I wonder if top riders practise producing their best in the pouring rain? The thought occurred to me today as I sat, damp to my knicker elastic, watching the final, gripping phase of the Land Rover Burghley Horse trials unfold in torrential rain (note to self – ALWAYS have an umbrella in the car).
The final 20 rounds were not without incident – and it must have been hard to keep horses properly warm before their rounds. It rained so hard that riders’ cardboard numbers started disintegrating and falling off them mid-round.
Several horses seemed reluctant really to travel over the increasingly saturated ground, including, I thought, Mary King’s first ride Apache Sauce, and Sam Griffiths’ today, inappropriately named Happy Times. Poor Kitty King had a horrid time. A stirrup leather flew off her saddle, and High Havoc, perhaps sensing this, put down in front of a gate. Kitty was required to continue without the iron – and struggled on manfully til he stopped again. How devastating to see a potential top 20 placing become, instead, elimination.
There were few clear rounds. Mark Todd demonstrated what a magician he still is coaxing one out of Major Milestone. Lauren Shannon rode a beauty on Zero Flight. But William Fox-Pitt’s on the extravagant Parklane Hawk was stunning – and raised the roof. What a record – six Burghleys! But special mention should also go to last year’s veteran winner Lenamore, whose round yesterday must have won ‘man of the match’. He jumped for fun, looking as lithe as an eight year old.
What a campaigner he has been for Caroline Powell.