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‘A gold star for effort’: little mare defies expectations to problem Burghley leaders

Ros Canter with her WEG horse doing a Training session during the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, in the park land surrounding Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire in the UK between 31st August – 4th September 2022

There was a glut of top tests in the final session of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials dressage phase. Only three penalties – just over seven seconds – cover the top six ahead of cross-country day tomorrow (Saturday, 3 September), with Kitty King and Vendredi Biats in the lead on 21.2.

The final dressage session began with Ros Canter scoring 24.2, her best dressage score at Burghley, to lie in sixth riding Pencos Crown Jewel (Jasmine). The mare isn’t an extravagant mover, but Ros rode her for every mark, made no major mistakes and brought the score up with a few highlights.

“Dressage would be her hardest phase, in terms of her conformation and balance – she’s croup-high – but she’s such a trier, every time she comes out she tries hard,” said Ros. “If there was a gold star for effort, she’d win it every time.

“I was really pleased with how rideable she stayed. She dislikes people quite a lot, so the walkway was quite terrifying for her, but once she got in she stayed with me. My biggest worry is the crowds.”

Ros described her sub-25 score as a “massive overachievement”.

“I just wanted sub 30!” she said. “I’m realistic; she’s a little mare and has taken longer to get up to this level. When she was a young horse I wasn’t convinced she would get here, and so I’m hoping she’ll have a good experience and anything else is a bonus. I’m quite protective of little Jasmine so I just want her to enjoy it. If she comes back happy, that will do for me, but my plan A is to go for it – it’s the only way to tackle a five-star.”

Burghley Horse Trials dressage: ‘You can win from sixth’

It was the final horse of the day that produced the best mark in this closing dressage session. Oliver Townend scored the best dressage mark of his Burghley career, 23.4, on Swallow Springs, but such is the quality at the top of the field, that it was only good enough for fifth. Swallow Springs was third here in 2018 with Andrew Nicholson, and again at Badminton this year with Oliver.

The grey seems to be still improving at the age of 14 in the first phase. His overall dressage performance was very impressive, swinging and positive, with nines for his medium trot and final salute. Just one costly flying change cost him an overnight podium spot.

“There’s more to come, but we’re getting better every international run,” said Oliver. “He’s a very good cross-country horse and we know he gets the trip as he’s been here before. Tomorrow should be his strength. Normally you can win at Burghley from sixth or seventh. Ballaghmor Class was sixth after dressage when we won here.”

Tom McEwen was another in this final session to put pressure on the leaders. He was riding another little mare, the chestnut CHF Cooliser, and she showed plenty of potential when scoring 25.6 for seventh. She was uphill and forward, but looked a little on her toes and Tom rode very tactfully to keep a lid on her exuberance. Her flying changes were a highlight, being bold and expressive, and she was rewarded with the best mark of her international career. There is more to come from her.

“That was a PB by a long way so what we have achieved today is fantastic, but there is still lots we can work on,” Tom said. “It’s hugely competitive and so exciting that it’s so tight at the top. She’s an awesome cross-country horse who always looks for the flags, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Burghley Horse Trials dressage: Pippa Funnell steers two into the top 10

Also into the top 10 was Pippa Funnell, who broke the 30-barrier with Majas Hope, scoring 28.5.

Pippa was already holding eighth place with her first ride Billy Walk On on 26.2. Pippa has said previously that Majas Hope is not naturally gifted on the flat, so she walked out with a huge smile on learning her score.

Their trot and canter work was rhythmic and solid, earning plenty of eights, but the score was pegged back by the walk and rein-back.

“It’s a personal best for him, but he nailed three and a half changes, and that’s a record for him,” said Pippa. “He always goes in shy, he doesn’t want to show off. The walk is always difficult, and he anticipated canter which is expensive.”

Many pundits were tipping Tim Price’s third ride, the five-star debutant, Polystar I, who was previously campaigned by Chris Burton. The pair had only had two international runs together, and they are still consolidating their partnership, despite the horse being 17 years old.

Trisha Rickards’ light and athletic Polytraum gelding showed moments of tension among spots of brilliance to score 30.1, into 21st. A one for the halt, and a four for the rein-back held the marks back, but he also received 8.5s from some of his flying changes.

Tim is already sitting in second on Vitali, and 15th on Bango.

You might also like to read…

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