Saturday I attended one of the UK’s largest and well-known horse trials at Burghley house. The event is open from Wednesday to Sunday with plenty of shopping, young horse events and 3 days of 5-star eventing with dressage, cross country and show jumping having designated days. Saturday was cross-country day which is why we chose to attend on this day. This was my first time ever to Burghley, it was very busy and I observed a variety of people attending from young to old, some found a spot by the sidelines and spent the day enjoying the action from one particular place. Others like us moved around and walked the course, we tried to see at least one horse jump each of the 27 fences.
Before walking around the cross-country course we began the day by exploring the shopping village, which hosted a variety of equestrian and craft stalls, with some well-known brands such as Joules, Noble outfitters and Ariat, along with
various food outlets. However, the organisation of the stands I feel could have been improved compared to other shows I have attended. It took us all day to find a particular stall as it was not listed on the directory and the information desk knew nothing of them. Good old Facebook came to the rescue though and we located it before heading home.
The cross-country course however nicely presented made for hard viewing, there were several breaks in riders due to the number of eliminations, refusals, falls and withdrawals. Standing at one point in amongst the crowds as one of the horse and riders had a rotational fall that sent shivers down my spine, as a number of people gasp in horror. It made me question if this course was just a little too much even for 5 star! I watched numerous horses who barely got over several fences and I admire all those who attempted this course, completed or not!
It was lovely though to see some of our best GB riders competing and to see Piggy French, Oliver Townsend and of course, the winner Pippa Funnell complete this tough 4 mile plus course. Overall the day was enjoyable and I am thankful that all horses and riders who fell were able to get up and walk away. Zara Tindall was amongst those who took a fall during the event after having a break from Burghley since 2017, her husband, mother and children were all at the event to offer her support.
What did sadden me, was to read that a young French rider Thaïs Meheust (22yrs), died in a cross-country fall at le Pin au Haras in Normandy after her horse fell at the second fence, on the same day as Burghley cross-country. Please click the photo below which links to her Facebook page. This is a huge loss to the eventing world and highlights concerns around the dangers of these complex courses and the sport, yet we continue to get on board time and time again because we love it and the feeling we get from these magnificent animals who allow us to ride upon them.
Despite this sad news and the falls during the day, it was an amazing experience, although very exhausting and my feet were glad when I finally sat down. Would I attend again? More than likely yes, as I do love these events and the sport and acknowledge that even getting on a horse can be dangerous without jumping several large fences. Would I ever attempt such a course? Not at all, thankfully my little horse is much suited to smaller jumps but I do admire those who can and applaud their ability to do so!