Piggy French can’t hide her delight at securing runner-up spot at Burghley Horse Trials
- Credit: Peter Nixon
Wind back the clock six months and tell Piggy French she will finish second at the 2017 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, and she will laugh you out of the room.
Throw in the fact that, just five days before being crowned runner-up, she was thinking about not even going to Lincolnshire at all, and this performance takes on a whole new dimension.
But for the Norfolk eventer, the story doesn't stop there.
Riding Vanir Kamira, French was reunited with a horse she had ridden at pre-novice level, never in a million years expecting them to get back together, particularly at Burghley.
What's more, this success behind close friend and champion Oliver Townend comes in just her first year since giving birth to her son Max, an incredible journey the 37-year-old herself cannot begin to fathom.
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'This means masses, we all work for this and it's come as a bit of a surprise – it will take a while to sink in,' she said.
'This is what we do it for, to be competing at four-star events and represent your country.
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'To have this experience again, I'm excited to get going and see what next year holds and really try to get towards an Olympics.
'I wasn't sure she was that well before we got here, she was a little bit flat at home and she didn't feel on song – on Monday and Tuesday we were wondering whether it was even worth going.
'But she's done way more than I thought she would this year, she's been so relaxed and it's been a massive thing for her.'
French had not even been in a podium place entering the show jumping, the last of the three-day events that includes dressage and cross country.
But, needing to pull out a world-class jump from her final day of performance, the North Elham eventer found something from the top drawer to propel her to the lofty heights.
One of just five competitors to jump a clear round, French also threatened the crown of Townend, a friend who goes back years both in and outside of the eventing world.
But despite knocking down one fence, Townend held on having led after the cross country, leaving the runner-up with few complaints after a weekend to remember at Burghley.
'She performed better than even I thought she could and she's come out of it really well,' added French, who first competed at the world-famous four-star event in 2002.
'It has been a very good year, probably not my best year and I don't think I've ridden any differently, I just think people write you off when you have a year off and I didn't have the horses at the top level.
'You're not really in it, but you've got to be in it to win it, and I've finally got a couple of horses at the top level, which enable you to be in the public eye and have a go.
'I haven't had that for a few years, it's surprised everyone, but for me it doesn't feel that different to how I've been riding and gone about things.
'I've chilled out more since having my son Max, it's always been a sport that I love and it's been a great week.'
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials from August 31 – September 3 has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk