‘Burghley is the biggest and most difficult course in the world’

Event director Elizabeth Inman with Sophie Brown and Richard Jones who are competing at the horse trials. By Lee Hellwing.
Event director Elizabeth Inman with Sophie Brown and Richard Jones who are competing at the horse trials. By Lee Hellwing.

It is regarded as one of the most prestigious events in the equestrian calendar and ranks within the UK’s top ten national sporting events in terms of attendance.

But course director, Elizabeth Inman said Burghley has lots to offer all kinds of visitors and not just equestrian enthusiasts.

“The Burghley Horse Trials isn’t just for horsey people. It is a huge well respected course and event, but it is also a good social event in the Autumn calendar,” she said

“There are a lot of opportunities for Christmas shopping, we have gifts, kitchenware and garden equipment and equestrian kit.

“We have a renowned food walk, people can just wander around the cross country course on the Saturday and just enjoy the scenery. The Sunday is the showjumping part of the event. There are large screens around the showground so if they are not lucky enough to get tickets they will be able to watch the final on the screens.”

Elizabeth, who has been director of the event for 12 years, explained that there is lots of fun activities for people to take part in at the event such as a ‘Land Rover experience’, which sees people being driven around a course designed to show off the vehicles capability to drive on different terrains - even taking them through a lake.

And Elizabeth said there is lots for children to enjoy too.

She said: “A lot of young people might be interested in the Pony Club team jumping [showjumping for those aged 18 and under], young children might react to that quite well and there is face painting for young children.”

Each year 155,000 visitors attend the event, there are 600 trade stands and 80 top international competitor entries.

Some of the exciting additions to the event this year include an equestrian simulator, which will allow visitors to ride some of the most famous parts of the cross country course. There will also be a ‘driven donkey display’ to celebrate The Donkey Breed Society’s golden jubilee on the last day of the event in the main arena.

The event, which takes place between Thursday, August 31, and Sunday, September 3, will feature a host of top competitors such as Olympic gold medallist, Michael Jung and Andrew Nicholson, who won the Cotswold’s Badminton Horse Trials in May.

If Andrew can win Burghley and then wins the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event in Lexington, in the USA he would achieve the ‘Grand Slam of Eventing’, a hugely prestigious title in the equestrian world.

The Grand Slam is given to those who can consecutively win the Badminton Horse Trials, the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Another famous name competing at the event will be Zara Phillips, daughter of Anne, Princess Royal and her former husband and course designer, Captain Mark Phillips. Zara came second in the event in 2003 and has entered the event several times since.

Another Royal face at the event will be HRH The Countess of Wessex, who is the patron of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations. She will visit on the Sunday and will hand the winner the ‘Land Rover Challenge Trophy’.

The winner of this year’s event stands to win £90,000, with second place receiving £50,000. The total prize money is just shy of £303,000.

Another new addition to the event, which first took place in 1961, is that its first registered charity will be World Horse Welfare.

Captain Mark Phillips, who has designed 23 Burghley courses since 1989, thinks this year’s course will be one of the most challenging yet.

“It is one of the most clever courses that I have ever done. If you do something clever, you just hope it is not too clever - you hope riders understand it is not too clever.

“There are 11 places where riders make a choice. If everyone takes one route then I have got it wrong, but if some go one way and others take another route then I have got it half right.

“Burghley year-on-year is probably the biggest and most difficult course in the whole world, I don’t think this year is any different.”

One of the new obstacles this year that gives competitors a choice is ‘Storm Doris,’ which is made up of 35ft logs, taken from trees felled in the grounds of Burghley House when Storm Doris moved across the UK in February.

While some obstacles will be returning, such Lion Bridge, which will task riders with manoeuvring through water and under Burghley Park’s Lion Bridge, before jumping over a boat attached to a Range Rover.

One of the riders taking part in the event will be Richard Jones, who is from South Luffenham.

He has competed at Burghley five times and last competed in the event in 2013.

Richard will be riding his ten-year-old thoroughbred Tajraasi, Alfie’s Clover and although he said he does not believe it is likely he will achieve success in the event he will be ensuring that he is competitive.

“The horse is ten now, he is nearly the finished article in terms of right to compete at this level,” Richard said.

“He is getting on his feet this year.”

Richard added this year was about competing in the event and after this he thinks that he can be “competitive” in it.

Behind the scenes of the horse trials, a small administrative team of only nine people, work to plan and put together each part of the competition and event - ranging from building stables for 100 competitors, an on-site veterinary clinic and member’s premium catering, serving more than 5,000 lunches over the four days.

For ticket prices and more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk