Autumn has well and truly arrived at Burghley but it will take more than a few gusts and squalls to put a dampener on the atmosphere here.
No one seems to have thoughts of a global recession in the tradestands which are heaving with people buying everything from horseshoe sculptured dogs to glittery cupcakes.
The first day’s dressage has been memorable more for the grim than the glorious — you don’t often see riders turning in 80-something scores at a four-star event, but grandstands groaning in the wind did little to help the causes of poor Nicola Malcolm (McFly) and Laura Shears (Wulstan Rock On). Mind you, the latter looks a determinedly forward going sort for cross-country day based on the way she tanked off with her rider down the final centreline.
Tomorrow’s dressage features some real schoolmasters of the elite eventing circuit; horses I’ve been following with pleasure for several years: Spring Along (first to go, so make sure you’re at the arena for 9.30am if you want to see him and Daisy Dick, pictured), James Robinson’s faithful campaigner Comanche, and the lovely Lenamore, to name but a few.
Third last — and definitely worth catching — is Mary King on her mare Kings Temptress. This is the first British four-star she has tackled on one of her home-bred horses, and with Mary having produced her from day one, I’ll bet she turns in a good test whatever the atmosphere.
The going seems likely to be nigh on perfect for on Saturday, and though Mark Phillips has honoured his promise to “fry” the mushrooms that produced so many ugly moments last year, this course, as ever, will take lots of jumping.
It took me ages to work out that the two almost adjacent skinny hedges at 23b and 24a in the main arena are meant to be jumped one after t’other, on an acute angle. Just a bit slow on the take up — what can I say? I’ve been pre-novicing lately!
Replay today’s action and follow the competition live tomorrow with H&H online’s up-to-the-minute written commentary, starting again tomorrow at approximately 9.20am. Visit www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghleylive.
Keep up with all H&H’s online Burghley coverage at www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley2009 and don’t forget to buy H&H next week (10 September) for our 10-page Burghley special report.