HE MAY be on top of the world but Wiltshire-based eventer Tim Price insists he must prove himself all over again as he attempts to defend his Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials title.
New Zealander Price, who is based near Marlborough, claimed a famous victory at last year with Ringwood Sky Boy at the international five-star event in Burghley Park, Lincolnshire.
The winning combination are reunited once again this year as they look to retain their crown, with Ringwood Sky Boy one of Price’s three entries in 2019 along with Bango and Xavier Faer.
But having also climbed to No.1 in the FEI World Rider rankings since his triumph 12 months ago, Price knows the pressure is on him to demonstrate why he belongs at the summit.
“It’s been a fun year having the title of Burghley champion in my back pocket but it feel very real now that we’re back here trying to prove it all again,” said the 40-year-old.
“What a magic experience it was last year. Ringwood Sky Boy has been here a few times and had some good results, so to get it in the bag with him was really special.
“I want to win the title back but it’s not really my mental focus or setup at the moment. There are just so many jobs at a big event like this, just getting here, doing the trot up.
“Now we have the dressage and the cross-country coming up, which is such a big task, so this is what it’s like inside your own head when you’ve got it all ahead of you to prove.
“I feel like I’ve got a good chance on a few of these horses actually, so I just have to prove it. It’s a fun feeling being world No.1 as I’ve never been an out and out winner.
“I’m not one that goes and hunts down every single prize there is on the circuit, so it feels like it’s a real show of consistency and that’s something I’ve done with a lot of different horses.
“It’s something I’m very proud of and it does bring an element of confidence. It’s a reflection that things are going well, so hopefully I turn up on Sunday with a healthy horse that’s good to jump.”
Fellow competitor Zara Tindall believes attack will be the best form of defence in the cross-country this year, as she prepares to tackle her father’s course.
The Queen’s granddaughter, who is based in Gloucestershire, is competing at Burghley for the first time since 2017.
Riding 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Class Affair, the 38-year-old will be hoping to go one better than her debut in 2003 when she finished second on Toytown.
But Zara is aware she must first overcome the latest challenge posed by her father, Captain Mark Phillips, who has been the cross-country course designer for 30 years.
“Burghley is one of my favourite events of the whole year,” she says. “I guess I kind of started my four-star career here with Toytown – or certainly my successful results with Toytown.
“I think you always get to Burghley and you always know if you’re at the top of your game and we’ve all been out and had a look at the cross-country course.
“My father again has produced an incredible cross-country and we’ve got to go out and attack it. I’m excited to be back and I’ve got a really nice horse.
“Hopefully we can go out and do the business on Saturday. It’s big, it’s a proper course with the hills and it always makes a huge difference to how much petrol you have in the tank.
“You have to try and reserve that petrol to be able to get to the end and make sure that every jump is as seamless as you can – I am excited to have a horse that loves that phase.”
Burghley has become one of the most popular and highly regarded within the equestrian and social calendars, ranking within the UK’s top ten national sporting occasions by attendance.
And while she admits Class Affair is a newcomer to the pressure of Burghley, Zara is looking forward to seeing how her horse fares against world-class opposition.
“He is very inexperienced at this level so I’m looking forward to it,” she says. “It’s such a relaxed friendly event where everyone enjoys it, and it’s what the sport is about.
“You can see it all through the weekend. We have the dressage first, which is probably my least favourite, and then it builds up through the week.
“Just driving in through the gates, unloading the horses and knowing that you’re here at Burghley, a five-star event, is a special feeling and I can’t wait to get going.”
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (September 5-8) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk