Stars come out for Burnham spectacle
Thousands of people passed through the gates of the SPC Holdings Burnham Market International Horse Trials at the weekend – and they enjoyed a feast of competitive action.
Saturday saw Novice and Intermediate competitors try their luck at the undulating cross-country course, with many finding the time particularly tight, especially with firmer ground. For Norfolk's Kelly Aldous however, a cracking dressage of 27 saw her positioned snugly behind maestro Mark Todd and Leonidas II, but when the tough New Zealander rolled a pole in the show jumping, Aldous played her hand, jumping double clear and picking up only 5.6 time faults on her horse High Garth High Flyer to finish on 32.6.
Saturday also brought success for Ipswich rider Emily Blew and 10-year-old gelding Archie X, when the partnership rode a solid double clear inside the time to pick up second place in Open Novice under 18, section M.
On Sunday, Sussex Farm played host to many eventing superstars and crowds flocked to catch a glimpse of the sport's goliaths.
For spectators the conditions were glorious, however the unseasonably dry spell did cause a few problems for event director Alec Lochore: 'The event has gone very well but we had real challenges with the ground,' he said. 'We've watered the dressage and show jumping arenas, we've spiked the ground everywhere we can on the cross country course – but the ground is firm, there's no escaping that.'
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Despite firm going, many top riders were generous in their praise of the event and they put on quite a show, making the most of the testing course in front of gasping crowds. The top classes at this event were the CIC** and CIC*** classes, and it was here that professionals showed off their skills.
In CIC** section Q first place went to Louisa Lockwood and Acheron and in section P it was Chloe Newton from Leicestershire who took home the top prize. Throughout the day all eyes were on former World Champion and Sports Personality of the Year Zara Phillips who had a mixed bag of luck in the CIC***.
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She almost came unstuck from Lord Lauries at the double bounce into water and then finally came a cropper at fence 21, towards the bottom of the course. Although the pair parted company, Phillips and Lord Lauries were unharmed and she left the course to pick up her next ride, High Kingdom.
This 10-year-old bay gelding by Master Imp took on the course with confidence, showing the partnership's experience. However, it was New Zealander Andrew Nicholson and Ouimbo that took first place, with Pippa Funnell not far behind on Billy Landretti.
CIC*** section R was won by local girl Piggy French, who spent her formative years in Norfolk but is now based in Leicestershire. French rode DHI Topper W to first place, picking up just six time penalties and finishing on a score of 48.3 ahead of second placed Swedish rider Ludwig Svennerstal, who finished on 51.1.
Thanks to a testing course and the organisational skills of the Musketeer Event Management team, who even managed to post regular updates on Twitter throughout the event, Burnham Market Horse Trials attracted a star-studded field of international competitors. Lochore added: 'There really is an extraordinary quality of field here. It's quite humbling really when you can just wander up and touch some of the best horses in the world.'