Kate Green charts all you need to know about this weekend’s Burghley Horse Trials, from Princess Anne to Zara Tindall.
A is for Princess Anne, as she was when she became the first member of the Royal Family to hold the title of European Champion, at Burghley in 1971 riding Doublet; and for Avebury, the delightful grey horse that gave the brilliant New Zealand horseman Andrew Nicholson three out of his five victories.
B is for ‘Burto’ – Australia’s Christopher Burton – statistically, the fastest rider on the planet, and Bravery, which competi-tors will need by the bucketful.
C is for Chariots of Fire, the film that brought to wider attention the athletic prowess of David Cecil, 6th Marquess of Exeter – a gold medallist in the 1928 Olympic 400-yard hurdles – who was the horse trials’ first host; Capability Brown, the celebrated landscaper who might be surprised to find himself remembered through a famously tricky cross-country fence (Capability’s Cutting); and The Captain (Mark Phillips) who designs the obstacles for which riders have nothing but respect.
D is for Dressage phase, for some an unnecessary evil and initially treated with great suspicion by the local hunting fraternity, who were reluctant to come and fence judge at this ‘artificial’ sport; and for all shapes and sizes of Dogs, which are welcome, but must be on a lead and never left in a car.
E is for Eventing (the modern name for horse trials), a sport in which Britain has excelled since the 1950s and in which we are the current world champions.
F is for Fall – pretty much an occupational hazard and which signals elimination; for Five-star, the highest echelon of the sport and how Burghley is classified; and for the ever-popular Pippa Funnell, the last female British rider to win. We’d all love her to do it again.
G is for Ginny (Elliot, née Holgate), the queen of Burghley, with five victories, four of them consecutive (1983–86); and for Grand Slam, an elusive hat-trick of five-star wins worth $350, which only two riders, Pippa Funnell and Germany’s Michael Jung, have sealed at Burghley.
H is for Horse, the noblest of creatures without which none of this would happen; and for the four local Hunts, after which the cross-country sections are named: Burghley (now defunct), Cottesmore, Fitzwilliam and Quorn.
I is for Inmans, Liz – Burghley’s modest, hard-working director – and her brother, John, the chief medical officer; and for Inspection, which horses must pass on Sunday morning.
J is for Judges (known as the ground jury), whose task is, at times, thankless; and for Jumps, some of which are pretty big.
K is for Kiwis, the riders to beat at Burghley – they’ve won 14 out of the most recent 32 runnings, which is highly impressive for a tiny country.
L is for Lion Bridge, designed in 1778 by Capability Brown, which horses splash under and spectators throng over; Land Rover, the title sponsor; Leaf Pit, a fearsome drop fence; and Lambert’s Sofa, the obstacle modelled on Daniel Lambert, the Fat Man of Leicester.
‘R is for Refusal, which means waving goodbye to a Rosette.’
M is for Miranda Rock, house director of the Burghley House Preservation Trust; and Merely-a-Monarch, the first equine winner, in 1961 – he was such a valuable showjumper, people thought his rider, Anneli Drummond-Hay, mad to risk him in this new sport.
N is for Nimpy, an eccentric character who lived in a stable and, in 1963, predicted the winner by painting on a wall in shaky letters ‘St Finnibarr’ – the winner that year was Irishman Harry Freeman-Jackson riding St Finbarr.
O is for the talented Oliver Townend, a dual winner and humorous York-shireman, who can be relied upon to enliven press conferences; and Owner, who can be identified as the nervous person hiding behind the Portaloos.
P is for Prices, Tim and Jonelle, the ‘first couple’ of eventing – Tim is the world number one and the defending Burghley champion and Jonelle is a beautiful, stylish rider, who won Badminton last year; and Popadom, the only skewbald horse to have won a contest of this stature, in 1967 – his owner paid £40 for him as a foal, fighting off competition from Chipperfield’s Circus.
Q is for Queen Elizabeth I, who employed as her chief fixer William Cecil, for whom Burghley House was built (to an original E-shaped floorplan) between 1555 and 1587. Sadly, the magnificent result is not open during the horse trials.
R is for Refusal, which means waving goodbye to a Rosette.
S is for Shopping, the real reason many people come; and Showjumping, the final, nerve-racking phase in which the clattering of a single coloured pole can mean the loss of a few thousand pounds.
T is for Toddy – double Olympic champion and five-time Burghley winner Sir Mark Todd – whose charisma, grace and natural horsemanship will be much missed on his retirement from the sport after 40 years; and Trout Hatchery, the exciting water jump around which crowds gather hopefully, waiting for a dunking.
U is for going Under a fence, which is, unfortunately, disallowed.
V is for Vanir Kamira, the gallant mare on which Britain’s Piggy French has twice been placed. They won Badminton in May – can they do the double?
W is for Winners’ Avenue; and for William Fox-Pitt, whose name is there a record six times on six different horses.
X marks the spot in the dressage arena where riders must halt and politely salute the judges instead of revealing their displeasure at the mark they can see on the big screen.
Y is for Yellow card, which is awarded for uncivilised behaviour – a mercifully rare occurrence in this sport.
Z is for Zara Tindall, who rises graciously above the curiosity and whirring cameras. Lest anyone should think she gets an easy pass from her father, she’s bitten the dust together with the best of them at some of his more dastardly designs.
The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Stamford, Lincolnshire, is on September 5–8, with dressage on Thursday and Friday (gate admission £17), cross-country on Saturday (£30) and showjumping on Sunday (£17). Car parking costs £10. For a full timetable and list of entries, visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk.
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Country Life's Kate Green talks you through everything you need to know about this week's Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
Zara Tindall is one of three riders to have held both world and European eventing titles simultaneously. She speaks to