‘He will always give 100%’: youngest Burghley competitor marks major milestone with first five-star completion

  • Tom Bird, the youngest competitor in the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials field, has made his dream a reality by recording his first five-star completion.

    Tom, 21, and the former hunt horse Rebel Rhyme jumped in the morning session and head home with their first five-star under their belts.

    Watch Tom Bird speak about his first Burghley in the video below

    “It’s been brilliant. I can’t fault him, he’s been super all week,” said Tom, of his first Burghley Horse Trials experience.

    “The showjumping didn’t quite go to plan today. But to finish is a massive achievement and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

    He added: “He was jumping really well in the warm-up, I think if I’m honest, I went in a little bit nervous, a bit quiet, and had the first three fences down, which was due to me. I’ve never jumped in an atmosphere like that and went in a bit quiet, which was disappointing.

    We picked it back up and got jumping, then I just hit a really wrong distance down to a big oxer. But he’s come out, actually jumped very well and made a good shape on the nice day and to finish is a brilliant achievement.”

    The pair added 27.6 showjumping faults, a mix of jumping and time, to their two-phase total, to give them a finishing score of 121.9 and valuable experience at the top-level.

    In a H&H feature ahead of Burghley, Tom revealed that the plan with 13-year-old “Hughie” had been to compete at novice level “and maybe an intermediate”, but the gelding exceeded all expectations.

    The pair were second in the under-25 national championship at Bramham and their other CCI4*-L form includes seventh at Ballindenisk in April and 10th at Kronenburg in 2022.

    “It’s been a journey, that’s for sure. We bought him off the hunting field; he had become too excited for that job and needed a career change, so I was very grateful to my uncle David Kerry for helping us buy him, as he’s all we could afford,” said Tom.

    “He absolutely ate up the cross-country course yesterday, he didn’t deserve his 20 penalties [at the Leaf Pit] – he actually turned too well and jumped the big part of the shoulder brush the wrong side of the flag.

    “He came out today and I made a couple of mistakes early in our showjumping round, but got better and I’m just super proud of him.”

    Tom added that the Irish-bred grey “loved to learn and wants to please”.

    “He finds some of it not as easy as other horses might, but he will always give 100% and that’s what makes him so special,” he said.

    “To come and tick off our first Burghley is a massive achievement and hopefully we will nail it all ready for Badminton next year.”

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