Blogging about my Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials experience isn’t going to be hard. I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am to have two entries (pictured above) for this absolutely outstanding event and the opportunity to share the experience with you all.
Burghley has always played a pivotal part in my life, thanks to my incredible gran who’s passion for the event inspired my love for the place — it’s a terrible shame that she never got to see me ride there.
As a child, with my family, we watched our landlords horse Kings Jester win a silver medal under Jane Thelwall (now Wallace) in the 1989 European championships — it was a moment that inspired a small boy to want to ride there. Seven year old Simon thought it would be easy, but the current Simon knows better, as it took a further 23 years of dogged determination to fulfil that dream.
While learning the eventing trade, I groomed at Burghley a number of times even being runner up for the grooms prize one year, but the opportunity to compete there still seemed an insurmountable dream. With a lot of graft, a pinch of luck and a dusting of incredibly generous support, the dream came true in 2012.
As far as my Burghley riding history goes, I have been lucky enough to complete with Maria Buckley’s wonderful horse Cornacrew on four separate occasions. Additionally, last year I had two entries, but just before the event I had a bad fall, ruling us out due to my injuries.
This year I have two rides, Drumbilla Metro and Douglas.
Drumbilla Metro (Splash)
Ten years old
Splash and I have been a partnership since 2014. Chosen and started by Catherine O’Connor from Vere Phillips’ yard, Splash was subsequently produced by my first ‘boss’ Debbie Edmundson before she suggested the ride be passed on to me. Debbie is a fantastic jockey, never receiving the recognition she deserved when she was in her prime and therefore, unsurprisingly did an incredible job producing this horse up to BE100 level and his first novice.
At the end of our first year together, we were selected to compete in Le Lion d’Angers at the world championship for young horses, cementing our partnership. Our biggest highlight so far was finishing 10th at Bramham CCI3* this year. He is a fantastic jumper and the dressage is our weaker link, although this is a work in progress. He can be grumpy in the stable, but is an out and out trier in every sense — I absolutely adore him. He is owned by Catherine, and her mother Merna Merrett, both of whom I have ridden for, for over 15 years. They have always been incredibly supportive of my eventing career, like a second family and so I am thrilled their horse has qualified to compete at the highest level.
14 years old
By ARD Douglas
Douglas was initially produced, absolutely beautifully by Emilie Chandler up to two-star level before he was sold for Oliver Townend to ride. Oliver did amazingly on him, winning a lot before Douglas had a break from eventing and went showjumping with Nina Barbour. Stewart and Vicki Irlam then bought him and offered me the ride. Vicki’s mother, Annie was one of my grandmother’s favourite people, plus my mum and Vicki are childhood friends, so our two families used to meet up every year at Burghley, which makes it rather lovely and fitting that I’m now planning to ride their horse at the great event. I hope Annie will be there to raise a glass to my gran at the event with me. I’ve ridden Douglas for just over a year and we have completed Burnham Market, Chatsworth, Barbury and Bramham three-star events together. He is a very handsome horse, who loves his job, is spooky as hell, but with a strong work ethic.
Both horses are out and out jumpers, great characters and I absolutely love working with them. In the run up to Burghley they have a tailored programme of dressage, and jump training together with a full fitness program including showjumping and eventing competitions. They work six days a week and have a pedicure (shoeing) every four weeks, together with regular physio sessions with the lovely Etti Dale. They are groomed and massaged daily by my great helper Maggie, and have as much turn out as possible as I think it’s good to keep them relaxed and happy.
Simon has endured some real ups and downs
There are so many things that can go wrong in the build up to a three-day event, so keep your fingers crossed for the boys. I look forward to keeping you posted in the build up to the Big B so look out for our updates. Until next time…