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the Australian who crossed the world to compete at Burghley

  • Australian rider Sarah Clark is fulfilling a lifetime’s dream in competing at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, having made the gargantuan trip from Down Under last month. Sarah flew in the air-crate with her horse of a lifetime, LZ Balou Jeanz, who was accompanied by a standard-bred mare bound for Newmarket.

    “We had five days’ travelling – flying from Adelaide to Melbourne, to Bangkok, to Doha, to Amsterdam and then to Wiltshire in a truck,” says Sarah, who based herself with “friend of a friend” David Doel, who unfortunately had to withdraw Galileo Nieuwmoed on the eve of the competition.

    “The horse travelled better than I did. I was shattered, whereas he was quite all right a day after we arrived. But he did have his thick winter coat, which I’d clipped off, so that looks horrible because it’s now gone yellow!”

    Sarah, 34, admits that with Burghley as her ultimate goal, she has given little thought to how she will return to Australia.

    “It depends how the weekend goes, as to whether I can fly back,” she says. “I’m not sure I have enough money to fly us home! My foresight only went as far as, ‘I have to have a crack at Burghley.’”

    Sarah Clark: ‘We’re here just to give it a crack at the top of the sport’

    The Burghley dream began when Sarah was a child. Her family is English and her aunt has been sending her Horse & Hound magazines and VHS recordings of horse trials since she was a toddler. The 12-year-old LZ Balou Jeanz, by Baloubet Du Rouet, is a winner at four-star, a consistent cross-country performer who has finished 12th at Adelaide CCI5*.

    “In 2019 this horse did his first five-star and I thought maybe this is a horse I could cling on to and go around a Burghley or Badminton,” she says. “Then in August it was announced that Adelaide was postponed again and I thought, ‘Screw it, I’m going now while I have a horse that is sound and I’m healthy. I’ve sold a few good horses and been saving up for this.”

    So far, Burghley is living up to expectations, with the huge atmosphere for her dressage test being unchartered territory for this combination. They scored 34.3 in the dressage phase, and Sarah admits she was “just pleased to stay in the ring!”

    “At Adelaide we don’t get anywhere near this kind of atmosphere, crowd and buzz – that would have been our biggest atmosphere we’ve experienced and this is a million times more than that,” she says.

    “I’ve walked the course and I’m not terrified, but it is huge and I don’t know how the crowds will affect him, his stamina and the undulations, so there are a lot of unknowns. But that’s why we are here, to get those massive fences, that terrain – it’s the top of the sport and the best of the best, and we’re here just to give it a crack.”

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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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