the Leaf Pit and made the time. Even if you ride the fences well he’s still a bit leery and tends to start out pretty quirky, so I could have made more time at the beginning.”

Tina Cook and Star Witness, 10th (clear, inside time) – “I always like to worry Mark Phillips! There were no surprises at all — you had to work jolly hard and I had the upmost respect for the whole course.”

Harry Dzenis and Xam, 11th (clear, 4.8 time) – “I feel really chuffed and relieved, but slightly nervous that I’ve got to go do it all again!

Clare Abbott and Euro Prince, 12th (clear, 15.2 time) – “He was throwing huge jumps and really landing running, so I think he’ll do better the next time he does something like this.”

Lauren Kieffer in the mixed zone. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica, 13th (clear, 28.0 time) – “She’s not the fastest horse in the world and we’ve had a bit of a rough summer after Badminton, so I just wanted to give her a good clear. Time did just tick away with us, but I’m thrilled with her. She’s taken me around Burghley and just kept on jumping great.

“Burghley definitely favors exceptionally fast horses, and you have to take a few risks — even the horses that were flying and jumping beautifully couldn’t make the time. She’s not got much Thoroughbred in her so I wasn’t sure how she’d feel at the end. Everyone’s got a lot of opinions about it, but at the end of the day you’re riding a horse and stirrups are adjustable.”

Alan Nolan and Bronze Flight (clear, 34.8 time) – “He was bought to be a hunter and his owner got a bit fed up of him putting her in trees, so I got the ride!”

Harry Meade and Away Cruising, 16th (clear, 17.2 time) – “One of the big things about Burghley is the terrain. You don’t quite know how a horse will cope with it until you get there. I had to just be mindful that Away Cruising might not get the trip around, but he’s a forward, galloping horse. As long as he can see the fence in front of him. Now he’ll get plenty of TLC and have a good rest before tomorrow.”

Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury, 17th (clear, 16.8 time) – “You have to give it ultimate respect out there. It’s a big track, and you need a fit horse. You can ride in very different ways: You can ride to complete or to be competitive. Last year I was up on my minute markers but this year, I don’t know how many Burghleys he has left in him, I didn’t have the test I wanted, and I wanted to just give him a classy clear, rather than try to ride for the time. Hopefully I’ve left enough horse in the tank for tomorrow, where it’s all won or lost.”

Paul Tapner and Bonza King of Rouges, 19th (clear, 29.6 time): “It’s big, it’s bold, it’s long, it’s hilly, but it’s not tricky or trappy so if you’ve got a brave horse you can get around. I didn’t feel my horse got tired in the slightest — plenty will make the time today. He’s the one horse in my yard I want to be sat on on the last day of a three-day.”

Tim Price and Xavier Faer, 20th (20 jumping, 11.6 time) – “I can only blame myself. My reins got a bit slippery and I didn’t regain my composure down the hill. Nine out of 10 times you’d get away with it. On course, I needed to create more momentum than I’d expected. I thought I’d be able to let him roll along for the first few. After Tina’s round I thought it would be easy to get the time but it was really hard. There’s a sweet spot for take-off that gets smaller as the fences get bigger. You want the horse to feel as though he’s having a good time. The horse is magic, and is suited to this course every day of the week, but I just lost my ribbons a little bit.”

Harry Dzenis and Dromgurrihy Blue, 21st (clear, 26.8 time) – “I had him here two years ago, and then didn’t have him for two years, and have just had him back a few months. He’s a bit of a heavier sort, so I just wanted to make sure I got him home clear. I didn’t push him as much as Xam. I used a lot of the confidence I’d got in the first round, though!”

Louise Harwood and Mr Potts, 22nd (clear, 26.8 time) – “As I got more and more into the course I started to remember that oh yeah, Potts is good!”

Richard Jones and Alfies Clover, 23rd (20 jumping, 32.0 time) – “The horse was good, if a little green in places. I lost my finger in an accident at Bramham so my left hand started to hurt a bit quite early on. He still had plenty of gallop left in him when he finished but he also tired quite early on.”

Oliver Townend and Samuel Thomas II, 24th (20 jumping, 3.2 time) – “It’s a fantastic course to ride around and I don’t think the course or the course designer get enough credit. If you take the bad bit out, I think it would have been the round of the day. He was fantastic the whole way around, just perhaps a bit ungenuine at the wrong place. Everything was riding ridiculously well. This is the best course there’s been for a long, long time anywhere in the world.”

Woodge Fulton and Mackenna Shea after their cross country rounds. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mackenna Shea and Landioso, 25th (20 jumping, 22.0 time) – “They told me to be careful at Discovery Valley. I thought he’d get there in five and that late in the course, he just didn’t appreciate me putting him there. It was always my plan to go long at the Leaf Pit. At that point he was tired so I felt like I owed it to him to go a bit easy on him.

“I could beat myself up about it all but as I said to Rodney — one down, a lifetime to go. There was some green inexperience on my part, but I thought everything was fair to the horses and even with my changes of plan it rode well. I just have to keep strong for my horse and not let him think he did anything wrong.

“This is like nothing I’ve ever jumped before — the whole time I was going around I was thinking, ‘Holy crap!’ And that feeling never stopped. Even the second-last jump was huge; it never let up. Everything is a whole different level.”

Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo, 29th (20 jumping, 27.2 time) – “”He was class. I made the error, sadly. In previous years I’ve taken long routes, but I thought I had nothing to lose. I can’t fault the horse. He’s not at full fitness and has only had two runs back.”

Paul Sims and Glengarnock, 35th (20 jumping, 41.2 time) – “He was absolutely class the whole way around and made it feel like an Intermediate. I don’t really know what went wrong but hey ho, these things happen!”

Caroline Powell and Spice Sensation, 36th (20 penalties, 34.4 time) – “It rode the same way that it walked, but bigger. The ground is quite holding. I’m really pleased with her. She grew the whole way around.”

Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack, 37th (clear, 41.6 time) – “I feel very lucky — not everyone gets to compete here so I feel so fortunate to be here. I wasn’t here for the dressage — this is what he’s made to do, and he was still pulling at the end. He’s made for it. I always pick him to the base and Buck said I had to go forward to everything so I think we did better at that. I buried him sometimes and went long sometimes and he just said, ‘Come on kid, let’s go!’

“It’s the hills that make the course so huge. I tried to prepare myself for being completely overwhelmed, but riding it felt great. Kentucky is amazing but this is a whole different level.

“Ian (Stark) was great, and to walk with him and see his insight has been huge. It was definitely nerve-wracking to watch the others go. When Andrew fell, Buck said, ‘Ride everything forward, but not that forward.’ My horse is kicking and biting everyone now, and that’s him at his best.”

Ludwig Svennerstal and Balham Mist, 38th (40 jumping, 24.0 time): “When I got to the warm-up they changed and delayed my starting time and then when I got here they’d already started the clock, so I had to chase the time constantly. It’s a disaster, and it’s a real shame they can’t communicate. I’m really disappointed, and it ruins my whole competition. I couldn’t stick to my plan. The horse, overall, was good, but we had a miscommunication in the water and he lost a bit of focus after that.”

Andrew Hoy and The Blue Frontier, 41st (40 jumping, 29.6 time) – “The horse could have gone but he decided to run by, but overall I’m absolutely thrilled with the horse. Last year we ended up in the Trout Hatchery and this year he was foot-perfect through there.”

Simon Grieve and Drumbilla Metro, 42nd (20 jumping, 51.2 time) – “He’s only 10 and it’s his first time at his level, so he went really green – he came to fence 4 and just went ‘woah! What’s all this?!’ At Doris, i thought it walked quite short so I showjumped it, so I’ll do that differently.”

Angus Smales and MJI Mount Echo, 45th (40 jumping, 55.6 time) – “Ultimately, I didn’t ride well enough. That’s what I’m there for; I should have reacted quicker. I knew I was on a green horse and I should have been riding what was underneath me.”

Your Dirty Great Big Burghley Cross Country Course Preview

According to conjecture (by which I mean according to the vicious rumour that Chinch and I are circulating), the reason Jonty Evans is so tall is because he constantly gets coerced by hapless journalists into trudging around cross-country courses in the pouring rain. Like a particularly well-nourished strain of wisteria, he just keeps on bloody growing.

With this in mind, I asked him to give us some EN insider insight into Burghley’s meaty course this year just as the heavens opened – it’s all part of my grand plan to get him to outgrow Cooley Rorkes Drift so I can steal the ride. #noshame

The joke was, as usual, on me, as rather than a magic carpet ride, I was whisked away on the sort of buggy trip that nightmares are made of. Imagine Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, but with colour-coordinated flags, a lot of mud, and one very soggy chinchilla, and you’re most of the way there. I’m just glad that Jonty rides better than he drives.

As revenge for nearly ejecting me out the side door at least ten times (and gleefully ignoring the wet branches smacking me and Chinch in the face), I made Jonty walk a couple of lines in the rain just so you can all enjoy a very dejected-looking Irishman. Sorry, not sorry.

This morning, Chinch and I went for an early-morning stroll in the beautiful sunshine to see the fences again in all their glory and do some sight-seeing — so just imagine the words of wisdom to follow came from him. He’s a very wise rodent.

So, without further ado, I present to you: a dirty great big preview of a dirty great big course.

Fence 1: The Olympic Legacy

Fence 1. Photo © Nixonphoto.

Fence 2: Lambert’s Sofa

Fence 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fence 3: Fairfax Saddles Table

Fence 3. Photo by Tilly Berendt

For the third consecutive year, Captain Mark Phillips’ hefty course will run backwards, a tactic that makes best use of the undulating terrain in the park and makes the tight optimum time even harder to achieve. The biggest CCI4* in the world doesn’t disappoint, with impressive fences from the off and a plethora of alternative routes designed to give less experienced horses and riders a safe, educational round, allowing the major players to battle it out through the fiendishly exacting direct routes.

“The first two fences aren’t too big — riders will just want to get them out of the way,” explains Jonty, presumably saying this only because he’s tall enough that the Actually Very Big Fences look like crossrails to him. “As they come down to fence 3, they’ll be approaching slightly downhill — and the fence is huge. It’s probably maximum spread, and horses will know it.

“There’ll be one or two horses who’ll be a bit unsettled there, and will still be running away a bit, and while it won’t cause a problem, it could mess up the rider’s rhythm. You’d love to be establishing an easy, smooth rhythm at this point.”

Frankly, I’d love to still be on board the horse at this point (or in the buggy).

Fence 4ab: The Lion Bridge

Fence 4a. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A favourite of photographers and spectactors, the combination at 4 is framed by the beautiful Lion Bridge, which connects the back of the shopping village with the yawning expanse of the heart of the course.

Fence 4b. Photo by © Nixonphoto.

“This is the first real question on course,” says Jonty. “It’s a right-angle turn on a left-hand bend, and it’s plenty big enough, off a short approach with water behind it. It’s the first time the horses will get a glimpse of something a bit different. It’ll probably jump quite well, but it needs respect.”

Fence 5ab: Anniversary Splash

Fence 5a. Photo © Nixonphoto.

Fence 5 has had a bit of a rework for 2017, and with its close proximity to the tradestands is likely to draw a reasonably sized crowd, meaning that horses and riders will have to focus on the task at hand.

Jonty explains: “The first part is a decent sized hedge oxer, but that shouldn’t cause a problem. It should set horses and riders up for what is now a log into water — last year, there was a brush fence into the water, and it jumped very big. Captain Mark Phillips probably looked at it and thought that that was sending the horses up into the air a bit too much. I imagine they’ll jump slightly lower over this, and have a slightly smoother jump.

Fence 5b. Photo © Nixonphoto.

“The interesting part is the undulation in the ground: It does measure six strides from the A element to the B, but you’ll see all sorts of different distances because of the ground. That might just add to a bit of unbalance when you’ve got to jump in. It’s the second time they’ll see water in two fences, so they should be au fait with that element of it.”

Hear that, gang? Easy.

Fence 6abc: Lakeside Corners

The right-hand route at fence 6ab. Photo © Nixonphoto.

By fence 6 we’re onto the third combination on course, so if you hear a whimpering sound, don’t worry — I’m just having the first tactical cry of many to come this weekend. This is normal and absolutely no cause for concern.

“Mark Phillips has really given the riders options here. The right-hand route goes up the step, bounce over the carved log, and then the distance down to the C element to a left-hand corner. You can come on a more left-handed route and jump just a single jumping element, a right-hand corner, out of the water.”

Fence 6c. Photo © Nixonphoto.

You’re going to need to draw me a diagram, Jonty, because I’ve gotten lost somewhere under the carved log and have accepted my fate as a feral woodland creature.

The lanky Irishman has, by now, learned to ignore my looks of panic and goes on to tell me: “If I was riding it, and I trusted my horse, I’d go down over the single element — it’s one less jumping effort, but it’s a very committed line. The right-hand log to corner gives you a little bit more leeway if you don’t get your line quite right.

“If you’re completely floundering at this stage, you can come up the bank out of the water, behind all the elements, and jump one element turning the wrong direction, and then do a U-turn to get going again — but I wouldn’t think there’d be many riders who’d want to use that as their first option.”

Fence 7: Collyweston Slate Mine

Fence 7. Photo © Nixonphoto.

“It’s basically just a huge square box,” says Jonty, as we squeal to a stop beside a fence the approximate size of the crate of gin I’d need to get through in order to jump it.

“The interesting part of it is that there’s a little lip in the ground just before it, and whereas riders would probably be able to guarantee a nice level approach to it normally, that would be on level ground. With the lip, you’ll find that this just kicks one or two horses off their stride. But this shouldn’t really cause a problem — if it causes you a problem, you should be going home!”

I’ll go home.

Fence 8: Capability’s Cutting

Fence 8. Photo © Nixonphoto.

Capability’s Cutting has always appealed to me for a couple of reasons — first, because I think that if you were to forward-roll down the bank with enough commitment, you could probably very nearly make it up the other side, and secondly because I was a pony-less child and played a lot of Equestriad 2001 and I’m pretty sure the whole point of that game was just to plop in and out of this particular question.

On a much more serious and professional level, it poses an interesting challenge to horses and riders because of its unique approach.

“The fact that they’ll have to scrabble down the bank, across the lane and up the other side is an obstacle in itself,” says Jonty, not thinking at all about incredibly out-dated computer games.

“Normally there’s a fence directly related to it, and it focuses you as you come down and up again. This year, there’s every chance that that might mess people up a bit and break up their rhythm. It’s going to be a case of getting back into a rhythm to jump the great big hedge — which is a soft-ish fence, but made harder by having the lane in the way.”

Also made pretty hard by being large enough to build a nest in and live inside comfortably.

Fence 9, 10, 11ab: Storm Doris

Storm Doris. Photo © Nixonphoto

The new combination on course is pretty smug about its top-notch location — it sits just across the lake from the house, and as you approach it you know that this is a fence that is sexy, and it knows it.

Jonty agrees, I think, or at least moves swiftly on, which is probably wise. “I love this story: Apparently, when Storm Doris hit the UK, these trees came down. Mark Phillips likes to claim that they landed in this formation, which I’m sure is not quite right!

“It’s a very bold fence, with a reasonable test of accuracy. Down the right-hand side, you’ve got the option of jumping 9 and 10 together: you jump the first log, and then ride two strides to a pretty angled corner, so you do have to be accurate, and that’s a long distance, so you have to be forward, too. It shouldn’t be too hard to be forward and accurate, and the profile of the logs is very kind.

Fence 10b. Photo © Nixonphoto.

“The left-hand route takes slightly longer: you jump the corner first and you’ve got three strides on a bend to a single log, and then another related distance to a skinny element further on, which forms the B part of fence 11.

“It’s a great fence with a great story, and I think it’ll jump really well. What’s really interesting is that this has brought us to a part of the park that hasn’t been used before, and they now turn right-handed and run up a very long hill up to Cottesmore Leap. This is troubling some of the riders — they’re thinking that it’s a very long hill early on in the course.”

Fence 12: Winners’ Avenue

Fence 12. Photo © Nixonphoto.

A long gallop up memory lane gives riders plenty of time to think about what’s to come on course while watched by the Ghosts of Burghleys Past (or, at least, a lot of the current Kiwi team). To get themselves back into the swing of things, there’s a nice easy little log to pop. Or something.

“This is a dirty great big log pile — what’s interesting about it is that it’s on the only bit of flat-ish ground since Storm Doris. I daresay riders will have thought this might be a nice place to let the horse have a couple of deep breathes, because it’s essentially travelling uphill still, but instead they’ve got to jump this. It shouldn’t cause any problems — it’s just a big old log pile.”

Fence 13: The Cottesmore Leap

Fence 13. Photo © Nixonphoto.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here: We’ve reached the ditch that you can demonstrably park a Land Rover in.

“At the top of Winners’ Avenue you come across fences 13 and 14,” says Jonty. “The Cottesmore Leap is probably one of the most famous cross-country fences in the world. It’s just a gigantic open ditch, really — the brush in front of it that acts as a take-off rail does soften the question a lot, and if you keep your head up and get your horse galloping well, most horses will skip over it like it’s not even there. It’s a crowd-pleaser, really.

Fence 14: Arched Roll Top

Fence 14. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“You’ve then got a bending line to this big, rounded table at 14. Neither of these should cause any problems.”

Fence 15ab: Keeper’s Brushes

Fence 15ab. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“The next fence, which comes up very quickly, is probably more technical,” Jonty tells me. I’m relieved to hear this, as I had been concerned that perhaps the riders hadn’t been tested enough at this point. 

“The right-hand element of 15 is two brush arrowheads, the first of which is up a steep little bank and very close to the turn. It’s three strides on a nice enough straight line, which should be fairly easy for horses at this standard, but there’s a lip in the ground before the second of the arrowheads.

The right-hand route at fence 15ab. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“The second option is the left-hand route, which is two wide brush oxers on a slightly bending two strides. It might make the distance feel quite long, having come out of the bend and up the bank, but I would imagine the big, scopey horses will go down over that like it’s not even there. You’ll see more do the oxer side than the arrowhead side.”

Fence 16ab and 17: The Land Rover Dairy Farm

Fence 16a. Photo © Nixonphoto.

“You come up a steep bank to a five-bar wooden gate — never a rider’s favourite, but coming up the bank should sit the horse off the gate, and I think you’ll see most horses jump the direct route,” explains Jonty.

“There’s an option to the first gate on the left-hand side. The straight route is to go across the mound, drop down the other side, and take on this wide corner, which forms 16b and 17. A few riders feel that going down the bank and staying on the line is going to tricky; they feel this fence could be influential.

The direct route is a corner that makes up 16b and 17. Photo © Nixonphoto.

“There are long routes — you can take the B element on top of the mound and then turn to a slightly easier corner, coming back towards yourself. The main players are going to want to go the direct route here, as it wastes a lot of time to take a longer route. The good horses will make this look easy.”

Speed-dating at Burghley? You can find this chap at the Dairy Farm. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonty — and the competitors — are focusing on the wrong things at the Dairy Farm. The real problem here is this chap. Sweet dreams, kids.

Fence 18abc and 19: The Rolex Combination

Fence 18a. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If trakehners give you a slightly dodgy tummy, this isn’t the combination for you.

“Riders come into this having just come through the lane at Capability’s Cutting for the second time, and although it’s not as steep on the second approach, riders do feel that it’s nearly a jumping effort in itself. The oxer here isn’t that tall, but it’s very wide, and it’s a bland colour, so riders will want to keep their horses’ concentration here,” explains Jonty.

Fence 18bc. Photo © Nixonphoto

“There’s a very nice-looking direct line from the oxer, over the trakehner in the middle, to the corner on the way out. As you approach the trakehner, the ditch becomes really quite significant — it opens out beneath the fence and the banks of the ditch are quite a long way from either side of the hanging log.

“They’re also natural and grassed in, so they’re not revetted, like they’d normally be, with timber. That makes it a lot less clear for the horse where to take off and land. You’ll see a lot of riders adapting the most obvious line by putting a bend in to make the ditch more obvious.

Fence 19. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“There are other options — there’s the left-hand route, in which you still jump the same oxer, but you then angle over a ditch and bounce over a rail, before a bending three or four strides to the corner out. Then there’s also a very long and time-consuming route. This is built for the likes of Nereo, and the less scopey horses, or those that doubt their riders for a second, could get in trouble with that ditch. Definitely a combination that riders will want to ride properly.”

Fence 20a. Photo © Nixonphoto

Fence 20abc: Joules at the Maltings

Crack out your finest floral culottes, because the Maltings has had a country-chic makeover that still doesn’t make me want to jump it, but kind of makes me want to go shopping for tweed keyrings.

Fence 20b. Photo © Nixonphoto.

“These are lovely great big white oxers. It’s difficult to know which would be considered the direct route here — there’s an option at 20a, so you can either jump the big oxer with the flowery board on the bank, but that’s very wide, or you can jump the upright gate. After either of these, you turn right-handed to the B element, which is another big, wide oxer, and then you curve left-handed to the C element.

Fence 20c. Photo by © Nixonphoto.

“There are various long routes to both the B and C elements, but I imagine you’ll see most riders jumping straight through. It’s not overly technical, but it’s big. You wouldn’t want to make a mess of the first oxer on the mound, because it’s wide and flat, and being on the mound, it would be easy to be a half-stride wrong at that,” says Jonty.

Fence 21: Captain’s Log

Fence 21. Photo © Nixonphoto.

“This a very interesting fence. Structurally, it’s just a trakehner with a mannequin beside it, but it’s the first proper let-up fence in quite some time. There hasn’t been one since the log pile at 12 on Winners’ Avenue – everything has been combination after combination, or tricky jumps. This will be a chance to put a little bit of jump back into the horses and give them an easier time before the Trout Hatchery, which comes up quite quickly and is a serious question.”

A question: Why is it called the Captain’s Log if the mannequin is a witch? Answers on a postcard, please.

Fence 22 and 23abcd: Land Rover Trout Hatchery

Fence 22. Photo © Nixonphoto.

In case riders were beginning to worry they may not get another opportunity to be dunked as thoroughly as a custard cream at a tea party, the Trout Hatchery is there, omnipresent and absolutely looking out for their best interests.

“Which brush fence the riders jump depends entirely on which route they’ll be taking, because at 23 you can go left or right-handed. If you’re going the right-hand side, which is probably deemed to be the quick route, you have an angled log into water with quite a significant drop in. It did cause one or two problems last year — horses didn’t take off terribly well for it, and equally, there were one or two that didn’t land well, either,” says Jonty.

Fence 23abc. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Then you have a bending line to a skinny brush, which is up a little slope out of the water and might cause a problem or two if horses don’t lock onto it. It’s framed by the trees, but horses have got to really take the bridle and commit at this point. Then you’ve got a bending line, on either four or five strides, to the D element, which is another skinny brush in the second part of the water.”

“The slightly slower route would be the left-hand side — it’s a similar log in, but not on the angle, so straight ahead, across the water, and up a step before a left-hand turn back under the pergola. Then there’s two skinny brushes before the second part of the water on a bending line. That’ll take quite a bit longer, but is considerably less risky. Here, we’ll start to see who the main players are — they’ll still be going the straight routes, while the riders on slightly less-experienced horses will be starting to look after them a bit at this point.”

Fence 25ab: Herbert’s Hollow

Fence 24ab. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“There are so many places on this course where riders will have to choose which option they’re going to take, and this is one of them. The right-handed — and probably quickest — option is a single fence, a gappy oxer on quite undulating ground. The ground rises into it and then drops away into a little hollow afterwards,” Jonty tells me.

“The easier route would be the hedge on the left-hand side and then a right-handed turn to an equally gappier oxer, but that’s on more level ground. If horses are starting to tire at this point, you might see one or two riders decide to jump the left-hand option, rather than risking their horse catching a toe on the less-even ground on the right.”

Fence 25: Irish Horse Gateway

Fence 25. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In another hilarious example of a let-up fence which is actually pulse-quickeningly huge, we come upon the Irish Horse Gateway table.

“This is a dirty great big sloping table with a wall front to it. It’s one of the very few let-up fences in the course, but it has actually caused a problem before — someone has definitely had a tumble at it. It’s downhill, and it’s coming out of the trees and into the light, so if the conditions are bright that’s something to keep in mind. Despite that, it shouldn’t cause any problems, and will be a chance for horses to have a relatively straightforward jump.”

Has Jonty noticed the stink-eye that I’m now resolutely giving him? Is he just ignoring it? Perhaps.

Fence 26abc and 27: Discovery Valley

Fence 26abc. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Because what on earth else would you do with an expensive car, other than let big, fit event horses cavort around it gleefully?

“This is the first time horses and riders go through the Land Rover Discovery Valley. They jump the double bonnet on the mound as the first element, and then it’s really vital that they hold the straight line before the left-hand turn to the very skinny bonnet element of fence 27,” says Jonty.

Looking on to fence 27. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Last year the first element seemed to throw a lot of horses higher into the air than the riders were expecting, and they were then a little bit unshipped in their position. It’s going to be really important that they hold the line and the balance. Horses will be tiring at this point, so it’s vital to get it right so they can ride forward to the second element.

“There are long routes available here, but they’ll take a week and a half and cost riders the title if they take them.”

Fence 28: Rolex Grand Slam Rails

Fence 28. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“This is another let-up fence, but it’s on undulating ground, it’s huge, and it’s over a ditch, and it’s on a right-hand turn,” says Jonty, once again willfully misunderstanding the idea of a ‘let-up’ fence.

“It deserves a bit of respect. One or two have made a mistake here; it’s got an uneven profile, and would be considered a Swedish oxer if it was a show jump, so it needs to be jumped properly. That will really help riders, because they’re just about to head up the hill to the brand new Leaf Pit, which is a real test of jumping.”

Lord help us.

Fence 29ab and 30: FEI Classics Leaf Pit

Fence 29a. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

At this point, I’m growing increasingly concerned that Jonty has brought me here to reenact that classic scene from Thelma and Louise.

Looking over 29 and down the drop to 30. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“This year is probably the first time in living memory that riders won’t be jumping down the massive drop into the Leaf Pit,” he says. “Instead, they’ll approach on a left-hand turn and jump over one of two cottages. They then have two routes to go down the really steep bank to a double of skinny timber arrowheads. On the left-hand side, which is arguably the quicker route, the arrowheads are on a left-hand bend.

Fence 30. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“On the right-hand side, they’re on a straight line. It’ll be interesting, at this point – if the time is achievable, you’ll see people take the right-hand side, because it’s slightly easier on the horse and slightly less risky. If the time is proving unachievable, you’ll see riders try to come inside the tree before turning to the first of the cottages at the top, and then commit to the left-hand route.”

Fence 31ab: Discovery Valley

Fence 31a. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

More cavorting with Land Rovers!

“The second time riders come to the Discovery Valley, they have to jump the trailer behind the Land Rover and then fit in three forward, straight strides to a brush bonnet fence with a ditch in front.

Fence 31b. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“To the really good horses, this is just a speed bump really — in the words of the infamous Harry Meade! — it’s just to slow horses and riders down a bit and make them think. It shouldn’t cause any issues; you should see horses jumping it, staying in their stride, and then galloping on.”

Fence 32abc: Arena Homecoming

“By this point, the riders will really get the sense of being on the way home — they’ll be really thinking of their time. The first element is a narrow hedge, followed by three forward strides across the middle to a table, which has an ornate water feature on top of it. Then it’s three more strides to a narrow-ish hedge coming out.”

“It’s probably the easiest question we’ve seen in the arena for several years, but nonetheless, it’s a three-stride-to-three-stride combination and requires jumping. Riders will want to make sure their horses don’t make a silly mistake or leave a careless leg at this point.”

Fence 33: Picnic Table

Fence 33. Photo © Nixonphoto.

Have you ever needed boozy picnic more? No, me neither.

“Riders really are on the way home now, but this is a big square fence,” says Jonty. “It’s got a generous groundline, which should help to hold tiring horses away from it, but riders will really need to keep concentration and keep everything in check — they don’t want to go wild, they want to get home on a nice, level stride.”

Fence 34: Land Rover Finale

Fence 34. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And here we are, at the end of all things. Thrilled(?) to have had Jonty as the Samwise Gamgee to my Frodo Baggins, I am ready to toddle back to Hobbiton — or at least the very colour-coordinated AirBnB that Jenni and I are sharing – but before I can, there’s one last obstacle to tackle.

“The final fence – probably most riders’ favourite fence! – is just a table with a roof over the top. Riders will be delighted to see this fence and even more delighted to jump it and move away to the finish,” the honorary hobbit informs me.

So what’s the prognosis? “Without a doubt, it’s a strong track, and it requires riders to think on their feet and keep very, very aware of what their horse can and can’t achieve, and exactly how their horse feels underneath them at any given moment.”

And just how unachievable is the optimum time of 11 minutes, 14 seconds?

“Four horses will get it,” Jonty roundly assures me.

So there you have it, folks — a whirlwind ride around the biggest cross-country course in the world (which this year measures 6,400 meters in length). Take a breather, rewalk your lines, and have a stiff drink — you’ve earned it.

Go Burghley, go eventing, and go synonyms for ‘big’!

Burghley Links: WebsiteScheduleXC Ride TimesLive ScoresHow to Watch LiveEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Seven Snippets of Warm-Up Wisdom from Burghley

Want an EN insider tip? If you want to improve your riding quickly and cheaply, head to the collecting ring. It’s where you can observe the building blocks that lead to sparkling dressage scores (I’m looking at you, Michi Sub-40 Superhuman Jung), and the various ways that top riders deal with tension, excitability and focus issues: the very same things we Regular People have to cope with in our own warm-ups.

The collecting ring at a CCI4* is a particularly potent stew of free knowledge, and this morning’s dressage session at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials yielded some life lessons we can all learn from.

1. A good support team is essential.

It takes a village to get an event horse into the ring at the top level, and while we’re not all lucky enough to have a full bevy of owners, grooms and trainers at our disposal, a friend with a clean rag who can give your boots a wipe and offer a last-minute confidence boost can make all the difference. Your personal cheerleading squad will be prepared to celebrate with you regardless of the outcome — no horse experience necessary. 

2. Every dressage test is a learning opportunity.

If you have a trainer who can help you warm up, so much the better — not only does it help to mitigate the risk of over-thinking (something we’re all guilty of — but with horses, as with men, overthinking solves nothing and mostly just leads to a tactical cry into a veritable fishbowl of wine), it also gives you the chance to turn your score into something positive: a chance to improve.

Whether you smash out a personal best or barely make it back to A, your trainer will be able to help you itemise areas you can work on to improve your scores in the future. Hey, even The Terminator receives coaching in the collecting ring. (As an aside, what does one even say to the world’s most decorated rider as he warms up for a dressage test?)

Coaching Michael Jung: a step-by-step guide.

3. Focus on the task at hand.

Okay, so no one goes eventing because they prefer the first phase — there’s a ready-made, sparkly discipline for that. You’re probably braving the white boards for one reason: you and your horse want to go cross-country. Thinking ahead to the fun bit can allow excitability to creep into your flatwork, which will manifest itself as tension when you desperately try to keep all four legs in the arena.

Instead, think about the here and now: if your horse, like Tom McEwen’s mount Toledo de Kerser, wants to run on and break into canter when schooling trot lengthenings, work on compressing and lengthening his stride in a no-pressure way, working transitions within the gait into a stretchy circle before asking your horse to pick himself up and fly across the diagonal. Your job isn’t to make sure he’s ready to tackle terrain at speed — for now, it’s to help him sit and focus. 

4. Know what works for your horse …

Don’t get bogged down with what another rider is doing in the collecting ring — they’re on a different horse, and while schooling changes and lengthenings may work for them, your horse may benefit from working on something he finds easy, like calm, quiet transitions. Know your horse and ride him accordingly, and for the length of time that suits him best.

With The Blue Frontier, who can be notoriously tricky and reactive, Andrew Hoy left enough time for a long, unhurried warm-up, working on lateral flexion within the canter work to encourage the horse not to set his neck, while giving him plenty of time to settle into the atmosphere. Roo Fox, on the other hand, found a quiet spot away from the collecting ring to work Fleet Street, knowing that exposure to the tannoys and crowds by the main arena would excite him before her test.

5. … but don’t be afraid to change your game-plan.

So your normally quiet horse has got a bit too much spring in his step — adapt and overcome for your best chance at a good score. If your usual warm-up routine isn’t working for you, for whatever reason, incorporate some different exercises to help your horse tap into his best work. Think about your lessons and schooling sessions at home — what do you work on there? Thinking about it analytically will help you to make a plan on the fly, and will also reduce competition nerves as you’ll dial your focus in on the moment.

6. Remember that mistakes are universal.

When it all goes a bit pear-shaped it’s so easy to let your mistakes become the centre of your universe — but even the world’s best riders can have less-than-ideal warm-ups and blips in their work, so if something goes wrong, you’re in great company. Don’t resign yourself to a bad test just because your warm-up hasn’t gone to plan — instead, stay in the moment, take a deep breath, and think and ride positively. A mistake isn’t a death knell, and a bad test doesn’t make you a bad rider.

7. Don’t forget to smile.

Away Cruising may have struggled to maintain his focus during his warm-up, overreacting his changes, which then went on to score 4s in the test, but Harry Meade kept a smile on his face throughout. While the pair may not be in contention for a top placing, Harry will be looking ahead to tackling Capt. Mark Phillips’ beefy cross-country course tomorrow — and that’s reason enough to smile (if you’re, you know, mental). Keep an eye on the positives, and remember the most important part of eventing: It’s fun!

Go Burghley, and Go Eventing!

Burghley: WebsiteScheduleDressage Ride TimesLive ScoresHow to Watch LiveEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Euro Madness 2017: A Guide to the 10 Ways You Will Lose Your Mind  

The individual podium at the 2015 European Eventing Championships: Sandra Auffauth, Michael Jung and Thibaut Vallette. Photo by Tony Parkes/FEI.

After an agonising summer of trying to guess teams and pestering chef d’equipes for intel, I’m somewhat baffled to find that the European Championships are actually upon us. Of course, I’m stuck on a train somewhere between Munich and Paris, frantically searching for 3G so that I can stay up-to-date (and watch Game of Thrones, obviously).

This is because I — Tilly of House Berendt, the First of my Name, the Often Sunburnt, Queen of Rubbish Timing and Diary Conflicts, Khaleesi of the Great Internet Auction, Breaker of Peugeot 106s, and Mother Hen of Irish Nags in Need, bend the knee, please and thank you, if it’s not too much trouble, that’s very kind of you, sorry — managed to book a holiday without ever once considering that there might be something important going on in the middle of August. Basically, I’m an idiot.

The interesting thing about being stuck on said train full of unhappy Germans (other than the fact that you just KNOW all of them wear Speedos at public pools) is that while I’m verging on borderline ridiculous levels of Euros mania, the non-horsey set seems to be able to function at a level of relative calm. Weird. It’s made me consider — admittedly not for the first time — whether us eventing lot are actually the abnormal ones. If you’re concerned that you, too, may have contracted Euros Madness, watch out for these signs …

1. You will feel a great level of stress.

My Bavarian (and entirely unhorsey) grandfather summed it up best when he saw a picture of me going cross-country. He took my phone from my hand, gazed in resigned horror at the screen, and then put it down and looked at me.

“I haff de angst,” he told me, solemnly. In this moment, I related to my grandfather perhaps more than I ever have (and reconsidered ever getting on a horse again). Yes! I, too, haff de angst! Thank you for putting into words what I could not. Excuse me while I go rewatch Michi Jung at Blair and have a tactical cry.

2. You will have delusions of dressage grandeur.

If you watch the same dressage test over and over again for two days straight, sooner or later you begin to lose your grip on reality and think that actually, it all looks rather easy. How on earth anyone can manage to get a 4 for their canter work is totally beyond you. You decide to head straight to the yard to ride the test yourself, convinced that maybe, actually, the hopes of the nation rest on the shoulders of an unlikely outside chance: you.

All bets are off when you remember that your horse only offers up a left lead change on alternate Sundays and the last time you half-passed it was because the next-door neighbours had put their wheelie bin in a slightly different spot, sending you into (fancy!) orbit.

3. You will suddenly become a course expert.

When the official course photos hit the internet, the Madness starts to become apparent to our friends and family.

“Hmm,” we say, one eyebrow raised, gazing at a picture of a wide brush fence. “Hmm.” We wait for someone, overcome with curiosity and in need of our infallible wisdom, to ask what has elicited such a persistent ‘hmm.’ When absolutely no one asks, we tell them anyway.

“Interesting choice of striding there — think we’ll see that related distance catch a fair few of the less experienced combinations out,” we tell our friends, who are reconsidering this friendship on a daily basis. “They’ll have to commit to a line and a stride length early on or they’re setting themselves up for a stop [dramatic pause] or worse.” You chuckle. “He’s a tricky old bugger, that Rudy — it’s just SO typical of him!”

Translation: You once overheard Harry Meade say something similar on a coursewalk and if he earned royalties for every time you’ve reused it, he’d be a very rich man. Even just the thought of jumping this fence puts you in dire need of some quality time with the nearest porta-loo. Who’s Rudy?

4. You will learn a new language.

Being multilingual is a valuable skill, and one that can beef up your resume, make you more employable, and enhance your travel experiences.

Being able to navigate a Polish horse trials website and discovering that the word for ‘counter-canter’ and ‘enemy’ are actually one and the same will probably lend less to your life. Other than, perhaps, a deep sense of kinsmanship with Polish dressage riders.

5. You will become more culturally aware.

Opening ceremonies offer the chance to learn more about the rich cultural history of the host country. The Beijing Olympics had Dunhuang fairies and Terracotta soldiers, the Normandy WEG had the military stylings of the Cadre Noir, London had the Queen parachuting out of a helicopter … see? Rich culture.

Strzegom’s memorable opening ceremony had contextually baffling videos of various insects, an anonymous smiling baby and his equally anonymous stock-footage mother, and the dulcet tones of Radiohead, as a flickering image of the world, emblazoned with the words ‘everything in its right place’ closed the curtain on proceedings. Chilling, but still cultural … I think.

6. You will suddenly feel a fierce patriotism, even if your home nation isn’t competing.

So what if the States can’t field a team at the Euros? If your great-grandfather’s cousin had a friend who went to Ireland once, that’s as much of a claim as you need to call yourself Irish this week and go a bit silly every time Austin O’Connor toddles into view.

7. You will suddenly take a keen interest in mathematics

Or, at least, statistics. Inspired by the stats chaps at EquiRatings, you’ll find yourself scouring FEI records and crunching numbers, trying to work out who will win the gold. When you triumphantly declare that Norway’s Heidi Larsen has an average dressage score of 18.6, and is thus the sure winner, you’ll swiftly remember that you never got above a C in high school math. Best leave it to the pros.

8. You will be appallingly bad at your job

It’s one thing if a major event is being held in (relative) proximity to you, so you can book a bit of holiday time and go spend your time in a field with fellow sufferers of the Madness. It’s quite another when it’s being held in a bit of Europe that I’m not entirely sure is actually serviced by planes.

The beauty of eventing in the modern age is that most competitions can be live-streamed, often in a neat little pop-out window that can be tactically hidden behind a spreadsheet. You will fool approximately none of your colleagues and employers with this method, particularly when you forget yourself and shout “leg! More leg! USE YOUR LEGS, DAMNIT!” at your spreadsheet.

This brings us to the next symptom, in which …

9. You will meet the spinning wheel of doom

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man (or woman) in possession of an FEI TV account must also be in want of a fast broadband connection, an unearthly amount of patience, and almost certainly a stiff drink.

10. You’ll find yourself already planning for the next one

With all the lead-up and the many months of anticipation, it can feel as though a championship event is over in the blink of an eye. But here’s a little tipple to soothe your impending eventing hangover: We’re only two weeks away from the first horse heading down the centreline at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials …

Whether you’re watching from afar or you’ve made the journey to Strzegom, if you’ve been struck down by the Madness, you’re in great company. Go Europeans, and Go Eventing!

Courage, Grit and Beyoncé: How to Make Eventing Camera Ready

We announced the final four in the 7th Annual EN Blogger Contest, and now we are bringing you their second round submissions. The prompt: "Eventing has been approved for inclusion in the Olympics through 2024 under an altered format, but the sport still faces uphill battles both in the U.S. and abroad. What can we do to make eventing more appetizing, engaging and understandable to the mainstream public? Share your ideas in an interesting, funny, informative and creative way." Take it away, Tilly!

The middle of the season is a tricky time of year for eventing fans. There’s almost too much high drama and excitement for our over-adrenalized brains to cope with, and, inevitably, there comes a moment when you find yourself at breaking point, surrounded by crumpled up pieces of paper covered with team predictions and form analyses, sobbing over an Instagram photo of Baby Burto because you JUST CANNOT ANYMORE.

This is the moment the IOC reappears, attracted by vulnerability, like a dodgy ex-boyfriend who always sends a late-night text right after you update your profile picture.

“Hey,” it says, “been missing you. I know it’s been a while, but wondered if you might still be up for 2024?”

You sigh, peeling a damp piece of paper off your cheek. On it, the word ‘Zagreb’ has been written, crossed out, circled, rewritten, and crossed out again. You have reached emotional rock-bottom, and the temptation is undeniable. You kind of ARE up for 2024. Maybe this time it’ll be different, though, you think. Maybe this time it won’t ask me to change, will love me for who I really, truly am. You relent.

“Yeah. Fine. Would be nice to catch up.”

It’s a slippery road. A catch-up becomes something more serious. You start to feel pretty good about your decision – you text your friends to tell them the news, start planning some new date-night outfits. Maybe you even make it Facebook official. Your friends confess that they always thought the two of you were meant to be, and they’re so pleased you’ve finally sorted it out.

Then it happens again.

“I just think if this is going to work then maybe, I dunno — there are just some things that I wish you’d do a bit differently,” it says.

You know what you should say to it, but you’re in too deep — too much depends on this relationship working out. You’ve read the self-help books and listened to the TLC back-catalogue and you know that change should be a two-way street (and that a scrub is a committee that don’t get no love from you), but still you find yourself thinking that maybe, just maybe, the IOC is right.

And so here we find ourselves, with a confirmed spot at the 2024 Olympics (great news) and yet another heaping helping of format changes for 2020 (news which is about as appealing a prospect as an afternoon of fecal sample collection).

While I agree wholeheartedly that eventing must adapt and develop in line with technological and safety advances, I think it’s so important that we try to make it as understandable and watchable as possible. I fear the approved changes may not be enough.

With this in mind, in this edition of No One Asked Me But I’m Telling You Anyway, I propose some slight amendments to the new format — all, of course, for the greater good of the sport.

No drop score. In the New Olympic Program for Eventing, henceforth known as NOPE, three riders will compete per team, with no drop score.

This, I presume, is to avoid hurt feelings and nicknames like Drop-Score David, which is mean but also alliterative, so actually quite funny.

However, I suggest a sharp U-turn here. All scores are drop scores. We shelve the competitive spirit and encourage teams to hug it out instead. We’re all friends here, right? #blessed

Dressage reduced to one day. Totally — dressage is capital-L laaaame. In fact, I don’t think they’ve gone far enough here. Why not just get everyone in the ring together and treat it like a hunter-under- saddle class? Twenty minutes maximum, and potential for high drama when the odds-on favourite performs a surprise drop-shoulder manoeuvre and exits at speed, followed by every ex-racehorse in the competition.

The introduction of the Olympic level. That is, CCI4* dressage and showjumping with CCI3* cross-country, ostensibly to make the competition fair for those developing nations who may not be able to train and compete at the same level as others.

Still seems unfair to me — three adjacent competitions, but all competing for the same three medals, would be better. One can run at CCI4*, one at CCI2*, and the third can be a puddlejumper division. Choose what you feel most comfortable with — we’ve got enough participation medals for everyone!

Penalties for non-completion of a test. The NOPE has very nearly got it right here, but for the fact that point penalties are SO 2016. Forfeits are the future. Didn’t complete the dressage? You may continue — on a hobby horse. Failed to make it to the finish line on cross-country day? Don’t worry, happens to us all.

To proceed to the final phase, non-finishers must stage a group performance of the Single Ladies choreography. The audience will score your performance and your placing will be determined based on their feedback. Couldn’t quite make it through the show jumping? Sorry Ruy, you must now lip-sync for your life.

XC or sexy? Look, sex sells. I know it, you know it, and Jimmy Wofford certainly knew it when he suggested that eventers should compete in ‘body condoms.’ I’m still not sure whether he was serious, but I’m rolling with it.

Cross-country must undergo a slight format change for maximum telegenic impact. Instead of the traditional format, in which riders compete over a set course, we should employ an accumulator system, in which fences are set at varying heights and difficulty levels and riders plan their own route to earn as many points as possible in the optimum time.

You can earn an extra point for each article of clothing removed (although you’ll lose five for removing your hat, because safety is very important.)

With these amendments, eventing will be easier to follow, more broadcast-friendly, miles safer, and still deeply rooted in the traditions — namely, courage, grit, and Beyoncé hits — that make it great. This will guarantee its future as an Olympic sport and will almost certainly attract legions of new fans. Oh, and we should definitely give the name ‘Equestrio’ a chance. It reminds me of bronies, and what are bronies, if not the catch-all solution to all our problems?

Who run the world? Eventers — but, like, only if the IOC lets us.

Eventing in the UK vs. the US

We announced the finalists in the 7th Annual EN Blogger Contest, and now we are bringing you their first round submissions. Leave your feedback in the comments, and please offer your encouragement and support to the finalists! We hope you enjoy their creativity, insight and love of the sport.

The author contesting a camel race … guess which country? Photo courtesy of Tilly Berendt.

After ten years in the States and six years back in the UK, playing ponies the whole time, I’m often asked whether I find the equestrian industries different in each country. I’ve given it some thought, and come up with some of the most pertinent differences.

Unaffiliated competitions (that’s unrecognised, for you yanks)

US – There are five horse and rider combinations in your class and one toddler that’s snuck in on the family Labrador. Three of the riders come off by the third fence, a fourth decides to reroute to the tailgating party, and the fifth is only here because he got lost on his way to the barrel-racing. In a close competition between you and the Labrador, the latter wins.

UK – There are 82 entries in your 80cm clear-round jumping class and all of them are trying to warm up at the same time. You can’t be positive, but you’re pretty sure the unfortunate looking girl who won it was actually Mark Todd in a wig.

Being European

US – Find some tenuous connection between your horse or your saddle and the continent and you can add a couple of zeros onto your asking price, even though you’re selling an eighth-generation show jumping import to an amateur dressage rider. It’s German, whatever.

UK – Are we? Aren’t we? And more pertinently, is my German horse going to be deported if he doesn’t start making himself useful soon?

Hunting

US –If you like the idea of jumping, join in with the first flight. If you’d rather save the adrenaline rush for the odd gallop, join the second flight. In third flight we tie your horses together like a chain gang so that when you bounce off during a particularly climactic trotting session we don’t lose them. Fourth-flighters sit in the huntsman’s wife’s living room, look at hunting prints and hyperventilate.

UK – The countryside you’re traversing might feel wild and remote, but jump the wrong six-foot hedge and you’ll suddenly find yourself in suburban Croydon, galloping full-pelt towards a semi-detached house. It’s okay, you’ll be too drunk to notice and your horse knows that if he stops at exactly the right moment, you’ll clear it anyway.

Elementary dressage

US – Can you trot a twenty metre circle? Just the one? Fantastic; that’s all we need from you.

UK – Do you remember that iconic scene in Dirty Dancing? With the lift and Patrick Swayze’s terrific biceps? You’ll be expected to perform this with your horse in the role of Johnny. Be prepared to lose two marks per judge if you don’t perform with sufficient emotion to make them have a little cry.

Riders’ parties

US – Don your Wranglers, grab an ice cold Bud Light, and catch up with Linda from Maryland to find out if she ever did break in that ornery little Mustang of hers. Ooh, look, someone brought queso!

UK – Bet a ten-year-old you never imagined you’d find yourself doing shots with a famous rider in a thirty-eight bedroom country manor house.

Celebrities

US – You once saw Phillip Dutton from across five warm-up rings at Waredaca and you’ve framed the schooling whip you were using at the time for posterity’s sake.

UK – There are no degrees of separation and everyone you know has a sordid story about something they did in a lorry park with one of the top-ten finishers at Badminton this year.

Four-stars

US – Grab ten of your closest friends and squeeze them in your Dodge Ram – you’ve got an 18 hour road-trip to Kentucky ahead of you!

UK – Your Badminton hangover has barely recovered before it’s time to stumble over to Burghley. Bored in between? Might as well see what the craic is at Pau or Luhmühlen.

Transport

US – Your gooseneck trailer is your pride and joy. It can fit 2.5 horses, at least six water buckets, and if you give up all notions of comfort, romance, and happiness, you can just about fit yourself and your partner in the tiny bedspace over your truck bed. Great fun.

UK – Your lorry sleeps four, which means it sleeps eighteen, if you’re committed enough to drink until it seems comfortable. (Spoiler: you are.)

Thoroughbreds

US – You sourced your OTTB off the backstretch at Charlestown Racetrack through a helpful contact at CANTER Mid-Atlantic. Now, you’re hoping to win the Thoroughbred Makeover and have taught him to carry an infant around a 3’ hunter course with no tack.

UK – He won the Champion Chase at Punchestown in his heyday and despite a running gag that weighs as much as a toddler and a gym regimen that would make The Rock wince, you’ve not been able to hold one side of him since you bought him.

Roadwork

US – If you occasionally ride on the roads there’s an element of novelty value attached. You might even put on a clean pair of breeches to impress passing drivers.

UK – Your horse has spent so much of his life trundling along the A272 he actually thinks he’s a Ford KA.

Land

US – “Oh, we’ve only got a small place, but with two horses we thought anything bigger than 2000 acres would just be overkill.”

UK – “I paid £525,000 for this half-acre plot but it’s really revolutionised my horse’s fitness. We only have to canter around it another 478 times before we’ve done the equivalent of a cross country course!”

Working students/pupils

US – Seventeen years old and well-versed in 85 hour work weeks, the American working student hopes to one day ride around her first event, if she can ever find the time or energy to ride her horse.

UK – They’re all two-star riders despite being too young to hold a driving licence. You will feel emasculated by them ALL. THE. TIME.

About the author: Tilly Berendt, 25, is a full-time equestrian journalist with rather a lot of fun stories to tell about the adventures she’s had and continues to have. She’s had a few incredible jobs working for some incredible horsemen (and women), including Phyllis Dawson, William Fox-Pitt, dressage phenom Andrew Gould, polo wizkid Jack Richardson, and many more lesser-known but no less educational riders.