Meet the 17.2hh gentle giant who is more exhausting to trot up than gallop round Burghley

  • Kiwi event rider Hollie Swain is looking forward to tackling further CCI5*s after completing her second top-level event of the year, at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Her ride, 13-year-old Solo, struggles to control his anxiety, and Hollie had a double handful down the runway at the final horse inspection.

    “I would have thought going round Burghley would mean he came out today being a bit more tired,” says Hollie, 33. “I’ll have to go a bit faster next year!

    “He felt so much fun out there; he seemed to love it. Everyone said he is a Burghley horse and he was a delight to ride. I used up more energy trying to hold him down the trot-up strip than I did on cross-country yesterday.”

    Solo, a Danish Warmblood by Solos Landtinus, is a rangy 17.2hh, although Hollie says “he looks even bigger as he is uphill with a high head carriage”. She describes the chestnut – known as Freddie — fondly as “rather ginger”, but she puts his hotheadedness down to anxiety rather than excitement. Rather than dismount after each phase as many of the riders do to speak to owners and the press, Hollie takes him straight back to the stables.

    “He’s a very anxious horse, a gentle giant who would never hurt anyone,” Hollie says. “He wants to do a really good job, he tries so hard to do the best he possibly can, and it’s when he’s really trying that it boils over. It’s all about trying to find a way into his mind, it’s nothing physical. I could sit on him for weeks and weeks and it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference, so I have to be smart about what is going to bring his temperature, his mind, back down to neutral. We’ve never been in an environment like this before – it’s mind-blowing.

    “So I bring him out to ride, then put him away again and let him think about it – to just try to be a normal horse. But as he’s evolving all the time, I have to adapt the process.”

    Hollie Swain and Solo at the Burghley final trot-up

    Hollie Swain and Solo at the Burghley trot-up

    Hollie Swain: ‘Burghley course felt so much fun’

    The pair completed cross-country in their own time after an early run-out.

    “I knew the Leaf Pit would be trickiest fence for him given he is quite hot, but once I got that out of the way, I thought we could settle in,” she says. “Actually where I had to work hardest was the first road crossing where there was no fence, just saying, ‘buddy, you have to go up and down here’.

    “He is strong, but polite and as he’s starting to enjoy the job more, we are both building confidence. He felt so much fun out there because he has huge amounts of scope to jump those big fences.”

    Hollie last came to Burghley seven years ago when she was grooming for fellow Kiwi Jock Paget. She now runs her own yard in the Surrey Hills and is looking forward to bringing Solo back for more five-stars next season.

    “If anyone had said back in May, I’d be doing two five-stars I’d have taken that,” she says. “It’s been a struggle with him being hot in the dressage but I believed he’d have fun jumping those big fences. Now I’ve got this under my belt and hopefully we’ll come back with a clean sheet next time.”

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