After a thoroughly depressing spring, with all the major events being cancelled due to the terrible weather and resulting ground conditions, I’m sure I am not the only person who is delighted to be finally getting their four-star fix, whether as a rider, spectator or member of the press.

When I arrived yesterday there was a real air of anticipation as the final preparations were being put in place by the Burghley “army”. It’s incredible how many people are involved with running an event of this size, from the council workers putting out the cones to keep the local roads clear, to the technical guys sorting out the phones and internet lines in the press office, to the hundreds of staff involved in setting up the tradestands ready for thousands of shoppers.

After walking the course, I can confirm it’s as big as ever, with many of the fences being positioned in such a way as to require intelligent but bold riding. Burghley’s natural topography is truly energy sapping — I was tired after walking round it on my own two feet, yet alone riding it at 570m per min.

Speaking to the riders after their initial coursewalks, the general consensus is that the most intense part of the course is from the Discovery Valley through to the Land Rover Dairy Farm, but there is still plenty to jump and a long way to go before you pass through the finish. The ground is beautifully prepared and has taken the rain of yesterday and today, while the weather forecast suggests an improving picture.

Riders doing dressage tomorrow may be particularly grateful for this as many horses struggled to cope with the blustery conditions in the main arena today. I really felt for Georgie Spence, who had a horrible time with a particularly uncooperative Bow House Mandalin, and Kristi Nunnink, who forgot her extended canter, but carried on determinedly until she was finally stopped and had to retrace her steps.

Luckily Georgie has another ride to look forward to with Running Brook II drawn second last to go, with just Mark Todd to follow her into the dressage arena tomorrow. It promises to be an exciting competition, so if you can’t be here in person, don’t forget to join us for H&H Live — it really is the next best thing to being here.

Carol

Report on first day of dressage

Follow every phase of Burghley as it happens using H&H Live, our interactive written commentary supported by Baileys Horse Feeds. Review today and join in tomorrow at www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley2012live.

Make sure you buy H&H next week (6 September) for our 10-page special Burghley report, with full analysis of every phase, comments from dressage expert Sally O’Connor and former winner Ginny Elliot and more.