Tag Archives: Burghley Horse Trials

Burghley Horse Trials Day 3: Show Jumping & The Championship

If you have been anywhere near the news or social media then you know that Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy won the 2018 Burghley Horse Trials. It turned out to be more than just another Kiwi winning or the Britain v. New Zealand Competition. It was a fascinating and nail biting day for both competitors and spectators alike.

The morning started at 9am with the Trot Up. The Horse Trials had begun with a full complement of 80 riders, but the whittling away started quickly with 2 horses failing the first Trot Up. Friday morning had 2 more withdrawn and Saturday was decimating! So this morning it was announced that another 6 had withdrawn and would not continue competing in the Show Jumping. We were down to 39 to finish the event. The jury began looking the horses over for fatigue and injury. There were several quick discussions while the Rider and audience held their breath. The big shock came when Kristina Cook’s Star Witness was sent to the holding box for re-presentation. He had trotted up with a low head and lack of impulsion – was he tired? Was he lame? After a half dozen riders had been passed, Star Witness re-presented and was a lot more like himself. Again after a brief discussion he was passed and the crowd went wild with joy. Who says showing is boring?

The first round of jumping began at 11:15 over a course of 13 fences, 16 jumps. Jump 11, a triple comprising an upright at 130cm with 2 tight strides to a spread with 2 tight strides to an upright to exit, proved to be a real bugbear as pole after pole fell. The other the jump that caused problems was Number 8, sponsored by the National Lottery (how appropriate), which was also a tall spread. The faults earned this morning went from 4 to 20, some with time penalties. There were no clear rounds to be had. This lead the gossips to wonder if this was going to be the way of the day. Remember that the top 4 leaders had less than a fence between them!

Lunchtime offered a display by the Lancers in memorial to WWI. It brought a lump to the throat as we remembered the huge number of horses that were taken to France only to never return. By 1916 the majority of horses at the front had to be brought from the USA or Canada. They had 8 weeks training and then were sent to the front as either Chargers or Gun Horses. Mules, in their thousands, were used to move equipment and wagons. In spite of the best efforts made by their riders and grooms, 90% of the equines in the war died, most in horrific circumstances. Although horses are still used in active duty in the British Army, this war was the last that would see the horse soldier as a major player.

We were also treated to the Racehorse to Riding Horse final which would give the winner a place at October’s Horse Of The Year Show (HOYS) at the National Exhibition Center, Birmingham. It was wonderful to watch horses, some who were total failures as racers and some who were £750,000+ winners, compete side by side with an equal chance of winning. After 45 minutes the winners were announced. Unfortunately the horse who came in 1st with the HOYS entry failed to behave and stand when being awarded the prize. No matter what the Rider did to try to control the horse and not have it back up or swing it quarters, it just would not listen. The jury was heartbroken and the Rider, in floods of tears, knew that the jury had to obey the rules and disqualify them as winners. The prizes were re-awarded according to this change. It was a cruel way to remember how quickly things can change in the equine world.

The last event before the final Show Jumping was a display by the Gurkha Regimental Band. The band was excellent and provided a much needed break from the drama of competition. Each member carried a Kukri, and although not as big as the one Mark Todd fell at, it was still large enough for Crocodile Dundee to give it appreciation.

The Show Jumping resumed at 2:20, and Jumps 8 and 11 continued to cause mayhem. It took Camille Lejeune of France on Tahina Des Isles to break through and give us the first Clear Round. There still weren’t many, but enough for the tension to build as we drew closer to the final. As poles kept falling I was forced to wonder if it was because of tired horses or tired riders, and I do think it was more the riders than the horses. As the poles kept rattling in cups of Jump 11, I saw many riders taking a very sharp half halt in an attempt to put more power in the jumping flank. The most successful actually used a well set up stride with a softer hand. Andrew Nicholson gave us the Masterclass in how to do that jump and not look like you’re working! He ultimately came in 3rd. Piggy French and Vanir Kamira also made it look easy, but alas, Star Witness (Kristina Cook) wasn’t as good and took 11B down.

The final two…. Oliver Townend on Ballaghmore Class was defending his crown against Tim Price on Ringwood Sky Boy. Burghley 2017 had these two head to head and Townend came out determined to win once more. The ride began positively and Ballaghmore Class soared over the early jumps. Shockingly it was Jump 5a that Ballaghmore trailed a hind leg and dropped the pole. The cries of disappointment from the crowd were both loud and heartfelt. Not giving in, the pair rode the rest of the course like the champions they are, even floating over Jumps 8 and 11. Then came the challenger: Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Their round was filled with grit and determination as poles rattled in the cups and the crowd hoped and prayed for this winner to do it on a Clear Round. Their prayers were answered and Ringwood Sky Boy crossed the finish as the New Champion. It was so exciting!

It was a wonderful Burghley this year with lots of new faces and more competitors coming from foreign places. It was truly international, but bound by the love of the horse. The Americans’ technique differed slightly and the Swedish Rider has such style. The Irish proved how much they love their horses, giving pets and rubs between jumps. Yes Burghley is primarily British, but there are a load of Aussies and New Zealanders, which goes to show just how far people are willing to go for this amazing competition.

I am coming home with ideas and inspirations I want to share with my riders. I’ve been to some talks and even cornered someone in the BHS tent. This is a place where it shows what we can do if we are willing to work hard enough for it. I’m willing to put in my blood, sweat and tears, and I hope my riders are willing to as well. Not everyone will be a CCI4* Eventer, but we can all be the best we can be.

See y’all next week!


Burghley Horse Trials Day 3: Cross Country

Burghley Day 3 means it’s Cross Country Day! It was so beautiful that I am now sporting a wonderful late summer sunburn. I spent the last 2 hours under the arena roof in the shade. That is not to say I didn’t do my fair share of wandering around and looking at the fences. And what fences they are!

Burghley’s Country Country course has had a major facelift. In spite of how challenging the obstacles are, there is simply no way to avoid the damage that wind, rain and Storm Doris can do to a course. To be honest, it was looking tired and a bit dated last year, so I am very pleased that Captain Mark Phillips, Burghley’s expert course designer, and his team gave us something to new to look at and consider. Mark Philips, one of the top if not The Top equestrian designers has been actively involved with Burghley for years and has created some of the best new jumps on the site, so this year’s offering was super exciting. There were 30 fence combinations which comprised 50 separate jumps. A herculean task for horse and rider!

This year’s course started in the usual manner with the opening jump being over the Olympic Legacy Horseshoe. The route then heads to the Main Arena where there is a combination that includes jumping through the Land Rover 70 Anniversary before heading out to Discovery Valley. Discovery Valley is completely different. Gone are the palisade and brush shaped vehicles and in are some positively terrifying logs. The trees that had fallen from Storm Doris have been de-barked and moved to the Valley. These trees are between 80cm and 100cm in diameter with the Papa being even bigger. I jumped logs when I was younger and this made my stomach clench. The combination at 5 has 2 offset monster logs with a ditch in front on the rear one. You get 2 strides to between. Yes, this did claim Polly Stockton who missed the line on the first and ended up with both her and her horse on the ground – actually, Polly was in the ditch. She’s fine but her horse decided to finish the course without her and we had a long delay on the course.

If you survive Discovery Valley Part 1, you get to fly on to a redesigned Elephant Trap which is now the Rolex Grand Slam Rails before heading to the Leaf Pit. To be honest, you can’t redesign the Leaf Pit but the alternative jumps didn’t really make it that much easier. Yes, we had 2 off at the Leaf Pit mostly due to not being balanced before taking the triple rail combination that completes the jump. Then you are off back to Discovery Valley for Part 2 – a large log with a downward landing before coming back up to take a skinny log with a back bar.

You leave Discovery Valley and head for the new jump – the Gurkha Kukri. This big knife shaped log took the scalp of Mark Todd. The Trout Hatchery also saw a few folks swimming. The new big thing is The Fly Over. Because Phillips wanted to turn the course back on itself, it was necessary for the riders to be able to cross paths without hitting each other. An oncoming rider is NOT another fence to contend with! So they built a 3 and a bit meter high Fly Over. One horse goes over the top and on to Winner’s Row while another flies down the hill from the Dairy Farm and through the underpass to The Cuttings. In an ideal world, there would be a moment when the riders would cross, but in reality, they didn’t. We hoped, but they just couldn’t comply.

The back half of the course seemed far more controlled and, dare I say it, safe. There were lots, more than normal it seemed to me, of retirements. This always makes me happy because it means the rider knows and cares about their horse. They know when their friend just isn’t up to doing any further. It show sense, compassion and safety. Yes, we all like to see our favourite doing amazing things, but I personally prefer to see my favourite make it home safely.

So today ends with tomorrow being an all out Great Britain v. New Zealand affair. With less than a fence separating the top 4, the Show Jumping will be the most vital component in years. I have no clue who will win as they are all hungry for this victory. If I must choose, then it will be Oliver Townend who has been the most consistent over the last 4 days. But it is all to play for!

Burghley Horse Trials Day 2

Day 2 at Burghley Horse Trials was as lovely as Day 1. The sun shone brightly and the air was warm. There was clearly far more people at the event today as the stands by the 4th Session were standing room only. The riding continued to impress with Mark Todd and Oliver Townend holding most of the top spots. It was interesting to watch obviously frisky horses being made to behave and do as they are told. There was clearly Dressage By Negotiation today.

Because I don’t feel I know it all, we were able to purchase small ear radios which broadcast expert commentary. It did my heart good to note that my observations from yesterday were spot on, not to mention the moment one of the commentators actually said, “Corners are your friends” when discussing appropriate distances in the test. I didn’t stand up a shout Buh-yah! but I did feel like it.

Back to what I saw…. Some things we need to be working on and I will be pushing us toward is a greater use of the back end of the horse. The horse must move from back to front and not the other way around. The back end must provide the impulsion while the front end provides the direction. I know I have said this before, but again, I feel I have more veracity now. This back impulsion is so clearly evident in the Extended Trot where the horses seem to float over the grass rather that stomp through it. The deep step with the upward thrust to make the stride provides the lifting power this movement requires. I see lots of trotting poles in our future…….

Continuing with the use of the flank, the commentators gave a lovely talk about the stretching of the horse from the flank to the bit in the walk. Again, the power of the Extended Walk comes from the inside(!) hind leg which drives the outside shoulder and should make the horse want to step through the bit. I am suspecting this is more than Magic’s “throw my head down and evade the bit”. In the midst of all this, the horse’s head must be free to move in a natural manner. There is a real art to getting just the right amount of touch on the reins to allow all of this. We have lots to work on!

The last thing I’d like to discuss is the Halt and Rein Back. This seemed to be a bit of bugbear for many of the competitors. The previous move was a Collected Trot coming from M. The key was to stop square without going through walk. Once the horse stops, he must be both relaxed, aware and prepared. He can not switch off, start swinging his head or chew his bit. In a few cases, please don’t drool either. Once the horse has stood square, then there is the balanced walk back of 5 steps. It is vital that this be done in diagonal pairs with deliberate steps. The horse must not display any tension or resistance to the move or the aids. Uh…yeah. Did I mention it also has to be straight with no swinging of the quarters? Now I know this can be mastered by (many) hours of practice and is a good thing for the horse to know in case it gets itself caught in a tight space, but it is tricky. What I noted was that many competitors rushed the Halt to Rein Back. The horse was not actually square and settled before making the backward movement and this resulted in a myriad of small errors which seriously affected the marks. Also, because the back steps were not positive, many actually dragging a foot, the next move of striding off into a Medium Walk looked more Riding School Pedantic than World Class Equestrian – and the marks made that point.

Today was great and, yes, the missing circle which has become known as #MarkToddMoment, did appear. Apparently under FEI rules for Eventing, the repeat and correction of a missed move is allowed in Dressage because these are not specifically dressage trained horses. As these horses are All-Arounders, some grace must be given. I am glad that there is some recognition of this, but I do have to say that I am incredibly impressed by the level of training and presentation these horses have. There are several that I am convinced could compete in pure Dressage and place in the very top. I am looking forward to tomorrow as Burghley as had a bit of a facelift this year. The course walk should be fascinating and the competition amazing!

What Happen Today At Burghley — Day 1

Today was the first day of the Burghley Horse Trials – a 3 day event that tests the world’s best horses and riders to highest level of their ability. It is a spectacular 5 days.

Yesterday was the Trot Up, which checks each horse’s health and fitness. Something which is vital when the animal is going to be asked to show a level of gymnastics and athleticism few will ever experience. Unfortunately 2 horses did not pass the Trot Up and were withdrawn. A real heartbreak for both horse and rider. There were a couple of close calls which means those horses will be carefully monitored throughout the event.

Today, 30 August, was the first of the Dressage Days. To bring you visually into the scene, the gentle breeze blew, ruffling the flags which lined the low white fenced dressage arena. Warm sun shined down on the gleaming horses who performed on the thick green grass while the steel drums played Caribbean music softly in the background.

The Test was new – only created last year, 2017. I was surprised because it did not have the usual elements of a Serpentine, or Counter Canter. Instead it has a large section of Medium & Extended Walk. There is a big trend right now to develop and improve the walk, making it a positive and dynamic part of dressage and not just the relaxing poor cousin. I was very pleased to see it and even more pleased to see how serious the judges took it as reflected in the often lower marks that the trot and canter sections.

The Test is loaded with “Bends and Balances”. There is a lovely ask of a Shoulder In down the quarter line moving to a Half Pass. To do this properly, the horse and rider must move absolutely straight down that quarter line with the outside should perfectly in line with the inside hind foot. A quick straighten and rebalance in 1 stride to move into the Half Pass. Wow! Hard! Impressive. Missed a fair few times with 3.5 – 5.5 marks being given.

The hardest move, based on the fact that several riders missed it totally, was a Half Pass from V to I, then down the centre line to a 20m Circle Left – Lateral, Straight, Bend. I think this was more of an ask for the rider than the horse as the buzzer went 5 times to tell the rider of their error. I was rather surprised that the riders could take a buzzer and repeat a move then go on to the missed move and finish the test. In Pure Dressage, to have missed a move would be a 0 on that moves score. There did not seem to be this penalty as Mark Todd on Campino, second rider of the day, was the first to miss the circle and ended the day in the top 10.

The Flying Change also was score breaker. The judges were looking for a fluid change that was both elevated and straight with both front and hind changing at the same time. I think our Tuscany would have shined at this! The judges were definitely looking for the big step into the Change and the preparation was 3 steps of Collected Canter. Lots of horses showed they could do it on one rein but not equally well on the other. Of course we do need to remember that these horses are not Grand Prix Dressage horses or trained to that level, so this is a big ask of them. I was very pleased to see how well they responded to the questions.

The last thing I noticed today was the number of new rider faces as Burghley. It is always lovely to see the previous champions and Olympians, but it is a treat to see the riders coming up and through. It shows that this sport is very much alive and growing. And these new riders are every bit as good as the old friends we know and love. The level of riding I saw was very impressive and I can see an exciting week ahead!