Clare Abbott has been a stalwart of the Irish eventing team during the past few years and this is the reason she has yet to make her debut at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
With her super equine partner, Euro Prince (or ‘Sparky’ as he is known at home), Clare rode at the Olympic Games in Rio, the 2014 World Equestrian Games and the 2013 European championships in Malmo. And that’s without mentioning clocking up three cross-country clear rounds at Badminton from three attempts, ninth at Pau CCI4* in 2015, plus a CCI3* win at Ballindenisk.
So Clare is understandably very excited about the prospect of competing at her first Burghley next week.
“I’m really looking forward to it — I’m wishing this weekend away as I honestly can’t wait,” laughs Clare, who is returning to work as a maths teacher after Burghley following a one-year sabbatical from her job to focus on Rio. “Unfortunately I did have to tell work that despite my one-year break, I did still need the first week of term off as I’m competing at Burghley!”
Clare says that the plan to go to Burghley was made after Badminton.
“His owners and breeders, Cormac and John McKay, said after Badminton that they thought it would be better to aim Sparky at Burghley rather than the European championships in Strzegom,” explains Clare, who is based in Co. Down. “I completely agreed and I think to go to Burghley with the experience Sparky has is very exciting.”
Clare has had the ride on Sparky since the end of his five-year-old year, and he bounded up the levels, competing at Le Lion D’Angers World Young Horse seven-year-old final and then going three-star as an eight-year-old.
“He’s a big personality and so confident,” explains Clare. “He often thinks ‘I don’t need a rider, I know what I’m doing’ and is so full of life. He lives life in fast forward and you have to be a very fast walker in order to lead him out!”
Despite his 14 years, Clare is excited about what the future holds for Sparky.
“All three phases are good now and if I can show him the way, we are capable of a good result,” says Clare. “He hasn’t got extensive mileage so I’m hoping there plenty more four-stars in him.”
Clare has watched the course preview video and seen the H&H course walk feature with Mary King.
“I read what Mary has said about the course and the type of horse it requires and I thought, ‘oh my goodness — it describes my boy down to a tee!’” laughs Clare. “You need a horse that holds their line and is very brave, and along with being feisty, that’s exactly what Sparky is — I wouldn’t swap him for any other horse that is entered.”
Clare and Sparky have a very early draw at Burghley, being number eight. This means that they will do their dressage on Thursday morning and then have a long wait until Saturday. But fortunately Clare has another of her horses qualified for the five-year-old Burghley Young Event Horse final, which takes place on Friday.
“It’s nice to have the young horse there to help fill the time,” says Clare of ‘Hamada’, who is also out of Sparky’s half sister and owned and bred by the McKay’s.
Meet the horse that 'bucked like billyo' and
Meet the four-star horse that was initially discovered
Clare is excited about going to Burghley to be competitive.
“After Badminton, I know that a top 10 result is achievable for us — if I do my job right, we can do well,” says Clare. “Sparky isn’t an out and out dressage horse, but he is more than capable of scoring in the low 40s and if we can finish as close as we can to that score, we should be competitive.”
Don’t miss H&H’s Burghley preview issues — course walk with Mary King and interview with event director Liz Inman in this week’s issue (dated 24 August) and 16-page pull-out with form guide for every entry in the following issue (dated 31 August).