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Burghley Horse Trials Woods Baughman and C’Est La Vie 135

  • Woods Baughman made a striking start at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on his first ever visit to the UK. Riding his own and his parents’ 14-year-old gelding C’Est La Vie 135, the US rider produced an impressive test to score 29.8 and go into equal second on the first morning of action (Thursday, 1 September).

    The Contendro gelding (stable name also Contendro) is talented in this phase, but on his five-star debut in the spring he suffered an incident with an out-of-control horse in the warm-up and never settled. At Burghley, he scored nearly 10 points better.

    “I was worried because he got very wound up in Kentucky, so it was good I had an early draw here,” says Woods, 26. “He’s such a fantastic horse in the first phase, and can pull in really high marks. But when he’s wound tight, he’s lucky to stay in the ring.

    “Today he was very good all the way. I just got a little excited in the strike-off to extended trot, because it was so good I asked for a little more and he nearly broke into canter, so I had to rein it back in.”

    Woods is looking forward to the jumping phases.

    “He runs like crazy – the only problem we ever run into is when I can’t slow him down,” he says.

    Burghley Horse Trials – Woods Baughman: ‘It took three days to travel here’

    Although the dressage here went like clockwork, Woods Baughman’s trip to Burghley Horse Trials was “pretty rough”.

    “C’Est La Vie’s flight was cancelled five times and mine was cancelled twice,” said Woods, who lives in Virginia and flew out of New York. “It added a little stress as he arrived here four days later than he was supposed to. It was a bit iffy – he was so flat having travelled for three days and so I felt bad for him and couldn’t work him much. I just hacked him twice a day and stretched him and waited until his energy came back, while thinking, ‘This isn’t great; you’ve got to compete next week’!

    “Then I had a little jump on Sunday and he bolted twice with me, so I knew he was back. On Monday he didn’t want to hack any more so I knew he was good to go. He’s a pain to hack normally, so when he’s hacking quietly I know he’s really tired. When he’s spinning on his hindlegs, I know he’s on form.”

    Woods has been staying with Willa Newton, half an hour away from Burghley, and has help on the flat from Bettina Hoy.

    He decided to come to Burghley for his first European event after winning the  USEF CCI4*-L National Championship in November, the prize being a free flight to any competition in the world, courtesy of international horse transporters Dutta Corp, which sponsored the class.

    “I’m from Lexington, Kentucky, so that was my top event, and when I did that in the spring, I thought the only one I’ve only felt the need to do is Burghley,” he says. “When I won the flight I thought, ‘I have the horse to go’, so everything fell into place. Seeing Burghley as a real place is pretty cool.”

    C’Est La Vie will have a few days off after Burghley in England, then fly home, and enjoy some time in the field with his buddies and start again ready for Kentucky 2023.

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    Keep up with all of the breaking news, behind the scenes insight and the best of the action throughout Burghley Horse Trials with no limit on how much you can read from as little as £1 per week with a Horse & Hound unlimited website subscription. Sign up now. Plus enjoy our full 20-page magazine report on Burghley, including in-depth analysis and exclusive comments from Nick Burton and Mark Phillips, in next week’s magazine (8 September). 

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