Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. That’s the latest from the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. People, heads down and shoulders hunched, stride from shop to shop with dejected-looking Labradors in tow.
Horses slosh down the centre line of the dressage arena, which now resembles a ploughed field, ears pinned back. The brims of top hats fill with water and eventually overflow, dripping water off the end of riders’ noses. Three-day events aren’t nearly so much fun in a monsoon.
But, given the conditions, there’s been some really good dressage in this second session. To persuade a horse to rise to the occasion when it’s like this is the sign of great riding, and great preparation.
How tempting it must be for a horse to say: “Actually, I don’t want to do this today.” To keep them listening and relaxed, like Shaabrak and Tamarillo, is impressive.
It will be very interesting to see what effect today’s constant heavy rain has on the rest of the competition. If this was my first four-star, and my dressage mark wasn’t great, would I feel discretion was the better part of valour and keep my horse for another day? I don’t know.
The course needs attacking, and anyone going out there half-heartedly may as well not go at all. But it’s not the most technical Burghley track ever seen, with most combinations jumped on a straight line — no sliding and twisting in the mud — and if some of the top lot choose not to risk their horses, those lower down the order could be in with a real chance. I’d certainly want to go out there as early as possible in the day when the ground is, at least, fresh.
William Fox-Pitt said in the post-dressage press conference: “It walks ok underfoot, but when you put a horse across it, it can be a different story.”
Let’s hope they all come back safe and sound.
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.