Burghley Horse Trials blog day one: weather and celeb spotting

  • In Britain, we like to talk about the weather. Sun, snow, rain or fog, it is a truth universally acknowledged that there’s always something to say about the elements when two people get together on this island.

    But at horse trials, weather takes on a special meaning. Will the sun bake the ground too hard for my horse to run across country? Or will the rain make the going soggy?

    This week at Burghley Horse Trials, it’s definitely the latter. Sporadic showers have punctuated today’s dressage action, but monsoon conditions are predicted for the second flatwork session tomorrow.

    William Fox-Pitt said at tonight’s press conference that the going at present on the cross-country is good, if soft in places, so if it’s as wet as forecast tomorrow, it could be on the boggy side by Saturday.

    I took time out from weather discussions today to do a bit of celeb spotting — Mark Todd was hanging round the dressage this morning, and seemed to be taking a particular interest in Karin Donckers’ attractive chestnut horse SS Jett. Could the New Zealand legend be planning his next purchase for another assault on the eventing scene after his comeback in Hong Kong? Rumour has it he’s back for good and planning to build a team of horses again.

    Some of the press gang were lucky enough to be invited to a rather nice lunch today — in a posh tent out of the rain — by HSBC, who are here at Burghley on account of the FEI Classics, the big prize-money series they are sponsoring which links five of the world’s four-star events.

    I sat next to Lord Carew, the recently retired Irish dressage judge. Having been third at Burghley himself back in the 1960s, he had plenty of war stories about the old days. The near drowing of a Russian horse, not to mention Irish competitor Tommy Brennan, at the Mexico Olympics of 1968 was a highlight, as well as some marvellous tales of the glory days of events at Wylye, the late Lady Hugh Russell’s base in Wiltshire which used to host British team training.

    Meanwhile, the serious business of the day took place in the main arena, where Oliver Townend has put in his best dressage test for some time with Flint Curtis to secure the lead overnight. Who can overtake him tomorrow? Don’t forget to come back to find out.

    Keep logging onto www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley08 for updates, blogs and video from Burghley.

    Don’t forget to buy Horse & Hound next Thursday (11 September) for a 12-page special report, colour photographs and William Fox-Pitt’s comment.

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