Katie Barber is no stranger to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (1-4 September) having visited the event every year for as long as she can remember. But this year she swaps her spectator hat for a riding one as she makes her Burghley and four-star debut.
Horses have always played a huge role in Leicestershire-based Katie’s life.
“Mum put me on a pony when I was about two-weeks-old,” says Katie. “I would lie on the back of horses while she mucked out — it used to be the only way of shutting me up as a child.”
“I vividly remember one year when I was about 10-years-old I was walking the cross-country course at Burghley and I said that one day I was going to do it. Someone replied: ‘Don’t be silly, you won’t be able to do this’, and I just thought ‘yes I can’, and now here we are!”
Katie, who is a full-time rider, will be riding the 15-year-old mare Woodfield Ria at Burghley.
“We sourced Ria as a hunter for a loyal friend of mine, Isobel Crosbie, from Laura Hill who had produced her to three-star level. In the end, hunting wasn’t really for her and so we decided to take her back to eventing,” explains Katie.
“Isobel gave me a half share in Ria for my birthday and eventually I bought her out,” says Katie who was entered at Burghley last year but was forced to withdraw two weeks before due to a small injury to her horse.
“Caroline Moore [who trains Katie] said to me last year; ‘come on Katie, it’s time you entered Burghley’, so I took the plunge,” Katie admits.
There is a secret weapon that helps keep Ria on side at events: extra strong mints.
“We got through about 20 packs of strong mints at Bramham,” laughs Katie. “I suddenly panicked and thought I best check whether there are any banned substances in them before Burghley. Thankfully there aren’t.”
Katie says she has watched the Burghley cross-country preview “about eight times”.
“I can’t wait to get into the start box, and obviously I would love a good shot of us going over the Cottesmore Leap to put on the mantelpiece at home,” she says.
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“I’m scared to death of what the dressage commentators are going to say about our test! Ria has a habit of sitting down in her halts. I can’t do anything about it, so we always get a mark of three for those bits,” admits Katie.
“Ria is a very good horse and I just want to make a good job of it — I’m so excited.”