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Catherine Austen

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Book Season: Vanir Kamira’s Incredible Journey

Some horses stand out as potential superstars from the start.

This is the story of one that didn’t: Vanir Kamira (“Tilly”), an “ordinary” little mare who, through sheer determination and the building of an exceptional partnership with her rider Piggy March, won the two most important CCI5* horse trials in the world — Badminton and Burghley.

Bought from Ireland as a three-year-old by Trevor Dickens, who still owns her, Tilly started her eventing career in 2012 with Piggy, who is one of the world’s most celebrated event riders.

Piggy and Vanira Kamira. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But the mare showed little to persuade Piggy that she had a bright future in the sport, and Piggy gave up the ride after one season. Circumstances brought the pair back together in the winter of 2016, and at Piggy’s Northamptonshire yard they started to form a bond.

Written with great honesty, Vanir Kamira: An incredible journey details the long and often-frustrating and difficult path Piggy and Tilly took to mutual trust, respect — and love. It is one that brought both to the absolute heights of their sport.

This book will fascinate anyone with an interest in horses, and especially anyone who likes to discover what makes these bewitching animals tick and how to help them feel and perform as well as they possibly can.

Vanir Kamira: An Incredible Journey is on sale at Your Horse Live (Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, 10-12 November), and during Piggy’s masterclass tour, Piggy TV on Tour, in November and December 2023 at the following locations:

November 17: Hartpury College, Glos

November 12: Arena UK, Notts

November 25: Bishop Burton, Yorks

November 29: Scottish National Equestrian Centre, West Lothian

December 2: Wellington Riding, Hants

Beginning December 1, the book will be available from Piggy’s website, www.piggymarch.com.

Can Ros Canter Capture Eventing’s Triple Crown at Defender Burghley?

Ros Canter and Ponchos Crown Jewel at Burghley in 2022. Photo by DBHT/Peter Nixon.

British superstar rider Ros Canter has won Badminton and the European Championships this year – can she top off an exceptional 2023 with victory at the Defender Burghley Horse Trials as well?

Ros, fresh from winning individual and team gold on her Badminton champion Lordships Graffalo at the Europeans in Normandy earlier this month, will ride Annie Makin and Kate James’s Pencos Crown Jewel at Defender Burghley (31 August-3 September).

The Lincolnshire-based 37-year-old will face serious opposition from all four of Defender Burghley’s most recent winners, however. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class, who reigned supreme in 2017 and added Olympic team gold for Britain to their accolades at Tokyo in 2021, return to Burghley once more.

World number one Tim Price, who won in 2018, brings Vitali, third here last year, and will attempt to give New Zealand a 14th victory at the world’s greatest three-day event since 1990. The 2019 Burghley heroine Pippa Funnell – who won the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing here 20 years ago, in 2003 – will ride Majas Hope. And the 2022 Burghley champion Piggy March is back to defend her title, this time riding Brookfield Inocent.

Burghley had a royal winner when HRH the Princess Royal stormed to victory in the 1971 European Championships here. Her daughter Zara Tindall finished a very close second on her CCI5* at Burghley in 2003 – could this be the year of a second royal triumph? Zara will ride Class Affair, on whom she finished 15th at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in the spring.

Two riders are planning to ride three horses apiece in the CCI5*. First to go in the competition will be Harry Meade – his three mounts will be chosen nearer the time from the quartet of Away Cruising, Red Kite, Cavalier Crystal and Tenareze. Oliver Townend will also compete three from the impressive foursome of Ballaghmor Class, Swallow Springs, Tregilder and Cooley Rosalent.

An American rider hasn’t won Burghley since 1993, when Stephen Bradley was successful aboard Sassy Reason. But there could be a champion in this year’s U.S. contingent, which includes Boyd Martin with both his Maryland CCI5* winner, the British-bred On Cue, and Tsetserleg TSF, on whom he won team silver at the 2022 World Championships.

It’s 60 years since an Irish rider won Burghley (Capt Harry Freeman-Jackson), but Austin O’Connor is bringing Colorado Blue, third at Badminton this year and acknowledged as one of the best cross-country horses in the world. They would be among the favourites in the 65-strong field to take home the Defender Burghley trophy.

And there are plenty of newer British faces vying for Burghley glory. David Doel (Galileo Nieuwmoed and Ferro Point) is edging closer and closer to a CCI5* podium place, while Emily King (Valmy Biats) has a chance of emulating her mother Mary, who took Defender Burghley in 1996.

Martyn Johnson, Burghley’s Event Director, said: “We are delighted to see such a strong British and international entry to Defender Burghley – this has all the hallmarks of a vintage year. The park and course are looking immaculate and we very much look forward to the very best riders in the world vying to come out on top, in front of our legendary Burghley crowd.”

Tickets for Defender Burghley can be purchased online at burghley-horse.co.uk and downloaded or printed out prior to your visit, or on the gate.

To watch every minute of the action, from the first horse inspection to the final prize-giving, plus in-depth interviews and behind-the-scenes features, plus the daily Today @ Burghley round-up show hosted by Nick Luck and Rosie Tapner, an annual subscription to Burghley TV costs just £20. Visit burghley-horse.co.uk/burghley-tv to subscribe.

Defender Burghley Horse Trials Links: Website | Live Stream | Entries | EN’s Coverage

First Prize at Defender Burghley Horse Trials to be the Richest in Eventing

The first prize at the Defender Burghley Horse Trials (31 August-3 September 2023) will be the richest in eventing at £110,000.

Defender Burghley is the autumn highlight of the British equestrian calendar. It is one of only seven horse trials around the globe to be classified as CCI5* – the highest level in international equestrian sport.

“I can’t quite believe it”: Piggy March adds Burghley champion to her resume with Vanir Kamira. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Event Director Martyn Johnson said: “We always aspire to raise the bar at Defender Burghley. As a top-class sporting occasion and to reward our athletes and owners for winning the most prestigious and challenging three-day event in the world, we feel it appropriate to offer the most valuable prize in the sport.”

This is internationally acclaimed course-designer Derek di Grazia’s second year at the helm of creating Defender Burghley’s unique and thrilling cross-country track. US-based Derek visited the site twice over the winter and is currently finalising his designs for Defender Burghley 2023, which will give a subtle twist to the course.

Tickets for 2023 will go on sale to members on Thursday, 27 April, and on general release the following day, Friday, 28 April.

Ros Canter Jumps Into Lead in Blenheim Palace International CCI4*-S

Photo via Blenheim Palace International.

Ros Canter will go into the final cross-country phase in the lead in the CCI4*-S for eight- and nine-year-old horses at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials after showjumping clear on Izilot DHI.

Ros (pictured below), the current world champion, was in first after dressage in this prestigious young horse class with a mark of 26.6 on her own and Alex Moody’s eight-year-old, and just added 1.6 time-faults round the demanding showjumping track.

“I couldn’t be more delighted with him – he’s never even done an advanced class before, let alone a four-star, and then I was away in Tokyo [where she was Britain’s reserve rider], so even coming here was a big ask,” said Ros. “I was confident he would have the scope to do it and he’s very brave, but he’s a spooky horse, and this was a clever track.

“I’m very open-minded about tomorrow’s cross-country – if he sets out and he’s green, I’ll slow down. Of course it would be great to win, but I am more excited about him winning an Olympic medal in the future, so I am realistic about what we will do tomorrow.”

Izilot DHI may be making his debut at CCI4* level, but he won the CCI3*-Ls at both Houghton Hall and Blair Castle this season.

There were only seven clears within the time in this morning’s showjumping – for which the spectacular main arena was shrouded in fog – from the 49 starters. Tom Jackson, second on Jonathan and Lexi Hambro and May-Britt Wedd’s HH Moonwalk, left all the poles up but collected two time-faults. He will therefore set out across country on a score of 29.6.

Tom said: “It’s obviously frustrating to get time-faults, but he’s an amazingly talented horse and I couldn’t really have asked more of him. He went a little bit tight in his body in the slightly eerie atmosphere, but he still jumped clear and he’s one for which we have big hopes for the future.”

Nicola Wilson has risen four places to third on Jo and James Lambert’s Coolparks Sarco after posting a clear round inside the time, remaining on her dressage mark of 29.8.

Caroline Harris is in fourth on Becky Stones’ Miss Pepperpot after adding just 0.4 of a time-fault to her dressage score of 30.4.

“She’s amazing!” said Caroline. “She’s only been eventing for two years, really, so she’s come a long way. This was a proper jumper’s track – not really in terms of height, but the distances really kept you thinking.

“She’s quite feisty and she likes to go – she’s been double clear [at CCI4*-S level] at Burgham and Hartpury, but anything can happen tomorrow.”

Willa Newton also jumped clear inside the time on Cock A Doodle Doo to take fifth place, while Piggy March is in sixth on Cooley Lancer.

The CCI4*-S cross-country starts at 11.30am tomorrow (Sunday, 19 September) and can be watched via Horse & Country TV’s streaming platform, H&C+.

Blenheim Palace International CCI4*-L/CCI4*-S: [Website] [Entries] [Live Scores] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Yasmin Ingham Maintains Lead, Pippa Funnell in Contention on Day 2 of Blenheim Dressage

Photo courtesy of Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

Pippa Funnell, one of Britain’s most enduring and successful event riders, has given herself an excellent chance of a fifth victory at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

Riding 11-year-old Maybach, who is owned by Sweden’s SHE Eventing AB, Pippa scored a dressage mark of 27.2 to slip into fourth place on Friday afternoon in the CCI4*-L class, just two penalties behind leaders Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir.

“I’m really thrilled with him,” she said. “He’s a lovely horse, but not the most elastic in his movement, so I didn’t expect him to overtake Yasmin and (second-placed) Piggy (March).”

Pippa first won this prestigious class in 1993 aboard Metronome, and followed up in 1995 aboard Bits And Pieces, in 2003 (Jurassic Rising) and 2004 (Viceroy II). A veteran of British teams, with 12 senior medals to her name at Olympic, World and European Championships, she also won the Rolex Grand Slam in 2003.

Pippa added: “It is fantastic to have The Jockey Club (who are organising Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials for the first time) involved in eventing and bringing two forms of horse sport closer together.

“And it’s great to have lots of spectators once again — it feels like they are as glad to be out as we are, and the atmosphere they create is something we have really missed. Cross-country day tomorrow will be fun — if it goes well!”

Just after Pippa’s test on Maybach, the reigning world champion Ros Canter scored 26.7 with Michele Saul’s nine-year-old Lordships Graffalo to take third place in the CCI4*-L.

Ros, who has held on to her first-day lead in the CCI4*-S class, said: “It is much busier here today than it was yesterday, and I think Lordships Graffalo felt the atmosphere more than ever before. It’s great experience for young horses and stands them in good stead for the future.

“I think the cross-country course is lovely, and the more times I walk it, the cleverer I think (course-designer) David Evans has been.”

Cross-country for the CCI4*-L class starts at 11 a.m. tomorrow local time (Saturday 18th September), and can be watched live via Horse & Country TV’s streaming platform, H&C+.

Oxfordshire’s leading rider, Izzy Taylor, piloted the exciting future prospect Hartacker into sixth place after dressage in the CCI4*-S for eight and nine-year-old horses at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

Izzy, whose Bicester yard is just minutes from Blenheim Palace, scored 28.9 on Camilla Behrens’ nine-year-old. She is only 2.3 penalties behind first-placed Ros Canter (Izilot DHI), whose mark of 26.6 remained unbeatable on the second day of dressage.

Speaking afterwards she said: “He was a little bit nervous and held his breath in his trotwork, but he’s got a fantastic walk, which the judges rewarded, and a very good canter, so he pulled it back again.

“He just needs to be a bit proud of himself, which will come with experience. He only started eventing two years ago so he hasn’t done a massive amount for his age, but he’s very exciting, and generally a very good jumper, so hopefully he has it all.”

Izzy won at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials in 2017 with Be Touchable, and first rode here as a child in the Pony Club team show jumping competition.

She is due to represent Britain at the European Championships in Switzerland next week with Monkeying Around, who led the dressage in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim Palace the last time the event ran in 2019.

One of the great unique selling points of the sport of eventing is the fascinating breadth of experience that may be encompassed in a single competition. Blenheim Palace is no exception and, as well as Izzy, the field contains a host of experienced past winners including Andrew Nicholson, Pippa Funnell, Polly Stockton and Piggy French, plus Olympic gold medallists Oliver Townend and Tom McEwen, as well as those for whom Blenheim represents the fulfilment of an ambition.

Georgia Bartlett, 20, a CCI3*-S winner at Cornbury Park last year and former member of the British Junior squad, is realising a long-held goal in competing her first horse after graduating from pony classes, Spano De Nazca, in the CCI4*-L.

And she explained: “I only live locally, near Newbury, and have been coming to Blenheim as a spectator for years, so it has always been a dream to ride here.”

This is only the pair’s third competition this year after setbacks for horse and rider. Georgia broke her arm in a fall and her Spano de Nazca suffered a stone bruise and has been regaining fitness by swimming at racehorse trainer Warren Greatrex’s Lambourn yard.

Georgia added: “We have such a strong partnership and I am hoping that the cross-country course will suit him and that our fitness regime will have paid off.”

Emma Thomas, 22, is another relatively local rider, a member of the Warwickshire Hunt and Pony Club branch. She is competing in the CCI4*-S on Icarus, a Dutch-bred gelding bought from showjumper Jamie Wingrave, and in the CCI4*-L on The Buzz Factor.

Emma, who will be walking the cross-country course with Pippa Funnell and Caroline Moore, is studying for a Masters in bio-informatics at the Royal Veterinary College.

Referring to her compact 15.2hh Icarus, she said: “He’s a cross-country machine. I think this is just his course with the open distances.”

For the USA in the CCI4*-L, Katherine Coleman sits 23rd with Monbeg Senna and 51st with RLE Limbo Kaiser. Tiana Coudray is 40th with Cancaras Girl. In the CCI4*-S 8/9-y/o Grace Taylor is 9th with Game Changer and 17th with Hiarado.

Blenheim Palace International CCI4*-L/CCI4*-S: [Website] [Entries] [Live Scores] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

CCI4*-L Top 10 After Dressage 

CCI4*-S Top 10 after Dressage