Burghley Horse Trials are dream come true for eventer Upton

·2-min read
The storied 5* equestrian event in Stamford, Lincolnshire returned on Thursday after a two-year hiatus (Peter Nixon)

By James Reid at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials

Bubby Upton turned dreams into reality by making her long-awaited debut at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on Friday.

The 23-year-old eventer made her bow at the storied 5* event with a strong dressage test score of 28.3 on horse Cola III.

It was the Newmarket equestrian’s maiden ride at one of the most prestigious competitions eventing has to offer, with this year’s event bigger and better than ever after two missed years due to Covid-19.

But Upton showed little signs of first day nerves to deliver a competitive dressage test ahead of Saturday’s gruelling cross-country course.

“It means everything, it’s been a childhood dream of mine since I was tiny,” said Upton.

“I used to come here and watch my idols go round like Pippa [Funnell] and Piggy [March] so it feels a bit surreal to be here.

“It takes an enormous team to get here, he did Badminton at the start of the year, so to get both British Bs in one year is really special and I hope I do him justice out there tomorrow.”

Upton and Cola looked at home on one of eventing’s biggest stages, and the Edinburgh University graduate was delighted with her steed’s performance.

“I’m thrilled with him,” added Upton. “He tried really hard for me and I think it reflected our partnership and his trust in me.

“It was a big atmosphere in there and I only worked him for 15 minutes before so I’m really pleased that he went in there, trusted me, and didn’t get distracted by the big crowds.”

The pair now face Burghley’s famous cross-country course, regarded by many as the world’s toughest.

The duo competed well at Badminton, another 5* event, in May before a mistake on the final fence left a sour note on an otherwise stellar performance.

And Upton isn’t looking to throw the baby out with the bath water as she looks to improve this time around.

“It’s big, we’re at Burghley. I think [fence] number six I got to and thought ‘well, welcome to Burghley Bubby!’,” she joked.

“I think the terrain will take a lot out of them, I’ve never done these hills with my horse before so it’s an unknown for me but hopefully he’ll dig deep for me like he always does.

“I won’t do anything differently. It took me a while to reflect on Badminton positively but when you look back on the round now, 99.9% was perfect and it’s quite rare that you can say that about your Badminton debut.

“I will take a lot of confidence from what he gave me around Badminton and hope for the same tomorrow apart from the last fence.”

Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (1-4 September 2022) returns after a two-year hiatus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A major international sporting and social event for over 50 years it attracts 80 of the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk