Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch have amassed a collection of blue ribbons during their career because they can perform well in the little white box and then back it up with two solid jumping phases.
They’ve been U.S. Champion and Reserve Champion at Advanced the last two years and were at the top of the leaderboard after the first day of dressage earlier this spring at the Rolex Kentucky 4*, but none of this compares to Burghley and Laine admitted her nerves slightly got the better of her this morning and this was not their best test together, scoring 48.8 to put them in 23rd place at the moment, two spots behind Lynn Symansky and Donner.
“To be at Burghley is a dream come true — ever since I was a little girl it’s always been a dream to do the Olympics, the World Games and then Burghley and Badminton are on the same scale; just to even be here is such an honour. I was pleased with Al today, I lost a little of the brilliance that I’m used to having, probably just from my nerves. I had one little blip in my changes that cost me dearly but having said that, I’m here, my horse did what he was supposed to do and it’s not going to be a dressage show, that’s for sure!”
“Compared to the events in the U.S., atmosphere is a huge difference here, the crowds … I think the biggest thing is that living on the East Coast of U.S. we ride against the best of the best of the Americans but when you come out to Europe you ride against the best of the best of the best so it’s quite an eye-opener; a 48 would be quite competitive at Rolex on the first day but not here.
“I plan on getting some great riding lessons tomorrow watching people on the cross country, Michael Jung, Jock Paget are here, people we don’t get to see on a regular basis — I’m just going to try and soak up the experience and really learn how to ride from them.
“The course is big, it’s tough, it’s Burghley, it’s what I expected. When I walk the course I don’t think it’s impossible and I see that I’ve done every single one of those questions at some point in my career with this horse; have I done them all on one course before? No, I just have to bring out the best in my horse and ride my best and get the job done. I think it’s going to call for really agressive, scrappy riding, I’m going to have to go back to my cowboy roots!”
Laine also made sure to mention the overwhelming support that helped her get here to Burghley after her test, “I did all my fund-raising on social media, I’ve got so many amazing followers, people who embrace the struggle of horses, and live their dreams vicariously through me on the way to get to their dreams.
“I genuinely feel like people want me to do well; I always say everybody has their own Rolex or Burghley, it doesn’t have to be four stars but just be a goal that they aspire to, and so I think they enjoy watching someone persevere and struggle though it because at the end of the day we’re all human. It’s awesome and I pray that I can be a good role model, for adults and kids alike. It’s great, it’s a joint effort and I literally woudn’t be here without them, I literally would not.”
Laine’s mum Valerie is of course here supporting, but so is her dad and his wife, best friend/groom Lauren Sherrill, and Rick Sample and Celia Rafalko, who are “dear friends of mine from my area; so not a ton of people here supporting me but they’re mighty — small and mighty!”
Tim Bourke, our honarary American by way of Ireland, was slightly disappointed with his test on Luckaun Quality, which scored 65.0. “The flat work has come on a bit since last year and he actually has been going really well but he came up here this morning and from the get-go the atmosphere got to him, it took a lot to get him back and get him going.
“I got him out here in the warm-up a little bit better but then when we went into the ring he just got a little too tense and I had to work hard to keep a cap on it and ended up having to ride the trot work a little backwards. It’s not as atmospheric in there as Kentucky is, I’ll tell you that for nothing!”
Tim will spend the afternoon walking the course again, and is looking forward to the cross country tomorrow, “I’m thankful it’s not just a dressage show; it’s a good galloping course out there, big jumps, and hopefully that will suit him. It’s big but it looks good, it looks fun and there’s nothing out there that looks impossible.
“It’s unrelenting, you’ll have to be on your game the whole way round. Obie’s a big, rangy jumper, he likes to gallop, he doesn’t turn terribly well so a lot of nice, straightforward lines out there that if you go the short way they’re daring you to take the big stride and be brave and that’s what suits him the best.”
Tim has made no secret of feeling very American this week especially, but doesn’t see himself switching allegiance officially any time soon, “I doubt it! Not for the time being anyway. There’s great opportunities if you ride for the U.S., and they have good funding, but I’m very proud to be Irish so I’ll stick with what I’ve done so far.”
Sandwiched in between Laine and Tim Bourke’s tests I managed to catch fleeting glimpses of Tim Price making some magic happen on Ringwood Sky Boy, and indeed they broke into the 30s and now lie 3rd as we head into the Friday lunch break. Tim seemed delighted but also a little surprised, “I’m really happy with him, he’s not the most gifted dressage horse but the one thing he does do is he improves all the time.”
Also flying the flag for the Kiwis, Mark Todd was second in the arena this morning with Leonidas and their test looked wonderful, perhaps the judges were still waking up slowly because I think we all expected him to score even better than the 41.7 he was awarded, good enough for 8th place at the moment.
Fourth at Badminton in the spring this hose has looked so exciting for so long and now really seems to be fulfilling that promise; Mark confirmed that it would be this one and NZB Campino who would be his top choices for Rio next year, and that Leonidas is getting better all the time.
“My test went nearly to plan, you’re always hoping you can do better but he was pretty good. He can be a little bit tense but today he almost felt a little bit lazy so he’s growing up a bit, and we’ll keep working at it.” Like all the other riders Mark has a ton of respect for tomorrow’s cross country track, and wondered if anyone might go inside the time, “Jonelle (Price) is sitting on a very fast horse and it certainly plays into her hand; my horse is a good galloper …”
We’re on the lunch break now of this final day of dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, and we have plenty to look forward to this afternoon — Michael Jung will bring out his Olympic and WEG champion La Biosthetique Sam, six-time Burghley champion William Fox-Pitt has Fernhill Pimms, British Open Champion Nicola Wilson rides her Rolex Kentucky mount Annie Clover, former Badminton Champion Paul Tapner on Kilronan, Pippa Funnell … it goes on and on but of course we’re crossing everything for Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights who ride at 2:32pm GB time 9:32am US Eastern.
Don’t forget to join Anna Ross Davies and Pippa Roome in the Horse & Hound live blog for top notch commentary here. Click here to catch up on all of EN’s coverage of #LRBHT so far, and click here to watch videos on demand via Burghley TV. Thanks for visiting Eventing Nation today and Go USA at Burghley and Go Four Star Eventing!