Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2016
By Stephanie DeWitt Photography Julian Portch @lrbht_official
"Not in my wildest dreams did I think I'd lead from start to finish!" said Aussie Chris Burton at the end of this year's Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. "When I walked the course up Winners' Avenue I thought how wonderful it would be to have your name on a plaque there!"
Having posted the best dressage score of 30.2 riding the 11 year-old German bred Nobilis 18, 34 year-old Burton, who is based at Dunsfold in Surrey, was not full of confidence.
"It's always exciting to see a good score," he said, "but you never know. Burghley is always nerve-wracking for me and I'm not excited at the prospect of the cross-country phase!"
Despite the atrocious weather conditions on Saturday and being one of the last to go, Burto completed the course with a smile on his face, only incurring 3.2 time penalties and remaining at the top of the leader board.
"I felt very nervous," he admitted, "and as I watched other riders go I thought I might go back to bed for the afternoon! I always aim to have a seamless ride and it turned out to be easy. I had a rare moment and changed my mind at the Trout Hatchery, doing the short route instead of the long."
Course designer Mark Phillips commented, "The number of falls was disappointing. Three in a row fell over in the Trout Hatchery, including Pippa Funnell on Second Supreme! Discovery Valley was harder work for the riders than I thought it would be and the rain didn't help. But out of 68 starters, 28 jumped round clear."
Only five of the 38 horses and riders in the showjumping arena managed to leave all the poles up. According to Richard Jefferies, the course designer, as the cross-country courses become more technical, showjumping has to stay with it.
"Last night the ground was very wet, sticky and holding," he said. "After the first three horses had gone the time allowed was decreased. I pulled the spreads in as I didn't want the horses slipping. The footing is very important as the arena is not flat. I have to find the right spots for the fences."
"That wasn't the best showjumping performance!" said Harry Dzenis from Billingshurst who managed to rack up 36 show jumping penalties on Xam! "I'm a bit disappointed but he's still a 4* horse. He went like a dream yesterday, so I'm not going to beat myself up!"
"Star Witness was getting a bit keen towards the end of his showjumping round," said Findon's Tina Cook who finished in 10th place. "He's got a light mouth and just rubbed the gate for four faults. The Trout Hatchery cost us a few seconds yesterday where he lost a shoe and I nearly fell off! I don't like falling off so I managed to hang on for grim death! The rest of the round felt perfect but I felt him slip on the corners after that."
Despite having four show jumps down, Chris Burton stayed in pole position to claim the top prize with Kiwi Andrew Nicholson close behind on Nereo, the third time this pair have finished in second place.
"I tried to keep it interesting for everyone by taking it so close!" quipped Burto. "This is very special - I have learned to enjoy these moments."
Two-time winner Lucinda Green summed up the competition: "This was a really, really tough course! It always rides more difficult than it walks. Burghley is a real brute - you've got to have guts to do it!"