Piggy French holds joint lead at Burghley: ‘I thought maybe she’d get excited, but she kept her brain’

Piggy French holds the joint lead after a strong test as the last rider in the morning session today at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (Friday, 6 September).

The rider scored 26.9 for her fault-free performance on Trevor Dickens’ Vanir Kamira, the horse with whom she won Badminton this spring.

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“I’m really pleased with her — she’s not a dressage horse, so the clear round is what’s important with her,” said Piggy. “There are little bits she finds so hard — like even simple things like the canter to trot on the final centreline and keeping straightness — so it never feels that good.

“I milked the Badminton prize giving so I thought maybe she would go in front of the crowds and get excited, but she kept her brain.

“We’ll keep working towards the better marks, but I don’t think there’s a lot more in her.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow, Piggy said she “hates” the double of gates — the Land Rover at The Lake at fence 16ab — on Mark Phillips’ cross-country course.

“To have a double of gates on one or two strides on an angle is brave at that stage of the course, but we all trust Captain Mark Phillips, so we’ve just got to get out there and ride it,” she said. “But I’d like to bypass that one!”

US riders were to the fore in the first session this morning, with two taking the lead in quick succession.

Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z scored a personal best of 28.4 for their test, which was only marred by lower scores for the flying changes. The horse is owned by The Deniro Syndicate and Ocala Horse Properties and this pair now sit third at the lunchbreak.

“He’s such a wonderful horse and we have such a great partnership — he goes in the ring and gives me everything,” said Elisabeth. “I enjoy dressage — I’m a dressage geek — and it’s a joy to march down the centreline on a horse you know is going to try for you.

“In another year, I think we’ll be there with the flying changes. He’s always found everything easy except for them and conformationally he finds them difficult because he’s ‘bum high’. They are mostly clean at home now.”

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Elisabeth was soon overtaken by her compatriot Hannah-Sue Burnett, with her long-term partner Harbour Pilot, owned by Jacqueline Mars. The pair’s neat test earned 26.9, so they are now joint leaders with Piggy and Vanir Kamira.

Burghley 2019 Hannah-Sue Burnett

Hannah-Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot at Burghley 2019

“He was awesome. I was disappointed with our test at Kentucky, where he exploded, so I rode him in a bit extra today to make sure he didn’t get nervous and he got better and better in the arena — I felt like I had my old reliable horse back,” said Hannah-Sue.

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The final session of dressage this afternoon includes the winners of Burghley for the past two years — defending champions Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy and 2017 victors Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class.

Check back for more reports on Burghley throughout the weekend. Full report from Burghley in next week’s H&H magazine (issue dated 12 September), including exclusive comments from Harry Meade and ground jury president Nick Burton.