Burghley first-timers: Eliza Stoddart — ‘We sat on the edge of the Leaf Pit in Pony Club and agreed that one day we would ride around the ‘real thing’’

  • Twenty-six-year-old Eliza Stoddart will be one of the most local competitors at this year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (5-8 September). She is based just over the border in rural Leicestershire, and the Burghley dream has always been a big part of her life.

    “I was in the Fernie branch of the Pony Club and when we came to compete at Burghley Pony Club events, such as hunter trials and one-day events, I frequently walked the course with two of my friends,” explains Eliza, who events full-time. “We’d often sit on the edge of the Leaf Pit while coursewalking and agreed with each other that one day we would ride around the ‘real thing’.”

    Eliza, who contested her first five-star earlier this year at Luhmühlen on Dick O Malley, will be heading to Burghley riding Anne Staley’s 11-year-old home-bred, Priorspark Opposition Free, or Razor, as he is known at home.

    “I took over the ride on Razor when he was six — Anne had described him as a bit of a stuffy horse and she didn’t have great expectations for him,” says Eliza, who trains with Chris Bartle and Ian and Amy Woodhead. “But then at both of our first CCI4*-S attempt at Belton in 2018, he made it feel easy, finishing eighth and it was then I realised how good he was.”

    Since then, Eliza and Razor have added a number of notable results to their record. These include 11th in the CCI4*-S at Chatsworth and 20th in the CCI4*-L at Bramham this year, where, if it wasn’t for a broken frangible pin which meant they incurred 11 penalties, they would have finished inside the top 10.

    “He’s such a good cross-country horse and he is very capable of producing a good dressage test as he has such a great brain and is very rideable in the ring,” Eliza explains of the son of Fleetwater Opposition. “I don’t have any set expectations for Burghley, I just want to feel like we’ve both done our best and for me to give him a good experience.”

    Eliza says Razor is full of character and can be a bit tricky to handle on the ground sometimes.

    “He’s been known to get away from strong men in-hand and he also wakes me up very early each morning, banging his door to be fed, but he has a huge heart.”

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    Eliza will be particularly busy on the Friday of Burghley as she has four horses qualified for the four- and five-year-old Burghley Young Event Horse final, a class she has a great track record in.

    “I’m used to riding a lot of horses each day, so it won’t be much different to the usual,” she says. “It will be lovely to have the owners of those young horses at Burghley there and hopefully they will enjoy their experience and seeing me competing in the five-star will inspire them to keep those horses with me.

    “Having walked the cross-country course there so many times previously and knowing the lay of the land, I hope that will give me the confidence to do everyone proud and have fun — I can’t wait to get out there.”

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