“I’m something in between terrified and excited,” admits Lillian Heard ahead of her Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials debut in just under two week’s time.

Hailing from Pennsylvania in the United States, Lillian says that Burghley is “the most beastly and wild thing you can do.”

Lillian’s Burghley ride is LCC Barnaby, a horse she found in Ireland when he was six.

“At the time I had moved over to Ireland to get more international experience and based myself with Carol Gee of Fernhill Sport Horses,” explains Lillian, who also has a double major in literature and foreign affairs, specialising in the Middle East. “The horse I had taken with me then broke down and so I needed a new one. I had never been horse shopping on my own before and Boyd Martin [Lillian’s long-term trainer] said that if the horse is a good jumper, buy it. We had this horse in at the time — he was nuts, out of control and generally we hated riding him, but then he kept jumping and jumping. I thought if I could learn to control him, then he would be a good horse, so I bought him.”

That horse was Barnaby.

Lillian then decided to spend a season in Britain eventing.

“I don’t know how you guys do it — almost every event I entered was cancelled due to rain!” she laughs. The pair managed to squeeze in four BE100 events before heading back to the US, and they have since completed two four-stars, both at Rolex Kentucky.

“Burghley has always been the pinnacle for me and at Rolex I had in the back of my mind ‘this is a Burghley horse’,” Lillian says of the 11-year-old Irish Sports Horse. “The only problem I’ve had with him is that he is so strong across country and the more of a bit I put in his mouth, the worse he gets.”

This is something Lillian has worked hard on to improve.

“My inclination has always been to start slowing Barnaby down 20 strides in front of each fence, but I’m now more brave to slow him down later and then I move away from the fence instantly to make up any time I’ve lost,” she explains. “If there will ever be a course that will back him off, it will be Burghley!”

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Lillian has never been to Burghley before as a visitor.

“I’ll just have to get on with it! If Barnaby can see the flags, he will go through them,” says Lillian who rides and coaches full-time. “Although we’ve never managed it, I would like a dressage score in the 40s as we’ve been working so hard on it. If I could then follow that up with a fast double clear that would be amazing.”

Don’t miss H&H’s Burghley preview issues — course walk with Mary King and interview with event director Liz Inman in next week’s issue (dated 24 August) and 16-page pull-out with form guide for every entry in the following issue (dated 31 August).