The first Burghley Horse Trials was held in 1961 when the Marquess of Exeter heard that the autumn three-day event at Harewood had been cancelled and invited the British Horse Society to transfer the event to his estate.
In just its second year, Burghley ran the 1962 FEI European Championship to begin a remarkable record of hosting championship competitions. No other international horse trials site has staged as many championships as Burghley; a record 10 have been held there, including the first World Championship in 1966. To date Burghley has run two World Championships (1966 and 1974), six European Championships (1962, 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989 and 1997) and one Young Riders European Championship (1978).
Burghley holds the current record for being the international event to run for the longest period without a break. During its 48-year history there have been just six course designers: Bill Thomson, MRCVS 1961 – 1983 (consultant 1984 – 1988); Lt. Col. Henry Nicoll, DSO, OBE 1975; Philip Herbert 1984 – 1988; Capt. Mark Phillips, CVO, 1989 – 1996, 1998 – 2000 and 2005 – 2008; Mike Tucker 1997 and 2001; and Wolfgang Feld 2002 – 2004.
The most successful riders in the history of Burghley are Ginny Elliot (formerly Holgate and Leng) and Mark Todd, who have both claimed the prestigious title on five occasions. Ginny’s famous partner Priceless is the only horse to have done the double.
Lorna Clarke holds the record for the most Burghley completions; an impressive 16 between 1967 and 1989. Mark Todd and Blyth Tait are the only two riders to have taken first and second places in the same event in 1987 and 1998 respectively.
Pippa Funnell became the first person ever to win $250,000 as the Rolex Grand Slam winner by winning Lexington, Badminton and Burghley in a 12-month period in 2003.