Monday, August 29, 2011

The Countdown to Burghley

It’s Monday night and we’re sitting on the couch watching Will Smith save the world in Independence Day. It’s our last night in our little house in Dorset and to celebrate the occasion I’ve decorated the living room in a colourful array of damp laundry. Hanging out my washing the night before an event is a little ritual of mine and the fact that we’re off to one of the biggest three day events in the world tomorrow doesn’t seem like enough of a reason to change a habit developed over many years.

While Will Smith fights aliens, I’m trying to work out how I feel about Burghley. Excited, nervous, confident or a little scared? To tell you the truth, I’m really not that sure. What I do know is that there’s been a lot of talk about how enormous the cross-country is going to be, how it’s a ‘retro’ course with bigger jumps than anyone has ever seen in their life. There’s a ditch you can drive a car through, tables you could happily raise a family under and more skinny timber than has been seen on course since 1979. Apparently, anorexic logs are the ‘it’ look for 2011. Flares, sideburns and fondue are also making a comeback.

So am I nervous? Absolutely. Every time someone talks about what a mammoth course it is I get a little pang of nerves running from my left shoulder across to my right hip. I can’t explain why the nerves take this route but they seem to enjoy the journey. It only tends to strike once or twice before I shake myself and remember that courses always look bigger to the people who aren’t jumping them. And really, what is it with everyone going on about how big it is anyway? The British equestrian media seems to have mounted an intense propaganda campaign based on the size and length of this cross-country track. Frankly, I think this is stupid and immature. Everyone knows that size and length mean nothing – it’s what you do with it that counts. All eyes are on the Captain to see what he produces.

Other than that, there’s really not too much to worry about and I’m feeling very confident. Burghley might be a big event but it really is just another event. You pack a saddle and a bridle, put your horse on the truck, do a dressage test, go for a gallop and then hope like hell that you go clear in the show jumping. If you’ve got a minute you can take the opportunity to look around and enjoy the experience. Someone will inevitably win the class and while there’ll be another eighty or so who won’t hopefully if you ride well, get a little lucky and dress nicely at the trot-up you might just sneak away with a ribbon.

In the meantime, Will Smith has managed to save the world from an alien invasion. He hasn’t ridden around Burghley though so comparatively his task seems relatively straightforward. Mind you, I haven’t ridden around Burghley yet either so he is one up at the moment.

See you at the event.



  1. please please please include lots of pics of cross country jumps. While I am too frightened to ever go near them on a horse I just love to look at them (and build 18 inch versions shhhhh)

  2. Best of luck! Just make sure you walk the course with William Fox-Pitt instead of Hawley Bennett, or somebody of an equally petite stature. The jumps always look smaller when you can see over the top of 'em!