RUTLAND will be well represented when the Burghley Horse Trials begin today.
International event riders Gaby Cooke and Richard Jones from Rutland as well as Angus Smales from nearby Allexton will all compete in the prestigious three day event which marks its 50th anniversary this year.
It will be a Burghley debut and first four-star event for 21-year-old Gaby Cooke from Market Overton who described taking part as “a dream come true”.
Gaby will be the second youngest rider competing and said: “It has been my dream since I started riding.
“This is my home event. My parents and grandparents have always been involved and I have going there since I was a toddler.”
Now a full-time rider who has represented the Junior Great Britain squad, Gaby will ride 12-year-old Sir Roscoe with whom she was second at in a three-star event at Blair Castle last year.
“He’s a difficult horse to train and he’s not had the best of build-ups since tearing a muscle earlier in the year,” said Gaby, who said to complete the cross country course will be a huge achievement. “But otherwise he’s in good form.”
The cross country stage is due to take place on Saturday, following dressage today and tomorrow, with the final show jumping round on Sunday.
South Luffenham’s Richard Jones, 30, has the distinction of being the most local rider to Burghley and will be riding the 11-year-old Irish-bred Highland Ford.
Richard has ridden at Burghley for the last three years.
Despite being only 24 years old, Angus Smales is no stranger to Burghley. It will be the fifth consecutive year that the Allexton-based rider has competed at the event. In 2007 with Cornsay Grouse he was the youngest rider to complete and two years later won the prize for the ‘best rider under 25’.
Competition for the Land Rover Perpetual Challenge Trophy is especially hot this year with nine former Burghley winners entered, including leading British riders William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Pippa Funnell and Oliver Townend as well as New Zealand double Olympic gold medallist Mark Todd and five times Olympian Andrew Nicholson.
There is also a large overseas entry from leading international riders preparing for next year’s London 2012 Olympic Games.
On Sunday there will be a parade of former winners in the main arena which will include the 1971 Burghley winner and former European Champion HRH The Princess Royal who will add to the special occasion by presenting the prizes to this year’s winning riders.
Burghley director Elizabeth Inman said: “This year will be a unique occasion and with a record entry and a completely new look cross-country challenge the 50th anniversary Burghley has all the promise of an exciting and memorable event.”