Burghley first-timers: Hector Payne — ‘I won’t believe it’s happening until I’m going down the centre-line’

  • “It’s surreal and I won’t believe it’s happening until I’m going down the centre-line,” says 26-year-old Hector Payne ahead of his first Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials attempt. “I don’t want to jinx it.”

    Hector has a long-standing link to Burghley. His father, Michael Payne, and grandmother, Judith Skinner, owned Ballincoola, who not only completed Burghley very successfully six times under William Fox-Pitt, but also won it in 2005.

    “I have endless memories of the place — for many people it’s all about Badminton, but for me, it’s always been Burghley.”

    Hector will actually be riding a horse part-owned by his grandparents, Jeremy and Judith Skinner, with the other half belonging to David and Margie Hall, at this year’s Burghley; the 10-year-old Dynasty.

    “William Fox-Pitt bought ‘Raffles’ as a six-year-old from Vicky Tuffs,” explains Hector, who trains with Ian Woodhead and John Adams. “He campaigned him up to two-star level, culminating in third place at the British seven-year-old championships at Osberton in 2015, just before William’s terrible fall at Le Lion D’Angers.”

    While William was out of action, Hector took over the reins on Raffles before the words every young event rider dreams of hearing were uttered.

    “After Raffles and I were third in the CCI2* under-25 section at Tattersalls in 2016, William said ‘I think Hector should keep him’ — it was a great opportunity.”

    Since then, Hector and Raffles have enjoyed plenty of top five two-star placings and he sights the CCI3* at Tattersalls earlier this year as their best result to date.

    “We were eighth and finished on our dressage score which was a big achievement for us,” says Hector, who has recently set up his own yard near Andover in Hampshire.

    According to Hector, who thinks Raffles currently stands somewhere around 17.1hh, the horse can be “quite rude”.

    “Due to his size he can push you around a bit on the ground — he knows what he wants and to be honest, it’s often easier to just let him do what he wants,” he laughs. “He’s an out and out jumper though and is attacking across country. He should do a good dressage test, but he can be opinionated and this can sometimes come between us and a good mark.”

    Hector admits he has watched the Burghley cross-country course preview video a few times.

    “I thought it looked very difficult at first, but the more I’ve watched it, the more doable it seems. I think the Rolex combination looks interesting — we will have to wait and see how the horses read the rail over the ditch, and the Trout Hatchery looks very technical too. I’ve been cross-country schooling where we’ve tried to replicate certain Burghley fences in preparation.”

    Read Blyth Tait’s thoughts on every fence on the cross-country course, plus ratings and his overall impressions, in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine (dated 30 August). Full Burghley form guide also included in this issue, with vital stats and H&H’s expert assessment of every combination competing.

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