“Most people make a plan to run at Burghley well in advance, but that certainly hasn’t been the case for us,” says Sam Ecroyd, this year’s youngest competitor at the age of 21 at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (29 August-2 September), which will also mark his first four-star attempt.
Sam will be riding Vicki Irlam’s Master Douglas, but the road to Burghley hasn’t been a particularly smooth one for the 12-year-old gelding.
“He’s actually only done five events since 2016,” explains Sam of the horse that he took over the ride on that year, after being produced to three-star by Helen Jones (née Waterhouse). “He had a little injury last year so only did one event in the spring. Then we fell at our first event back in the three-star at Belton this spring and went straight from there to Bramham’s CCI3* under-25 where we finished third, which just shows what a good horse he is — it was a brave move.”
Post-Bramham was the first time the idea of going to Burghley came about, and after a double clear in the CIC3* at Burgham, an entry to the four-star was placed.
“We started to get excited and then realised we needed one more qualifying result in a CIC3*,” says Sam, who is based in Cheshire. “So we had to stop ourselves getting excited and pinned everything on a good result at Hartpury in the CIC3*.”
Happily Sam and ‘Ringo’ jumped another good double clear and so it was full-steam ahead.
Interestingly Ringo doesn’t live on Sam’s yard; instead he is stabled with Ewart Woolley and David Meyrick, a 30min drive away.
“Ewart and David do all of Ringo’s hacking and fitness work and I go and school and jump him in-between,” explains Sam, who has worked particularly hard on improving this horse’s flatwork. “He has been difficult in the first phase in the past — he struggled to control his body and when he threw his toys out of the pram he would stick his head between his legs and grind to a halt. We’ve played around with a lot of bits and have settled on a bendy rubber snaffle which doesn’t offend him— he does a much better test now.”
Former double Burghley winner Blyth Tait walks the cross-country course for this year's event, giving his views in videos of
Sam says that he has watched the Burghley cross-country course preview once: “but I tried to not take too much notice!”
“My hope is to go and win, but that’s not my expectation,” he says very matter-of-factly. “My main aim is to go there and not make a fool of myself.
“Ringo is a lovely horse to have around — he’s sensitive and alert, but a real gent. He’s unique and special and I wouldn’t want to be tackling my first four-star on any other horse.”
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.