This year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials cross country day, lived up to all my expectations as the best Burghley for many years. Probably the most international line up of any CCI**** I’ve ever seen, with horses and riders having travelled from as far afield as Australia, California, and of course Europe.
I’ve spent most of the day out on the cross country course, partially succeeding in fine tuning my camera skills, although I have to confess to being a little ill prepared by not having a course map with me until I blagged one from an official, but not before I’d walked far more than I needed to.
The cross country course caused problems in every section of the course from the Leaf Pit at fence 4 right through to the last but few fences in the arena. A number of horses were visibly tiring, and a few riders were wise enough to pull up, and retire, as the course didn’t ease off at all. Eddy Sans, told me his horse just wasn’t coping well enough with the ground as his exited the course on Winners Avenue. Considering the relative dry spell, the course had a decent cut in ground, testament to the work and watering that had been done, right up to Saturday morning. Capability’s Cutting produced a few more spills and near misses than course designer Mark Phillips had anticipated, and the half dozen or so horses I watched through the Discovery Valley (fence 6), all clouted the first element. This was a tricky course to run foot perfect through.
The current leader (William Fox-Pitt) and runner up (Andrew Nicholson) are two of the greatest cross country riders of all time, and I had intended to make a point of photographing these two, but completely failed to snap more than William Fox-Pitt’s head as he galloped towards the leaf pit on the amazing Parklane Hawk. I didn’t have much luck with Andrew Nicholson either as I had climbed on a tree guard at the leaf pit to get a shot over the packed crowd, I set up a great shot of the fast route, only to find he chose the long route, and he managed to get inside the time! When it comes to riding fast and accurate, these two guys keep course designers scratching their heads.
I was thrilled to see High Havoc put in a great performance for Kitty King, and sincerely hope this horse continues to improve at this level for both Kitty and the owners. The big story for the North Americans was the emotional & successful return to 4 star of Boyd Martin’s Neville Bardos after a narrow escape from a barn fire. He now sits in 11th place followed closely by Sinead Halpin who was also a delight to watch go round. Samantha Clark has the story on these two over on Eventing Nation.
Amazingly, I managed to get a prime spot at the Trout Hatchery (fence 10 & 11), behind a few other amateur photographers who had settled in for the day bringing chairs, cool boxes, and all manner of things. I was well rewarded with a small drama that involved Mark Todd having a near runout at the second brush. This led to all manner of discussion and review of photographs from every angle by the fence judges. Looking at my photos you can see that Mark is technically within the rules, albeit riding a very fine line. For a split second you could see him questioning it himself, but he powered on regardless. Perhaps better to be stopped later on than waste time to find out?
Germany’s Simone Deitermann was visibly annoyed with herself having lost her lead, and with it Olympic qualification after her fall at Capability’s Cutting, which leaves the usual suspects to fight it out in tomorrow’s show jumping. The top 4 are all previous winners, and with only a rail between them it could go anybody’s way. I couldn’t choose a personal favourite – I like and admire them all, and each will carry a special headline of their own should they win.
Until then enjoy the following:
Worthy of special mention, if only briefly as a footnote are Tom McEwen, first time at 4 star for him and his horse now sat in 10th place, and James Robinson and Comanche, what a partnership! I hope they come back to Badminton for an historic number of completions.