Anneli Drummond-Hay recalls her ride on Merely A Monarch at the first ever Burghley

We had competed in relatively few horse trials before setting off for the first Burghley in 1961, when Monarch was just six, but already a grade A show jumper. His only experience of jumping water consisted of leaping over puddles on the road.

When I saw the hilly cross-country course at Burghley I was horrified, as several of the fences were tricky and I was nervous of hurting Monarch, who was now so valuable.

Monarch floated through his dressage test, capturing the judges’ imagination so that we led by 30 marks. We were drawn last to go across country and the news got back to me that everyone else had fallen.

I took Monarch carefully and cantered him round – he had a huge stride that just ate up the ground. He was a trifle spooky, but he cleared everything, including the stone wall located at the bottom of a deep ditch, a bullfinch, and the “bogey” fence, the Trout Hatchery, where a hole in the bottom had caused a lot of the falls.

The Trout Hatchery that year consisted of a choice of a high post and rails to the water, or a log with a bigger drop in. I chose the latter option and then squeezed around the side, thus avoiding the troublesome hole.

The next day, Monarch show jumped clear and we won by a wide margin. At the prize-giving, I received a plaque and about £50.

The next spring we won Badminton by a record margin – 42 points – but afterwards I switched Monarch to pure show jumping.

By then I was being offered £60,000 for him, so he really was too valuable to risk in eventing, plus I was desperate to ride at the Olympics and women were then still barred from competing in the three day-event.

In 1962, Monarch won the Imperial Cup at the Royal International at White City and so became the only event horse ever to win Badminton and a major international show jumping class in the same year.

I retired him when he was 16, because he had injured himself while competing in Rome, and gave him to Merlin Meakin, who had always looked after him. She hunted him until he was 25 and had to be put down.

Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (12 September) where Cian O’Connor talks about his ‘ride of a lifetime’ on Waterford Crystal.

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