Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials first-timers Tom Rowland and Possible Mission have very much dotted their ‘Is’ and crossed their ‘Ts’ in preparation for the big event. As a combination they have 10 CIC3* and three CCI3* completions to their name, most recently finishing 10th in the CIC3* at Burgham last month.
“He’s a cool horse but still relatively young,” Tom says of the 11-year-old. “He’s a tough and bold horse and I’m so lucky that his owners, Robin and Bunny Patrick, took a chance and put their faith in me six years ago when I was 21, when giving me the ride.”
Tom, a full-time event rider who is based near Cirencester, explains the history behind ‘Hunter’.
“Robin and Bunny bought him as a five-year-old out of a hunting yard in Ireland. He had been hunting since he was just three and I’ve seen old pictures of him jumping massive banks, drains and fences — this certainly gave him his bravery. The only problem is that he didn’t see a showjump until he was five and, as a result, he can still be spooky in this phase.”
On the ground, Hunter has proved to be quite a character.
“He’s very cocky and can sometimes be infuriating, but if he didn’t have that side to him, he would just be a boring cob,” laughs Tom, who is nursing a sore collarbone after a fall from a different horse at Hartpury a couple of weeks ago. “He dig holes in his stable and he loves to roll so much, that if you don’t take the tack off him quickly enough after each phase at a competition, he won’t wait — he’ll be straight down, tack and all!”
Twenty-eight-year-old Tom says that he has been to watch at Burghley a couple of times and he’s really looking forward to giving it a go.
“I want to give Hunter the best possible experience I can and we’re more than ready for a crack at it. He’s a real tough sort and the type I hope I can campaign at four-star level year in, year out. I feel like if I go sensibly this time, we will be in a good position to have a better go next year, and I would love to finish in the top 50% so that we get our Badminton qualification.”
Pammy Hutton will be on-hand to help Tom in the first phase: “I booked her straight after Tattersalls in May,” he laughs. While Roland Fernyhough has helped him with his jumping and Venetia Chamberlen, Hunter’s “unofficial owner” will also be on hand to give advice.
“Venetia is a fantastic long-term supporter and a huge influence on me. Hunter lives with her every winter, where she does his initial fitness work.”
Former double Burghley winner Blyth Tait walks the cross-country course for this year's event, giving his views in videos of
This will be the first time Robin and Bunny have had their own runner at Burghley since 2000, when they had Just A Mission competing under Mark Todd at his final event before his attempt at retirement from eventing. The pair finished a creditable eighth.
“We’ve had really good prep, and I hope 18 years later, I can provide Robin and Bunny with the same level of enjoyment.”
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.