Burghley fifth for youngest rider: ‘Family friends remember me crying at jumping 70cm’

  • Alice Casburn finished fifth at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials this afternoon (4 September), moving up the order with a clear showjumping round – a phenomenal result for the youngest rider in the field.

    Alice, 20, rode beautifully to rise from eighth on her mother Caroline’s Topspin, a second-generation home-bred.

    “He was phenomenal,” she said. “I was really nervous going in. I was quite relaxed in the lorry park, came down, saw quite a few people and I was just thinking, ‘You’re not here, it’s just showjumping at home.’

    “Then I went in the ring when the crowds were cheering for everyone else and I was like, ‘Oh OK, I really am here’, and my heart started to go and he spooked at the plant pot going in, in his usual fashion. I think that’s when I know he’s up for it and he wants to have a good crack. He jumped exactly like he was up for it.”

    Alice has had an incredible 12 months with Topspin. She was 19th at Pau Horse Trials last October on her five-star debut, with a double jumping clear, and then 19th at Badminton Horse Trials, where again she was the youngest rider. This summer, the pair also took the young rider team gold and individual bronze.

    “I’m just in shock,” said Alice after her round. “I shake when I get off and I stood there shaking for a good couple of minutes. I can’t believe it – to have finished off my year like this is phenomenal. I’m so grateful, he was fantastic.”

    Alice has impressed many with mature riding beyond her years and apparently ice-cool nerves at the British five-stars this year, but says she isn’t naturally a brave rider or person.

    “I saw some family friends yesterday and they said they remembered when I was crying my eyes out refusing to go in the ring for a 70cm,” said Alice Casburn after her Burghley Horse Trials showjumping round.

    The rider copes by blocking out social media and has a “nice small bubble”.

    She says: “I’m just in denial when I’m there, it’s just riding round blanking everything out and just imagining I’m at a training show. So I never was that brave. I hit the hunting field a couple of times and got more competitive, and my competitiveness and my trust in him overpower that fear.

    “I’m still a nervous person, I’m still sometimes – or rather mostly – sick and stuff like that. It’s like my body registers with it but my brain doesn’t any more.”

    Asked if she hunts Topspin, Alice laughed: “No, I think I’d end up in Yorkshire from Norwich – he’s quite a live wire. I’ve got an old horse called Ruby, who I did my first few events on and he loves it. He’s one of those that you go out on with snacks and a pocket full of sweets, like I’m still seven, and have a lovely day.”

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