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Posted on Sep 9, 2019 in Articles

The Beast Of Burghley  : Only Half Of The Riders Complete Cross Country #LRBHT19

The Beast Of Burghley : Only Half Of The Riders Complete Cross Country #LRBHT19

Images Courtesy of Lucy Hall Photography – all rights reserved and are subject to copyright

Well where do I begin?! Lets just start by saying it was of the most thrilling cross country days to watch I have seen in a long time and it had me right on the edge of my seat, and by the end I was shouting at the TV willing the riders round and through every combination!! There were lots of thrills spills!! The cross country day definitely shuffled the leaderboard quite considerably, out of 67 riders completing the dressage only 33 completed the cross country with only one rider inside the time  (Piggy French on Vanir Kamira ), 20 riders were eliminated, 3 riders withdrew their rides and 11 retired. There were 15 falls of which only which 5 were horse falls. It was one of the biggest toughest courses I’ve seen in a long while!

The thing was Tim Price set off out on Bango as the pathfinder and made the course look ridiculously easy, though he didn’t make the time, he didn’t make the jumps look tricky he rode a very fluent round, it was just lovely to watch the horse running and jumping out of his natural rhythm, however this was not to be a continued theme over the course of the day as later we found out that the course was not as easy as he had first made it look and there was a lot of victims!

As I have said there were errors all over the course with no one singular fence catching riders ,  here is where the riders that unfortunately did not have the best of days came to grief!

Fence 6 – The Rolex Grand Slam Triple Brush

Only 5 riders had issues at this which was surprising as it was a very skinny brush over a ditch with quite a difficult turn to it. There was no falls however five of the riders had a run out here. A few riders did opt for the alternative here which didn’t surprise me as it was early on into the course with the ominous Leaf Pit looming.

Fence 7 – Holland Cooper Leaf Pit

The renowned leaf pit has caught many a rider out in the past and his the biggest drop ever let alone having to try jump skinny technical fences after dropping of this cliff!! However this time the leaf pit did not cause too many issues with only a couple of riders taking the long route and only one rider having a run out at one of the jumping elements after the drop .

bango leaf pit

Image courtesy of Julian Portch -all rights reserved and is subject to copyright



Though it did cause Zara Tindall to get unseated from her ride on Class Affair  after a glance off at the final element which came as a shock to Zara and to us all as we didn’t expect this to happen so early on in the course.

zara tindall fall

image courtesy of Mike Bain – all rights reserved and is subject to copyright

Fence 8 abcd – Discovery Valley

Well this rode slightly better than I thought it would and only afftected 4 riders with two having run out, one which was eliminated later on in the course and Nicky Hill on her ride MGH Bingo Boy went on to complete the course with no further issues. Eliza Stoddart (which I will discuss later …) on her ride Priorspark Opposition Free saw a frangible pin go here after a previous run out earlier on the course and again was later eliminated further on in the course. This fence also saw one elimination – Johan Lundin riding Mind Me where he went to continue despite not really jumping the fence and hitting it very hard was pulled up later on in course once the video footage had been checked and was eliminated.

Now here is where it really does start to claim some riders!..

Fence 10abc The Land Rover Trout Hatchery 

So this combination claimed the second highest amount of riders with seven riders having issues here but 4 continued on to finish the course with no further issues. There were two refusals but it saw the frangible pin go five times which were mainly at the first part of the combination a  huge oxer coming into the Trout hatchery. Only One horse retired here.

026A0045-2Fence 11ab Land Rover Trout Hatchery 

Though this didn’t affect as many riders it takes the total riders affected by the trout Hatchery up to nine with a further two having issues at this second combination. It saw Ginny Howe Part Company from Undalgo De Windsor resulting in an elimination and we also saw the queen of cross country – Jonelle Price on Fareie Dianimo retire here after a stumble and sticky ride through the first combination in the Trout hatchery Fence 10abc.

Fence 13 (unlucky for some – unlucky for a lot!!!) The Joules Maltings

This Combination claimed the most riders with 12 riders feeling its presence, of which it stopped play for nine of them with 6 being eliminated with only one horse fall though as most riders just had an unexpected unscheduled dismount . Three continued on with two of them getting eliminated at the next fence and only one continued one to finish with no further penalties .



So here is how it went down :  five riders fell off here Gemma Tattersall on Arctic Soul being the first to come to grief and was actually the first faller of the many that occurred throughout the day, there was one horse fall, there were four run outs at the final element of the combination, four riders retired here and six riders had the frangible pin over various points but if I recollect correctly I think the majority would have been at the corner.



The question is what exactly was the issue as these fences have been present at Burghley for quite a few years, however we are missing some of the big riders that we often see such as Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson, Bill Levett, Harry Meade,William Fox-pit and Nicola Wilson to just name a few so was it just in-experience ?, as a couple of riders just seemed to be riding a little backwards coming into these big wide oxers or was it a combination of first time Burghley horses and some first time Burghley riders? However the corner well that really did get the brunt of it, I mean god knows how many times it had to be repaired!! I mean they are not small and personally I would find these wide gappy oxers and the corner my worst nightmare so was it a rider frightener which caused a few to misjudge the distance and ride differently, as quite a few did start to ride slightly differently towards them than what they had been riding like previously, my other theory is that some horses hadn’t had a comfortable feeling through the big wide oxers and the Trout Hatchery so had they lost a bit of confidence? I will leave that one open and would be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Fence 14abcd The Rolex Combination

This combination claimed a few riders as well, obviously didn’t want to be left out of the mix!. 6 riders had issues here of which it stopped play for 4 riders with three being eliminated an one retired. There were no falls here just run outs and my guess is that they hadn’t had the best time of it at the previous fence The Maltings and horses may have been started to get tired, two did carry on but were eliminated later on.




Fence 16ab Land Rover at the lake

A double of gates on a very acute angle with one stride between them, very upright and horses will be tiring by here so this claimed a fair few, and saw the most horse falls. Out of the five riders that had a running with this combination only one had a pin and continued on to finish, for the rest this was the end of their Burghley cross country round as out of the four eliminations: three were horse falls and one just the rider got deposited. I do feel that one of these horse falls could possibly have been negated which I will mention later!

Finally Fence 20 abcde Clarence Court 

This was the last combination that really caused any problems and we saw some very lucky riders through here who just got away with it!! Here we saw another 5 riders having a uneasy time of it, there were three run outs one of which retired and two eliminations one of which was a horse fall and I have to say this was the worst horse fall of the day as it was a full rotational fall but luckily both horse and rider (Savannah Fulton and Captain Jack) walked away unscathed which was a huge relief to see though they will have both been heavily winded!! This combination also saw a couple of last minute rider decisions to take the long route.


So that concludes the beasts at Burghley that created so much drama throughout the day but made it highly exciting to watch which to be honest what these top level events are supposed to do as we don’t want it to be a dressage competition! even though Pippa did lead from the dressage all the way through but it was never a guaranteed finish or result for any rider as we shall see in just a moment.

I need to report though that there were two very unlucky riders which really did break my heart to watch them part company from their horses!  The first was George Hilton-Jones who was a first timer at Burghley and was going great guns until his horse jumped the first of the keepers brushes at fence 19 and got his shoe/stud caught in the martingale so he only got his foot out last minute after very nearly going down and this just ejected George out the front door but what a round they had had up until that point! The second rider which could have made me cry was Tim Price on Ringwood Skyboy as they had rode so beautifully round the course to only part company three fences from home in the water at the Lions bridge where his horse stumbled and fell and Tim got a very late bath. These two riders really didn’t deserve what happened to them at all and seen as we were following them I wonder if some of my bad luck I have had this year has rubbed off on them (sorry guys if thats the case!)

Now I don’t want to cause a witch hunt or victimise any rider but I do feel it needs to be addressed as there was one horse fall as I mentioned earlier that in my eyes could have been prevented!

28.7 9
Eliminated XC

Now this young rider who’s first time at Burghley started tremendously as credit due where credit is due, she performed a beautiful dressage test to be the leader overnight after the first day of dressage and sat in ninth place after the dressage phase had been completed. So setting out cross country she new a good round would keep her up there and to be honest what first timer doesn’t want to complete anyway as its a great event to have on your resume. Now she set out great on the cross country but did have a runout early on at fence 6 so took the longer route – thats all fine. Then soon after that she had an frangible pin at Discovery Valley – Fence 8, they continued on and subsequently had a stop at the big oxer at the first part of the Trout Hatchery Complex  – now she decided to continue and go the longer route, later on and not much later they went the long route through the maltings and it looked a little uncomfortable and the horse looked like it had lost confidence and was starting to tire, this is where in my mind the ground jury should have stepped in and pulled the horse up or pulled them after the Trout Hatchery as what I could see was going to happen did happen and they had a nasty rotational horse fall at fence 16 . So my question is that as this is a first timer at Burghley and inexperienced at that level should the ground jury have pulled her up as all credit to her she was super determined but this ultimately came at a cost and I feel that the horse could have been spared that fall. This is why we have ground jury at that level to make the level headed decisions that riders may not as their blood is up and they may not realise that really they need to pull up so at what point did they decide or do they decide to step in ?. I mean the girl had grit and persistence I will give her that and maybe you disagree with my thoughts but I thought that a fall was going to be inevitable for this combination and it subsequently occurred and I’ll leave you to ponder on that one.

Well on a positive note there were some amazing rides around this beastly Burghley course and here are six riders which i though did an outstanding job….

Tim Price on Bango – made it just look effortless!!

bango burghley cross country

Tim Price on Bango

Andrea Baxter on Indy 500 – made it also look so easy I really like this mare very responsive and sharp and was massively focused, loves her job

andrea baxter

Andrea Baxter on Indy 500

 Alicia Hawker on Charles RR– Their first Burghley, she ride fantastic throughout the course, a phenomenal round and made it a real pleasure to watch!!

alicia hawker

Alicia Hawker on Charles RR


Imogen Murray on Ivar Gooden – well what can I say to move from 60th after dressage to 8th after cross country an incredible feat!! Best rider through Clarence Court i saw all day! and only ten seconds over the time, this is not the first time she has climbed the leaderboard in such fashion definitely a dark horse you would edge your bets on and we have a lot more to see from this young lady in the future ! This horse continues to live up to his name

imogen murray

Imogen Murray on Ivar Gooden – Image courtesy of Mike Bain – all rights reserved and is subject to copyright


Gemma Tattersall on Santiago Bay –  worked really hard for her round especially after Arctic Soul her reliable ride didn’t pull it off, she got back out there even though I half expected a withdrawal from this combination but all credit to her getting back out on course and Santiago Bay responded to all Gemma’s questions perfectly, definitely a horse for the future!


Gemma tattersall on Santiago bay

Piggy French on Vanir Kamira – what a round!! The only one inside the time, a true class round, thats how this Burghley was to be ridden. A round of cross country that was absolute perfection and after watching the course cause issues all over this was a really refreshing round to see!

piggy french

Piggy French on Vanir Kamira


Oliver Townend on Ballaghmor Class – I am not going to say that he is a favourite of mine but have to give him credit he rode a fantastic round with super accuracy and in typical Oliver style  – A picture in motion

oliver townend

Oliver Townend on Ballaghmor Class


The last thing I will leave you with is Captain Mark Phillips’s thoughts on the course he designed which I think is a fantastic interview and very thought provoking …..

Captain Mark Phillips gives his thoughts after Cross Country Day at Burghley with Lloyd Bell Productions

You said in the press conference that it was a day of mixed emotions for you

yeah I feel a bit battered and a bit bruised, because I think we got about half round and you would obviously like to see more than half get round, having said that we had a good day in that no horses or riders got hurt, everybody walked home under their own steam and not in any mechanical transport, so thats a good day when there is no injuries, you have to be thankful for that. In that respect it was a good day for the frangible technology that we have all been working on for a long time now, we probably broke a record number of clips and pins, but the bottom line is nobody got hurt, but as I say I would like to have seen a few more finishing.

As a course designer you have an idea of the percentage of riders you want to go clear and inside the time, but with just the one rider accomplishing that – Piggy French, did you see her round? is that how you wanted to see your course ridden?

Yes obviously she did a good job, but there was a lot of other people that did a good job to, Pippa Funnell, Ludwig Svennerstal and Gemma Tattersall. I don’t really have a number in my head I try to be fair to the horses, I try to build the fences so the horse’s have every opportunity to answer the question even if the riders make a bit of a mistake. As long as I can go to bed at night comfortable with myself and the questions I am asking. Some years you are going to get a stronger field and get more round and some years you are going to get a weaker field and get less round, thats the facts of life, particularly at this five star level, which is the ultimate level in the sport. If you were going at a novice level competition it would be an educational process and you want to get 90- 95% round because it’s young horses young riders learning the trade and you want to educate and train them but at this level they are riding for a lot of Land Rover prize money and it’s a test, I felt it was a big test but a fair test and I have heard that from the riders as well. There wasn’t as many people as you would have wished that were that standard this year.

There were some big names missing for various reasons

yeah you know we were missing Mark Todd because he’s retired, Nicola Wilson because she’s injured, Harry Meade and William Fox-Pitt because their horses are injured, Tina Cook because her horse went to the Europeans last week, so you know a lot of those people who you would have banked on to jump a clear round weren’t here for different reasons so we had a weaker field and to be honest the results shows that

Burghley has many iconic fences, are there any fences that won’t be returning for 2020

You won’t be seeing the gates again – Land Rover at the Lake . We had those gates there last year albeit in a slightly different place, positioning and relationship between the two of them and last year they didn’t really cause any trouble, the decoration and the way we tried to help the horse was the same this year but the result was different. The same way I didn’t enjoy the Clarence Court fence last year, so that was the first one to go on the scrap heap this year and this time the Land Rover at the Lake will be the first one to go on the scrap heap before next year!

The evolution of the course for next year is already in your head?

Next year is my last year and I would really like to get a few more people round next year, but yes every year the design starts the year before, You start off thinking I need to get rid of that one because it didn’t produce the picture I wanted and those are already logged away and you will have to wait and see what that is

As you said at the beginning of our chat  you said the key thing is that all horses and riders that didn’t have a great day all walked away and that as a course designer must be a great relief to you

As far as I am concerned thats the most important thing

Well I have to say I am certainly looking forward to Burghley Cross Country Day next year!!







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