We’ve waited three years for the return of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, and its cross-country day — complete with input from brand-new course designer Derek di Grazia — has certainly lived up to all our expectations, delivering us wall-to-wall action, a new-look leaderboard, and some of the best ground we’ve seen this year, to boot. Traditionally big, bold, relentless Burghley was traded in for something of a new model, with a high-intensity technical section in the first half that read and rode almost more like a short-format, and then a run down through some of the biggest fences in the world in the back half of the track — a design call that meant that anyone who was overfaced was more likely to end their day early on with harmless penalties or a retirement than with a crashing fall near the end of the track.

The field of 51 starters was narrowed down to 31 by the end of the day, giving Burghley a pretty much bang-on-average completion rate of 61%, while 24 combinations — or 47% of the field — recorded clear rounds. There’s been considerable influence throughout the day at every corner of the leaderboard, too, with 11s, 20s, healthy doses of time, and harmless tumbles making their mark on the competition without any unpleasant incidents — but with no shortage of drama. We’ve seen several top contenders fall by the wayside, including overnight third-placed Sarah Bullimore, who opted to retire Corouet on course after a run-out; Oliver Townend, who had an unprecedented run of bad luck, falling at the penultimate fence with ninth-placed Tregilder and at the Trout Hatchery with fifth-placed Swallow Springs; twelfth-placed Zara Tindall and Class Affair, who faulted at the Leaf Pit and retired; fourteenth-placed Susie Berry and Ringwood LB, who fell at the wide oxers at 19; and the USA’s Woods Baughman, who was sixteenth overnight with C’est La Vie 135 but was eliminated for accumulated refusals in the first part of the course.

Piggy March and Vanir Kamira deliver a showcase of gutsiness around the new-look Burghley track. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

No one had come close to catching the 11:20 optimum time when 2019 Badminton winners Piggy March and Vanir Kamira left the start box, and though they didn’t quite manage it themselves, they made 11:21 look almost laughably easy. But then, that’s true to form for the gusty partnership, who also finished a second over the time at Badminton this spring, where they were fourth: across their four Burghley runs together, they’ve collected just a scant 4.8 time penalties.

“She’s a pleasure and she knows her job, so it’s just about me not doing something stupid, to be honest, and just keep her believing like she does,” says Piggy, who strode straight into a provisional overnight lead after cruising around with the ‘truffle-snuffling’ seventeen-year-old. Part of the trick to getting close to the clock? Understanding where her horse’s particular strengths lay, and using them tactically to make up for time lost early on in the technical section of the course.

“She’s fast when she wants to be, especially coming downhill,” she says. “I’d quite quickly lost ten or twelve seconds around the Trout Hatchery at the beginning. In those couple of minutes she wasn’t getting out of second and a half gear, and every time I kicked, nothing happened, so I just had to let her post along. We’re in their hands a lot; we know they’re fit and well, but it’s also about their minds. She suddenly decides ‘yes, okay, I’m going to go; it’s a downhill’ , and then you’ve got to be brave and let them run down the hills and really freewheel — but without taking liberties. You need to be balanced the whole time.”

Piggy’s relatively early draw — she was 14th out of 51 to start — meant that she had minimal time to watch other riders and glean feedback about the course. But over a track like this, trust, partnership, and an innate understanding between horse and rider — and the unique plan that that generates — tend to be more important anyway.

“I watched a couple before I went, which was Tim [Price on Bango] and Pippa [Funnell on Billy Walk On], who are brilliant riders to watch but couldn’t have been on two more different horses doing totally different things throughout,” she says with a laugh. “So I don’t know whether that was helpful or not, apart from that they got to the finish. But other than that, it’s just trusting your instinct and believing in what you’re sat on — and I’ve got absolutely no reason to ever not believe in her. She’s been a true Burghley horse all her life.”

And, in true Burghley horse fashion, she swept her way into the lead, skipping up from the fourth-place spot she held overnight after delivering her best-ever five-star score of 22.6 on Thursday. That puts her in contention to become just the twelfth horse ever to win both Badminton and Burghley – a distinction that feels a bit like kismet for the mare who has become almost emblematic of eventing, with her unconventional build and enormous well of ‘try’.

“She just runs; she’s got such heart and grit and blood,” says Piggy. “These girls are amazing — they’re freaks in another league. They’re so gritty, to want to get back and put their heads down and keep going, and so the whole time home she just kept making up time. I’ve had my best days on her, and this is definitely one of them that’s up there as one of the best.”

Vanir Kamira, who was a fresh-faced fourteen years old when she won Badminton in 2019, is a true long-format horse — and that meant that the long pandemic, with its scant chances for a competition of this calibre, robbed her of two of her best years. For that reason, Piggy and the mare alike have been making the most of every opportunity to what they love best.

“She warmed up very well, and she rose to the occasion coming to the start box; I could feel she knew why she was here, and what she was about to do, and she was very excited to get on and do it,” says Piggy. “That’s a great feeling for us riders, and it’s just brilliant being back here and to come into the main arena and get cheers from the crowd, and just to have our sport back.”

But, she admits: “I can’t actually remember the round, to be honest — [my husband] Tom always says to me, ‘if you’re having a nice time, you’re not going fast enough!’ It’s actually a pretty horrible time until you get to the end, and without any time to think of anything else apart from ‘just keep going!’ and ‘don’t do anything stupid!’”

Tim Price’s Vitali steps up to the plate and grows in confidence around his first Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The only rider in the top ten who didn’t move in any direction was Tim Price, who began the day as pathfinder with the experienced Bango, adding 14.4 time penalties to climb from 16th to 12th, and made a second trip out on course with overnight runner-up Vitali, who made his sophomore start at five star today. Though today’s track was an undeniable step up from Luhmühlen, where he debuted and made a top ten finish earlier this year, he excelled himself, adding just 5.2 time to remain in spitting distance of the win overnight.

“I had a lovely time out there with him,” says Tim. “I didn’t know what to expect — he’s an inexperienced horse at this level, and particularly [at a course like] Burghley. I really wanted it to be an experience that I could take forward into future Burghley’s and future five-star competitions. Around every corner it was unexpected how it was going to go for us, but he kept delivering and kept getting in the air and picking up the distances. I’ve learnt a lot, and I can do things differently in the future with him, in terms of leaving out the odd stride and things. But I think it was the right round for him on his first attempt; you’ve got to do that around here, first and foremost, and set them up for the future.”

By the latter part of the course, where the technicality eased up considerably in favour of big, bold, galloping fences, Tim was able to put more pressure on the horse, who stepped up to the plate with aplomb.

“I’m thrilled with the way he came home,” he says. “We were a lot more down on the clock [earlier in the course] than where we ended up, and I think that’s a credit to both of us, actually: in the first half of the course I just let him settle in and gave him time, and then I was really able to ride him home and he just stayed up in front. I’m pleasantly surprised and excited for the future.”

Though Bango’s round earlier in the day proved a useful fact-finding mission — and a great confidence boost for the rest of the field, who watched it closely from the riders’ tent — it didn’t actually have any effect on the way Tim structured his plan with the very different, considerably lighter-feeling Vitali.

“Bango warmed up my upper body and my forearms for me,” says Tim with a laugh. “And he did give me a feel for the course. The ground was lovely, and the terrain, which I hold in almost the highest regard when it comes to riding around Burghley, so I was lucky to have him to get out there and get ready for my next guy.”

Though twelve-year-old Vitali has a number of impressive cross-country rounds under his belt already — including swift clears at the Tokyo Olympics and Luhmühlen CCI5* and CCI4*-S — the final phase has historically been the trickiest. The pair will go into the final phase just 3.5 penalties behind Piggy and Vanir Kamira, who can certainly be prone to a pole, and with a rail in hand ahead of their next closest competition. They may yet need it — but Tim feels confident that the gelding is going in the right direction.

“The thing is that it’s all about partnership at this level, and we’re not even quite two years into this partnership,” says Tim, whose round today was just his fifth FEI cross-country run with the horse. “I’ve learned a lot through the high-profile events we’ve been through together already, and this is the first time I’ve felt I’ve really had him relaxed and happy and healthy into the competition and through the competition. He’s an athlete, but he’s not the world’s greatest jumper, and he’s not a few things, but he’s a very, very good athlete with a lot of ability. I think tomorrow’s going to be a good day for him, and it could be a nice event for him to take forward into the rest of his five-star career.”

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet deliver the only clear inside the time of the day – despite a significant kit malfunction. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Just one horse and rider made the time today, and you’d win no prizes for guessing that it was Jonelle Price and Classic Moet, who have been dubbed the fastest partnership in the sport over their long, fruitful career together. But while coming back three seconds under the time was enormously impressive in its own right, what makes this such a remarkable accomplishment is that they managed it without a stopwatch.

“I guess flat batteries happen, but you hope they don’t happen when you leave the start box at Burghley,” says Jonelle wryly. “It was a bit of shock horror when I looked at my watch and there was nothing to be seen. It kindly beeped for me for the first three minutes, and then it gave up the ghost completely, so I was running blind — but I guess there’s something to be said for getting up into a true rhythm, trying to stay there, and riding some economical lines. I know she’s a quick horse, but I had absolutely no idea when I crossed the finish whether I’d achieved something or nothing, or what I was in for.”

There’s an awful lot to be said for the power of a long-term partnership — and Jonelle’s partnership with the British-bred 19-year-old spans ten five-stars, over the course of which they’ve accumulated just six time penalties and come home inside the time seven times.

“I’m partnered with one of the best in the business, and if I can’t deliver on her, then it’s all on my shoulders,” she says. The strength of their performance today allowed them to shoot up the leaderboard from overnight 25th place to third. “She lives for the Saturday, really, and the rest is always sort of a necessary evil in her mind. But she showed her class again today. It felt like a tough endurance test today, but then she is getting on in years, and maybe that played a little part for me. But she just kept jumping, and kept fighting, and most of all, she kept galloping. That’s what you really need around a track like Burghley.”

Like Vanir Kamira ahead of her, the 2018 Badminton winner is an inauspicious stamp of a horse to look at — but it’s her brain, her gumption, and her irascible toughness that make her one of the horses that’s defined a generation of eventing.

“She’s nothing special in terms of scope or stride or anything — she’s just all heart and determination, and she looks for those flags. She’s so experienced now, and it really is just a pleasure and an honour to partner her. There’s no one else you’d rather be on,” says Jonelle.

Also like Vanir Kamira ahead of her — and Vitali, too — Classic Moet isn’t necessarily a conventional, or even particularly reliable, show jumper, and memorably tapped her way to her first international clear in four years when winning Badminton.

“I’m not as confident walking into the showjumping arena by any stretch of the imagination, but she’s learnt her craft over the years. She’s pretty unique in the way that she jumps; it’s not particularly conventional, and if you see her standing up she’s sort of upside-down and back-to-front, which isn’t the most conducive to dressage or showjumping. But she comes in with the same attitude, and she tries to give it her best — and I know she’ll do the same tomorrow.”

Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift make a serious move into contention. Photo by Libby Law.

Hard-working Tom Jackson has been waiting in the wings for his chance to step into the spotlight at this level, and it feels as though his moment is coming now that the excellent Capels Hollow Drift has come along. The pair looked exceptional at Badminton this spring, where they ultimately finished sixteenth after picking up a 30.3 dressage score, ten time penalties, and a rail — but this week, we’ve seen him excel himself in every way.

“He was just another level today,” says Tom, who stepped up from thirteenth on a 28.9 to fourth after putting just 3.6 time penalties on the board today. “He came out of Badminton having gained that experience during that trip, and I was hoping that would stand him in good stead for here — and it absolutely did. He came home really strong.”

Though much of their round was smooth sailing, ‘Walshy’ had to take the experience he’d gained at Badminton and use it to dig deep at the tough Trout Hatchery at 10ABCDEF, which was the first water complex on the course.

“I saw quite a moving stride at the Trout Hatchery at the corner at the bottom, which meant that my turn was then quite tight to the second element,” explains Tom. “But he was really good there — he jumped in and got through very nicely.”

The pair were held on course just before the colossal complex of rails midway round at the Maltings, which marked the first time the gelding had been pulled up on course — but it also allowed Tom to rejig one of his original plans and give the gelding the best possible experience around the track.

“I’d liked to think that he’d be quite good in that scenario, and he was, luckily. He’s quite a relaxed, chilled out horse, so it gave him a bit of time to recover; then, as soon as I said ‘go’ again, he was off,” says Tom. “I had planned to the big rails to the corner [at the Maltings], but because he was held, I’d walked the hedge to the corner and thought that might be more sensible to get him going again.”

Ros Canter’s Pencos Crown Jewel overcomes her stage fright to step into the top five. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Ros Canter and the impressive Pencos Crown Jewel stepped up from sixth to fifth place after coming home with twelve time penalties — despite a tricky start to their round. They were held at the start while fence repairs were undertaken on the course, which shook the sensitive mare’s focus and meant that Ros had to take longer settling her into the track.

“That’s not ideal for her, because she really dislikes people and horses — and two people finished while I was waiting,” says Ros. “So she came out of the start box and over fences two and three it felt like she kind of nose-dived. So from that point on I was like, ‘hang on, let’s just quit with the speed for a second and just get her settled.’ I knew she wouldn’t enjoy Defender Valley very much, because it’s so narrow and there’s so many people there, so I was fairly careful there. She was quite nervous, looking left and right, but from that point on, she really got into gear.”

That feeling allowed Ros to take a calculated risk: “I got a great shot over the parallel [at 6], and I’d been 50/50 about whether I was going to even try the straight route at the Leaf Pit, but she was like, ‘hang on tight!’ — and from that point, I was hanging on tight! She was off like a rocket.”

With further experience — and a less fraught start box experience — Ros is confident that ‘Jasmine’ will return as a horse who can fight for a fast finish over even the toughest of tracks.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, she has the speed and the stamina to go inside the time, but she’s bum-high in her confirmation, and she’s a bit like a hare going uphill, which means she’s like a hare going downhill, too. She can lose the balance, and so I feel like I have to be a bit careful, because she would throw herself at anything. But in time, she’ll absolutely go inside the time.”

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats suffer disappointment and elation in one round. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Dressage leaders Kitty King and Vendredi Biats will go into tomorrow’s showjumping in sixth place after arguably the best round we’ve ever seen them deliver — but one that was marred by one costly stumble at the Fairfax & Favor Bootrack rails at 19A. Like several other horses before him, ‘Froggy’ didn’t quite make the full spread of the fence and ultimately touched down on the pinned back rail, picking up 11 penalties.

“I’m gutted and thrilled — confusing emotions, really,” says Kitty. “He was absolutely fantastic and gave me a superb ride, but he just made a mistake at the rails. I’m not sure what he did; I think he just misread the rails, which is very unlike him — he’s an incredibly careful horse. But it’s just one of those things. He didn’t deserve it; he’s kind of been unlucky all the way through, and I really thought it was going to be our time. It just wasn’t to be.”

But Kitty, who heads into the final day on one of the field’s best show jumpers, was somewhat mollified by a reminder that she’s in good company: “I spoke to my mother, and she reminded me of Michael Jung’s pin at Tokyo — it happens to the best of them, and I can’t take anything away from the horse. He was absolutely brilliant.”

And Froggy, who has been consistently competitive for two years now after a stint of occasional naughtiness in his younger years, certainly proved that he’s a top-class bit of kit with a top-class jockey on board today.

“He did everything I asked of him, and he was absolutely foot-perfect at the Leaf Pit, which I was pretty worried about,” Kitty says. “He was making it feel so easy, and I was thinking what a nice ride we were having. I’d spoken to Piggy, and she’d said, ‘it feels horrific the whole time, like you’re in a tumble dryer the whole time!’ — so I was galloping up to the Maltings thinking, ‘I must be going way too slow, because Pig told me it’d feel horrific, and this actually feels really enjoyable!’”

Bubby Upton and Cola chase the clock on the home stretch. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

23-year-old Bubby Upton has had her share of learning experiences at five-star since stepping up at the tail end of 2021, and today, the recent graduate of Edinburgh University showed that she’s an excellent student. She and her Young Riders partner Cola, with whom she’s completed Pau and Badminton, looked a picture around Derek di Grazia’s tough track, adding 10 time penalties to hoist themselves from 11th to seventh place going into the final day.

“What a horse,” says an emotional Bubby, who rode with a maturity well beyond her years while navigating the tough combinations on course. “His stride really is enormous, so I have to be careful of who I watch and how many I watch, because whenever anyone else makes a distance look long or doable, I know that he can actually make it easier than that. Having a horse with that kind of stride around here actually makes it a whole lot easier.”

Like many of the younger riders in the field, Bubby sought out advice from one of her fellow competitors, which allowed her to analyse her horse’s performance throughout the round and make decisions accordingly. That meant that Cola crossed the finish line full of running, and visibly recovered in just minutes as we watched on from the mixed media zone.

“I was surprised, because he felt pretty tired coming out of the Trout Hatchery and up that hill,” says Bubby, “but I spoke to Piggy about it and she said that Vanir Kamira wasn’t taking the bridle there, either. So I just thought, ‘I’ll bear with it’, and then he jumped the boot [at 12] and picked up steam to the rails and corner up at the top. He’s only 40% blood, and he’s only 16.1hh, but he’s got a heart of gold, and that’s all that matters.”

Alice Casburn and Topspin add another excellent round to their resume at five-star. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

20-year-old Alice Casburn was born just one year before overnight third-placed Classic Moet, which is a fact we don’t recommend thinking about for too long if you don’t want to feel 180 years old, but she gave us all a chance to feel young again as we cheered her and her homebred, Topspin, around a track she’d been quietly sick on just days before. She needn’t have worried, really; on their five-star debut at Pau last year (when she was just nineteen, and the rest of us were already drowning ourselves in eye creams), they jumped an excellent clear to finish nineteenth, and at Badminton this spring, they did the same to finish in exactly the same position. Today, though, Alice knew that the technical intensity of the first part of the track wouldn’t necessarily suit her big, strong Thoroughbred particularly well.

“He came out a little bit stronger than I would have liked,” says Alice. “At Blair, for example, you’ve got a big hill at the start, and because he’s quite blood, I like to take the edge off him. So I found the first bit quite difficult, but I’m lucky with him that he’s so honest. Some people say they run themselves into trouble, but you don’t mind it if they jump themselves out of it. Once we’d got up the hill after Defender Valley, he was absolutely phenomenal.”

From then on, Alice and the gelding, who only began eventing three years ago, slipped into their familiar rhythms, looking after one another when they needed to.

“I jumped a little bit big into the Trout Hatchery, and I came straight around the corner like, ‘oh, sorry!’ and growling a little bit, but he just popped in and made the distance lovely,” she says. “He’s a serious class of horse, and he’s got the heart as well. I did stick to plan A [all the way around], but I wouldn’t say I sticked to plan A on all the strides I would have quite liked! But he was amazing — I’m so lucky that when I came around the corner and there wasn’t really a stride or a line, he was like ‘hold my beer!’ He took me straight through it, and even at the end, everyone said you’ve got to see if they’ve got that extra bit of run in them, and he really took me.”

Their 6.8 time penalties rocketed them up the leaderboard from 30th to eighth place, and came after a significant five-star personal best of 33.6 in the first phase. Those are hardly Alice’s first major accomplishments of the year: after that excellent Badminton finish, which earned Alice the Glentrool trophy for the highest climb and the under-25 prize, too, she and Topspin headed to the Young Rider European Championships, where they earned team gold and individual bronze.

“I said to mum, ‘I feel like I’m overdue a bad run!’,” she laughs. “I know that sounds awful, but that’s the reality of riding — and so to have a year like this on him, with three five-stars in nine months, is quite something. I’m forever grateful to him, and I can’t quite believe I’m here. I still look back at those weeks and think, ‘that wasn’t me!’ I watch the videos, but it’s like I’m watching someone else in my head.”

But Alice’s run of great results comes after a battle with nerves that she’s learned to accept and work with — with the occasional help and advice of the elder statesmen of the sport.

“It doesn’t get any easier, and I spoke to Pippa earlier and she told me it never gets any easier. But that makes you feel better because sometimes I worry that I’m more uptight than I should be. I was nervous, but it seemed to pay off,” she says. “I’ve had to work quite hard on it. I went through a time in 2019 where I wasn’t quite having the results I wanted, and that was mainly because I came out of the startbox cold, if that makes sense. I’d come out slow and nervous, and then I’d get halfway around and be fine, but obviously the start was never great. So I just sort of found something that worked for me, whether that’s listening to music or having a quiet time, and ever since then, I stick to it and it normally works.”

Pippa Funnell jumps the last with Majas Hope. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Pippa Funnell herself had two excellent rounds, first with the rangy, occasionally shy Billy Walk On, who was second out of the box and slipped just out of the top ten after adding 19.6 time penalties, and then with stalwart campaigner Majas Hope, who stepped up from tenth to ninth with 12.8 time penalties.

“If Piggy was on top, or Tom, or one of those young ones, he’d have made the time, I’m sure,” says Pippa with a grin. “I hold up my hand: I think that’s where experience now means that in those places where I balance, I probably take a little bit of speed away, and the one extra bit of balance coming down to the pardubice or the big box before the last water are the little things that add up.”

But, she concedes, those little things are also part of what ensures she can get two horses safely home around Burghley with clear rounds under their belts.

“It’s exactly that, and I feel desperately sorry for Oliver, because I saw his fall [on Tregilder] and he did nothing wrong — it’s just that he was riding to the clock. I saw that, and it reminded me not to do that.”

Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley through the Lion Bridge. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley made fine work of their Burghley debut, delivering a fast — occasionally blisteringly so — round for ten time penalties, boosting them from 26th place to overnight tenth.

“It was hard work, but bless him, he just kept gritting his teeth and kept trying as hard as he possibly could, and we’re so proud of him for it,” says Wills, who travelled down from Scotland to debut the gelding at his first five-star. “He kept giving his all. He’s normally very quick, and what helped me, probably, is that I was out of control for three minutes! He was going — and he just kept going. Fair play to him, because that was a long way, and a lot of big fences.”

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8 impress in their first five-star. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

There’s nothing that says Burghley more than a Saturday climbing session, and US five-star debutante Cornelia Dorr certainly made sure she packed her ascenders and carabiners for her round with Daytona Beach 8. Though a disappointing dressage mark of 39 had put them out of the hunt in 50th place, their quick, committed round and 8.4 time penalties allowed them to scurry straight up the cliff face into 16th.

“I’m pretty elated — it was really fun. She just did everything so well that I think I smiled the whole way around,” says Cornelia, who sourced the former Sandra Auffarth ride through Dirk Schrade, and has since made her US team debut with the mare at Houghton Hall this spring. But although that was valuable experience — and an enormous milestone for Cornelia — it wasn’t the main aim of this year’s stint in the UK, where she’s been based with Australia’s Kevin McNab: “I came over in January with the goal of doing a five-star, and Kevin was always making an argument for Burghley, and I was like, ‘oh, we’ll see!’ I made him walk it with me like, six times!”

Though Daytona Beach often looked to have just one gear — sixth — around the course, her fast footwork, quick thinking, and gutsy, clever riding from Cornelia meant that they pulled it off through even the toughest combinations. And even in the exhausting latter stages of the course, the mare kept on running with her ears pricked.

“The Trout Hatchery was chaotic, but she just got it. All the riders that have ridden here said the horses tire around the Maltings, but they pick up a second wind after that, and she really did. She was definitely more tired than I’ve felt her, but she was pretty spritely [at the finish] even still.”

Cornelia, like her American compatriots, is familiar with Derek di Grazia’s course design, and that helped her to make a plan for how best to tackle his first Burghley track.

“Derek sets the course so that if you hit your minutes, you know that you’re in a proper canter for the course — so I just kept it in mind a little bit. But I think I was behind on my minutes for most of the way around, and I guess she had a really good pace. It didn’t feel easy, but what a partner: she picked up where I didn’t and we just had each other’s backs. It’s really surreal — the experience she just gave me was the experience of a lifetime. It was incredible.”

Emily Hamel and Corvett nail a year-end goal with a clear at Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Emily Hamel and Corvett were able to leap from 41st to 23rd place after picking up 30.4 time penalties — but upon arriving through the finish flags Emily, who’s been based in the UK with Canada’s Mike and Emma Winter this year, wasn’t sure whether to celebrate or not. She was initially awarded 20 penalties at the Trout Hatchery after making a last minute call to go the long route at the B element when ‘Barry’ delivered one of his characteristic big jumps in, ballooning Emily nearly out of the tack and making the straight route a near impossibility.

“He just jumped into the water funny, and then I pulled out to do the B option,” she says, but: “he was so good — he just kept going and trying, and I’m so glad I’m here with that horse.”

Emily came over to the UK in the spring to tackle Badminton, which she and Barry completed with a 20. Their summer has been spent training and competing in the heart of the sport, which prepared them well to come tackle the biggest challenge of their careers.

“It was tough, and I would say that’s the most tired I’ve been after a cross-country course, but it was really cool to go through the finish flags,” she says. Comforting, too, was the fact that Derek di Grazia had built the course — and Emily and her scopey gelding had previously had success over his five-star track at Kentucky. “It’s very similar — he rewards positive, forward riding, although this was a whole different level of difficulty. It was a real test, but Corvett’s so quick-footed that he just figured it all out — and he tried his heart out.”

Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent make easy work of much of Derek di Grazia’s track. Photo by Libby Law.

Meghan O’Donoghue picked up a frustrating 20 penalties at the Maltings complex after her ex-racehorse, Palm Crescent, jumped her out of the tack over the wide oxer at 14A, making the line to the open corner at B unjumpable. They slipped down ten places to 25th after adding a further 35.6 time penalties in a round that looked otherwise full of positives.

“I got jumped out of the tack over the oxer, and I wanted to get my head up and make it happen and pull off something incredible, but it wasn’t going to happen,” says Meghan. “He was absolutely incredible, though. The beginning comes up at you really quickly, and it’s a bit relentless, honestly — the horses really have to be on your side from the beginning, and there weren’t any places where you were going to make them into a five-star horse that day. That was probably Derek’s point — he didn’t want it to go any other way. Palmer was fighting for me from the beginning, and I’m thrilled to have had this experience. Hopefully I’ll be a better rider from it, and show up a little better from it.”

Tomorrow sees the final horse inspection start an exciting day of action from 9.30 a.m. BST/4.30 a.m. EST. We’ll bring you all the updates you need to know, plus full reports from the showjumping finale, right here on EN. Go Eventing.

The top ten after an exciting, influential day of cross-country at Burghley.

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