Brits rule Burghley

Oliver Townend was a deserving winner of the Burghley Horse Trials on a super young horse

All class: Oliver Townend celebrates his Burghley win on Ballaghmor Class (Image: Libby Law Photography)

The British riders are in top form at the moment, and this weekend are celebrating a one-two-three-four at Burghley in addition to their gold medal at the recent European eventing championships.

Oliver Townend took out his second Burghley win on the inexperienced Ballaghmor Class, finishing on a score of 45.6 after adding 5 penalties in the show jumping. Piggy French was second on Vanir Kamira with 46.9 and one of the few clear show jumping rounds, Gemma Tattersall was third on Arctic Soul with just one rail and final score of 47, and Tom McEwan fourth on Toledo de Kerser with 49.1. New Zealander Tim Price was fifth on Ringwood Sky Boy with 51.5, having added 5 penalties on the last day. Andrew Nicholson and Nereo were eighth on a score of 57.1, after 10 faults in the show jumping.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy were the best non-British pair, finishing fifth (Image: Libby Law Photography)
Andrew Nicholson and Nereo had two down for eighth place 9Image; Libby Law)

Tim also finished 18th on Xavier Faer, with 82.1. Caroline Powell was down to one horse after withdrawing Onwards and Upwards from the hold box at the morning’s trot-up. She produced one of the five clear show jumping rounds on the promising Spice Sensation.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer were 18th (Image: Libby Law Photography)
Caroline Powell and Spice Sensation produced one of just five clear show jumping rounds (Image: Libby Law Photography)

Just 40 of the 61 starters completed the competition.

Oliver was a well-deserved winner, putting in one of the rounds of the day over the tricky cross-country. He’s one of eventing’s battlers, and while he has had plenty of success, he has had to fight and graft for every win. He’s very excited about his horse, understandably so, saying he is “just a different talent to what I’ve been used to sitting on for a long, long time.” The horse hasn’t been without challenges, however: he’s a tough cookie, and has had a number of Oliver’s staff off at various stages. Oliver, too, has had falls from him but everything came together this weekend.

“Whatever happens, I wouldn’t swap him for any horse here, and it’s been a long time since I last said that. I’m just desperate for top-class horses, and I’ve had to play the numbers game to try to find them. I’m trying to cut down numbers now, so you can see me perform like I did this weekend.

“It means the world to me — I have so much faith in this horse, and I’ve been blowing wind up him all week, so I’m glad he proved me right! When I had the gate down I thought, if you’re going to have one down you might as well do it right! I’ll have a look back and give myself a smack.”

Oliver rates the horse as perhaps the best he’s ever had (Image: Libby Law Photography)

“With him being such a young horse, a lot has to go right; he’s only just learnt flying changes, he’s only just learnt a lot of things, so everything had to go 100% his way, but dressage he gave his absolute best that he’s got at this stage.”

Piggy French has had some time off to have her baby boy Max and talked about the struggle it has been to get back to top competition. “We had a personal trainer once a week which was hell, but it definitely made quite a big difference to me to get back in shape, physically and mentally.”

Chris Bartle either has a magic touch or arrived just at the right time (or a combination of both), as since he changed from coaching the German team to the British team, things have gone very well indeed. For Gemma Tattersall, however, it is business as usual in regards to coaching. “He’s contributed to my career, definitely; he’s actually been helping me for the last five years and he’s helped me a huge amount, so I’m very grateful to him for that.”

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul finished third (Image: Libby Law Photography)

Andrew Nicholson was pleased with his top-10 finish, and delighted that his mate Oli won. Talking to the team from Eventing Nation, he said Nereo was still the best horse he has ever sat on.  “I don’t think many international riders have 3,000 points in their career and he has that — if that’s correct — I let my kids do the maths! It’s the top four-star in the world, we’re competitive, and we love winning.”

The Eventing Nation crew also talked to Tim Price about his round on Ringwood Sky Boy, who is not known for being a brilliant show jumper. “It was good for him — he was popping a few good jumps there. We had one down, but for him that’s like a clear round! We needed a bit of luck but we didn’t have it. That’s life with him — I reckon he’s got a big win in him, but it’s not today. This competition is great fun; I really enjoy coming here and giving it a chance.”

So, Burghley is over for another year, and while it didn’t go as well for New Zealand riders this time, we can still be very proud of some great finishes and some great moments.