America vs. Burghley: The U.S. Contingent’s Myriad Paths to Britain’s Fall Five-Star

Ain’t no rest for the weary. Now that the American Eventing Championships and the FEI Eventing European Championships are done and dusted it’s onto the next! Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, taking place this coming Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 5-8, is next on the agenda and we’re extra excited to cheer on our 11 Americans (plus one American-based Aussie!) who will be testing their mettle against other fierce competitors over one of the toughest tracks in the world.

Eleven competitors riding for the stars and stripes is the largest U.S. contingent to take on Burghley in at least the past 10 years. The next most represented years were in 2017 and 2009 when eight U.S. riders competed. Click on the year for complete results.

Year  # U.S.   Riders Riders & Results
2019    11 Woodge Fulton, Liz Halliday-Sharp, Hannah Sue Burnett, Andrea Baxter, Buck Davidson, Lillian Heard, Ariel Grald, Will Coleman, Chris Talley, Doug Payne, Lauren Kieffer
2018    3 Buck Davidson (17th), Andrea Baxter (36th), Lillian Heard (37th)
2017    8 Lynn Symansky (6th), Boyd Martin (10th), Lauren Kieffer (12th), Mackenna Shea (24th), Woodge Fulton (WD), Hannah Sue Burnett (EL), Andrea Baxter (EL), Lillian Heard (EL)
2016    5 Elisa Wallace (14th), Phillip Dutton (18th), Holly Payne Caravella (19th), Libby Head (EL), Bunnie Sexton (EL)
2015    3 Lynn Symansky (14th), Colleen Rutledge (22nd), Laine Ashker (48th)
2014    4 Marilyn Little (20th), Allison Springer (21st), Meghan O’Donoghue (EL), Hannah Sue Burnett (WD)
2013    1 Buck Davidson (EL)
2012    6 Sinead Halpin (2nd), Allison Springer (6th), Kristi Nunnink (26th), Kate Ditchey (50th), Erin Sylvester (52nd), Will Faudree (EL)
2011    5 Boyd Martin (7th), Sinead Halpin (15th), Colleen Rutledge (37th), Will Coleman (WD), Michael Pollard (EL)
2010    1 Michael Pollard (RET)
2009    8 Phillip Dutton (4th), Buck Davidson (11th), Amy Tryon (14th), Jennifer Wooten-Macouzet (31st), Missy Ransenhouse (44th), Becky Holder (RET), Allison Springer (EL), Karen O’Connor (EL)

Over the past few weeks, this year’s extra-large herd of U.S. Burghley-bound horses began their journey across the pond, and of course their paths to Big Bad Burghley trace back much further than that. Let’s take an extra look at how our gang has traveled and prepped this event.

An Irish Warm-Up for Liz and Ariel

Two of our riders may be hoping that a little luck of the Irish would rub off on them after using the Millstreet International Horse Trials in Ireland, which took place Aug. 21-25, as a prep-run.

Great Britain-based American Liz Halliday-Sharp rode four horses in various divisions including the Burghley-bound Deniro Z, owned by the Deniro Syndicate & Ocala Horse Properties, in the non-Event Rider Masters CCI4*-S. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Zapatero VDL x Zonne-Trend, by French Buffet xx) turned in clear jumping rounds with some (likely planned) time.

Love these photos of three perfect ponies jumping super clear SJ rounds in the Millstreet CCI4*S 😍❤️#CarpeDiem…

Posted by Liz Halliday on Friday, August 30, 2019

Also taking a crack at the Millstreet CCI4*-S as their Burghley lead up was Ariel Grald and Annie Eldridge’s 10-year-old gelding Leamore Master Plan. This pair were five-star rookies earlier this year but ran around Kentucky as professionally as anyone to secure a 12th place finish.

Ariel is the recipient of this year’s Jacqueline B. Mars International Grant through the USET Foundation, which is helping to fund her overseas travel. “Simon” traveled to Ireland alongside Will Faudree’s Pfun, who are not competing at Burghley, but instead took on the Millstreet CCI4*-L. The pair of Irish Sport Horses hopped a plane from Chicago in the middle August and made the pilgrimage to their homeland from there. With their sights set on their big event ahead, Ariel and Simon also clocked a clear-with-time cross country ride plus a double clear show jumping round.

In the interim between Millstreet and Burghley, Ariel and Simon have been staying at Mike and Emma Winter’s Wayfarer Eventing facility and enjoying the amenities there.

Simon enjoyed a light jump school this morning at @wayfarereventing1! He’s on springs 🦘🐎 I’m looking forward to the week ahead!

Posted by Ariel Grald Eventing on Monday, September 2, 2019

Savannah’s Semester Abroad

Savannah “Woodge” Fulton and her little OTTB powerhouse Captain Jack have been based in Germany with Dirk Schrade since February of this year and have gained a plethora of European eventing experience over the past few months, including adding a Badminton completion to their resume this spring. So when they set foot and hoof on the grounds of Burghley house to take their second crack at the event, they’ll have miles more experience under their belts than they had two years ago.

Not that lack of experience was a problem that year — they posted a clear-with-time cross country round, but the gelding acquired a cut on his hind leg somewhere on course and Woodge withdrew him before the second horse inspection. This year she’ll be looking to cash in that completion that she knows they can do.

Cappy Jack has arrived!

Posted by Woodge Fulton on Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Busiest Man in Eventing: Buck 

Buck Davidson has been a busy, busy man over the past few weeks. After riding six horses at Great Meadow International the weekend prior he took another couple to the AECs this week. Burghley-bound Jak My Style, owned by Kat and Roberto Cuca, took flight last Wednesday alongside stablemates Park Trader and Carlevo who are both Blenheim-bound. With all the traveling that Buck was doing himself, he needed a little extra help from team BDJ to keep his British-bound horses fighting fit so “Jak” got a couple prep rides with Bruce Davidson in the irons. How’s that for a secret weapon?


When your Burghley prep includes rides from the legendary Bruce Davidson, you know you’re ready for anything! 💪 #GoJak The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials Official Page

Posted by Kathleen Raye Cuca on Saturday, August 24, 2019

The 12-year-old Thoroughbred was originally supposed to run at Kentucky and even completed the dressage, but a broken collarbone sustained by Buck after falling from his first ride across country mean he couldn’t compete his remaining two horses, one of which was Jak, that weekend. An exciting trip to Burghley will now serve as the horse’s five-star debut.

Travel Buddies: Doug and Will

It looks like Doug Payne’s Vandiver and Will Coleman’s Tight Lines have become great travel buddies on their road, er, flight path to Burghley.

Doug Payne is quite familiar with airplanes — he has his pilot’s license and has been known to fly himself to clinics — and this was Vandiver’s second time on a plane, having made a trip to Blenheim in 2017.

Vandiver, a 15-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall 2 x Visions of Grandeur, by Mystic Replica XX) owned by Doug and Jessica Payne alongside his breeder Debi Crowley, had a super 5th place finish in “Quinn’s” five-star debut at Kentucky this year. A rider fall at the pair’s most recent outing, the CCI4*-S at Great Meadow International a couple weekends back, was ill-timed, but this pair’s otherwise solid recent cross country record will stand them in good stead for Burghley. This is far from Doug’s first overseas competition, and it’s been just over a month since he helped Team USA earn Pan Ams gold in Peru, but it will be his first time running Burghley.

The last time Tight Lines (known as “Phish” around the barn) traveled abroad, it was in 2014 when Will got the ride. The 12-year-old French-bred Thoroughbred (Turgeon x Merindole, by Tel Quel), owned by The Conair Syndicate, previously competed in his native country up to the CCI2*-L level before being imported. Will brought Twizzel here in 2011 but withdrew before dressage; he completed Burghley with a clean cross country in 2003 with Fox in Flight.

Will and Phish secured a 13th place finish at Kentucky this year, despite incurring a controversial 15 penalties assessed for missing a flag cross country. They took it easy on the cross country clock at Great Meadow International, placing 13th in their final Burghley preparation. The universe needs to cut this deserving pair a break already — fingers crossed that it all comes together for them this week.

Third Time’s A Charm: Andrea, Lillian and Hannah Sue

This will be the third Burghley in a row for both Andrea Baxter and Lillian Heard.

West Coast pair Andrea Baxter and Indy 500, her own 14-year-old Thoroughbred mare (Cromwell X Tensofthousands, by Spend A Buck), first contested Burghley in 2017. They parted ways cross country, but redeemed themselves the following year, finding the finish flags despite a runout at the Leaf Pit and finishing 36th. (Read more in our follow-up story from last year, “Andrea Baxter’s Burghley Redemption Plan with Indy 500.”) Now they’re back for a third crack at the event after an 18th place result at Kentucky and a 5th in the Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L.

“First view of what we came for!” Photo via Andrea Baxter’s Facebook page.

Likewise, Lillian Heard has been bettering her result with each success crack at Burghley. She and LCC Barnaby, her own Irish Sport Horse gelding (Guy Cavalier x Lady Tanjour, by Rafael), fell at the Leaf Pit in 2017, then rallied to finish just one place behind Andrea in 2018, having picked up 20 and some time. This year they were 16th at Kentucky and 6th in the Bromont CCI4*-S in August.


Barnaby was a beast! Footing was perfect. Course was incredible. Bromont is the place to be this weekend! I went slow with my sights on a “slightly” bigger and longer cross country course in England in 3 weeks but I couldn’t have asked for a better prep event.

Posted by LillianJHeard Eventing on Sunday, August 18, 2019

2019 marks Hannah Sue Burnett‘s third crack at Burghley as well. After a clear-with-time cross country in 2014, she withdrew Harbour Pilot before show jumping. She brought her string over for the summer of 2017 for the whole tour of Badminton<Houghton<Barbury Castle<Luhmühlen<Aachen<Millstreet<Burghley<Blenheim with some terrific results, including finishing 8th at Luhmühlen with Harbour Pilot, but Burghley didn’t quite go her way — she fell from Under Suspection at the Dairy Mound. The experienced pair returns this week with more mileage under their belt than ever and some great results, including an 11th place finish at Kentucky and a solid run at their final outing at Great Meadow.

Burghley by Way of Canada: Dom

Like Lillian, Dom Schramm looked to the August edition of Bromont for his final prep run with Bolytair B. Dom and the 13-year-old Dutch gelding (Polytair x Nobelle, by Glennridge) owned by Naked Horse Eventing Syndicate, were 3rd in the CCI4*-S.

“Boly” was imported in 2016 and had a very strong start to his stateside career with some top finishes including a win in his first FEI event with Dom, the CCI2*-L at Bromont that year. In 2017, Dom worked hard to campaign and fundraise for a trip to compete Boly overseas at Blenheim Palace that fall, but the horse sustained an injury one month before the event and thus they were unable to go. Boly lost his five-star virginity at Kentucky this spring and we can’t wait to see them stick it to the Burghley course.

Hey everyone! Last few days have been good! Boly settled right in at JP Sheffield’s place – a really nice quiet yard and…

Posted by Dominic Schramm on Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Return and a Rookie: Lauren and Chris

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica very nearly had a top finish in the bag at Burghley 2017 — they were second after dressage but 28 cross country time penalties dropped them down the leaderboard a ways for a final landing spot of 12th. She returns now with Vermiculus, Ms. Jacqueline Mars’s 11-year-old Anglo-Arabian gelding. The pair has cracked the top 10 at Kentucky for two years running, and Burghley will mark “Bugg’s” first trip abroad since they contested Blenheim in 2015. Their final prep run was at Great Meadow, where they too took it easy for a 14th place result.

Nice little jump school for the Buglet 🐜before heading to #burghleyhorsetrials tomorrow! Loving the #coolweather☁

Posted by Lauren Kieffer Eventing on Monday, September 2, 2019

Chris Talley and Unmarked Bills, a 10-year-old off-track Thoroughbred gelding (Posse x Kellis Ransom) owned by the Unmarked Bills Syndicate, made their five-star debut at Kentucky earlier this year, jumping cross country clear with time. “A few people who saw him at Kentucky mentioned that they thought Burghley would suit him, and it kinda stuck in my mind,” Chris told EN this summer of his decision to tackle Burghley. “He’s looking fantastic, and we’re working hard on his dressage and show jumping, and I figured while he’s at his peak we might as well give it a shot!”


After Billy spent a little bit of time spooking at the hose, a coffee cup and Hannah’s vest we had a very good school today with Hannah, followed by a canter up the gallop which I’m pretty sure he was hoping he could get to jump some of those big bad Burghley fences. (Sorry Billy, just a few more days and we tackle those!) He will have an easy day tomorrow followed by working through parts of the test Wednesday and Thursday. Hannah and I couldn’t be happier with how he feels heading into the week! #BillsToBurghley #ZaragozaAcres #UnmarkedBills

Posted by Chris Talley on Monday, September 2, 2019

By the look of his Facebook updates, which include an abundance of tweed and at least one falcon, Chris has been packing in the authentic English countryside experience. Hey, when in England ….

Beautiful morning of English hunting and beautiful places thanks to the hospitality of Jane Thorpe-Codman!

Posted by Chris Talley on Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Here’s wishing our U.S. contingent all the best at Burghley! Tilly Berendt will be bringing us all the latest starting with the first horse inspection today.

Go Eventing.

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Leslie Wylie contributed to this report.