This year’s youngest Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials competitor is 20-year-old Libby Seed. Her equine partner will be What A Catch II, a 17-year old gelding, owned by Libby’s parents, Jonathon and Lesley.
Libby started riding ‘Guardi’ four years ago, and she never imagined he would be her first four-star horse.
“We bought him to teach me the dressage moves to be competitive in juniors,” explains Devizes-based Libby. “He was my first horse and he had just returned to work after sustaining a stress fracture — he wasn’t meant to jump again, but it was pot luck and he has just kept going and going.”
Guardi had been produced up to CCI2* by Danielle Dunn and with Libby, the pair were soon competing in their first advanced and three-stars, finishing eighth in the CCI3*U25 at Bramham and 25th in the CCI3* at Blenheim, both in 2016. The pair also competed at their first four-star in Luhmuhlen this year, jumping a great clear cross-country round, but were then sadly not accepted at the final horse inspection.
“I wanted to get selected onto the junior team with Guardi but I was always disappointed it was something we didn’t achieve,” explains Libby, who was a reserve in 2014 and 2015. “So when we forgot about trying to get on the team, each time we went up the levels it was a bit of a mini triumph. It’s bizarre that we’ve managed to keep bumbling on up and something I never expected.”
Libby admits that Guardi hasn’t been the easiest.
“We’re lucky that we live on sandy soil as it means Guardi can live out all summer and as much as possible in the winter — it helps to keep his older body moving around and sound,” she explains. “He’s got dodgy feet and our wonderful farrier, Martin Head, has been visiting us every other day in the run up to Burghley to tighten his shoes and keep a close eye on things.”
To ride, Guardi also has his own ideas about things.
“He’s a nutter in that he doesn’t know when to stop,” says Libby. “He’s so strong and I just have to focus on staying on! I can never let him go too fast else we run straight past narrow fences — I did it at Chatsworth this year when I was in a competitive position after the showjumping and paid the price with a run out.”
On the ground Libby describes Guardi as a “prima donna”.
“He’s so cheeky and has to have all the attention — he even has his own Shetland, ‘Mitch’, to hang out with,” laughs Libby. “But he knows when he’s on the lorry on his own, that he must be going to a big competition and is great.”
This technically isn’t the first time Libby has ridden at Burghley. She paraded there in 2013 with the European pony eventing team, with whom she won team gold.
“I want to get round and have a good finish,” she says. “I’d like to do a similar dressage to the one we did in Luhmuhlen [where the pair scored 55.2] and then would love to jump clear across country with no more than 20 time-faults if that seems realistic on the day. Then, if I get that far, I would love to showjump clear, but really I just want to get out of the start box and give it a good go.”
Libby isn’t fased by the fact she is the youngest competitor in this year’s field.
“Having qualified, I have as much right to be there as anyone else,” she says. “It is a bit like going into the unknown for both of us, but I feel like we’ve done our prep and we’re ready for it.”