Just under two weeks ago, Oliver Townend won the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on Ballaghmor Class (3 September 2017). This was the 10-year-old grey’s first attempt at four-star level and it was visually impressive. Here Oliver talks us through his cross-country ride step-by-step…
“I was happy with the round all the way through. I got out of the start box sharpish. I didn’t get the best shot to the first fence — I was a little quiet,” says Oliver.
“I picked up a really good stride to the brush at the Anniversary Splash — I then turned left and there was a beautiful six strides there into the water,” he adds. “He’s a really nice horse to jump into water so I just sat still and squeezed him and he did his job and hopefully made me look quite good! I moved him across the water and it was always my plan to jump the corner out of the water. I picked up quite a decent stride and he just looked at it and locked on and felt more and more confident as the round was going on.”
“Coming up to this I knew it was a quiet two stride distance in between the first log and the second seriously big log corner. He locked on again beautifully. I had a little bit of a bend in the middle but I was more than happy and as soon as he knew where he was wanting to go, he popped through there perfectly,” says Oliver.
“This is a daunting fence to ride to. As soon as I turned the corner, I saw a good shot, a dream shot really, and I gave him a squeeze and he absolutely flew it,” he says.
“I was travelling probably quicker than I was comfortable with at the Dairy Farm, but I quietly gave him a tug on the reins and he responded nicely, sat up and jumped the gate well,” says Oliver. “As soon as I jumped the gate I turned right then left, he saw the corner, there were two strides there and he jumped it brilliantly.”
“I picked up probably the worst stride of the whole round to the first part of this combination, the oxer. I was a million miles off it but I just thought that he was scopey and he would keep going. He flew that and I couldn’t believe how well he went through it. I landed, it walked a long four strides, but I quietly sat up and it ended up being a short four from the middle rail to the final corner.”
“I popped the first part, a brush, and then decided immediately having always planned to do so, to go the long route. He jumped into the water brilliantly — I ran him between the direct skinny brush and the tree, gave him time, he jumped the alternative triple brush brilliantly. I then turned right immediately for the final part of the long route, which was one of the most uncomfortable to take as the distance in the water to the fence didn’t help you. He still did a very good job.”
“I turned up tight to the cottage at the top of the Leaf Pit and my horse is now starting to feel a little tired,” he says. “He popped the cottage but left his back legs on it which is no problem — it slowed him down to canter down the hill. I didn’t get the distance I wanted to the first skinny at the bottom of the Leaf Pit, and then it was a tight left-handed turn on two big strides to the second skinny and that’s where he responded so honestly and unbelievable — that’s where he showed his pure class.”
“I picked up a good stride off the corner to the last fence and kicked him through the finish. It was absolutely brilliant and I couldn’t believe what a fantastic ride he had given me. This was more special than my earlier Burghley win when I was young and naïve and thought I was probably going to win it every year. Now I’m 34-years-old and it means a lot, lot more.”
The full report from Burghley Horse Trials is in the 7 September 2017 issue of Horse & Hound magazine