Britain’s Oliver Townend is the early leader at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Oliver was first into the arena at 9.30am this morning (30 August), and at the lunch break, nobody has yet been able to catch him.

Oliver sits on a score of 27.2 aboard Tom Joule’s 13-year-old gelding, MHS King Joules (pictured).

Oliver said: “I have no complaints at all and if he stays on that mark all weekend, I’ll be very happy. Going into the arena first is always difficult as the judges perhaps take a few combinations to warm up to the marks, but it was inevitable with me having three horses here.”

As things stand, Oliver is the only competitor to have broken to 30 barrier. Mark Todd sits in second on 30.8, but he could have been in the 20s had it not been for two errors of course on NZB Campino.

“It’s too early in the morning,” he joked. “I let him down and two errors is unforgivable. It’s bloody annoying to say the least. I forgot to ride a 20m circle and then halted in the wrong place.”

Britain’s Julie Tew has made a great start to her first ever Burghley campaign, and sits equal third on 32.1 riding Simply Sox.

“He’s such a kind and generous horse — he’s had his ups and downs with silly injuries resulting in soundness issues, but it means so much to be here,” said Julie, who explained she was told to give up riding two years ago.

“I had a tumour removed from my spinal chord 18 years ago and was told at the time I wouldn’t be able to ride and I would have to walk with a stick. I fought back, but over the past five years I’ve really struggled with pain.

“I have 90% nerve damage in my legs and and I can’t do any fitness work — the less I do, the better I feel. As I’ve got older, things have got worse and I’ve cut down to riding just two horses now. It’s so emotional to make it to Burghley though.”

Tim Price, riding for New Zealand, shares thirds spot with Julie, riding Bango.

“I’m really pleased with him — he’s not an out and out dressage horse and he is a bit of a headshaker which filtered through today.”

The dressage recommences after the lunch break at 2pm.

You can read the full Burghley report in next week’s Horse & Hound magazine (Thursday 6 September).