By Jonny Bray
Woods Baughman believes his horse C’est La Vie 135 is in the form of his life ahead of their Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials debut.
The American is in the United Kingdom for the first time to take on one of the biggest challenges eventing has to offer in September, one of just six 5* events in the world.
And Baughman heaped praise on his steed ahead of their debut at one of the world's most famous events.
"I think C’est La Vie 135 is probably in the best form he has ever been," said the 26-year-old from Summit Point, West Virginia.
"He is definitely feeling a good bit stronger than he probably ever has.
"We have put a lot of effort into putting a bit more weight on him because he is quite a light horse naturally, and so it is quite hard to keep weight on him.
"We have put a lot of effort into getting him stronger rather than running him too much because he runs quite hard anyway.
"So it has been a little bit less galloping and a little bit more strength training.
"We have had a really light season recently. We only ran twice, and I ran him very easy just to make sure that he was going to be nice and rideable.
"I ran him in the advanced at Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event.
"I just made sure he was into it, paying attention, and he stayed totally with me and relaxed the whole way round which is a good feeling to have on that horse."
The course, set within the grounds of the 16th-century Burghley House, is renowned for its gruelling cross-country course but Baughman is confident in C’est La Vie 135's abilities following a light but enjoyable season.
And Baughman admitted that he wouldn't have even tried to compete at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials unless he felt the pair could compete against some of the very best eventing has to offer.
He said: "I think it really is one of the top events there is and it is definitely one of the big ones that we talk about in the US.
"You don't really go until you feel that you have a horse that is worth taking and I felt like I had a chance this time around and I did not want to miss the opportunity because you never know when you can come again.
"I started eventing when I was quite young, and I probably learnt about the 5* when I was ten or so.
"There was one in my hometown, so that was the first that I heard about, but Burghley Horse Trials was the second.
"It did not feel like a real place, but now it is here, and the weather is beautiful.
"I'm hoping I can get a good run this weekend and come home with a good score and a solid finish but then I am hoping to have a nice break."
The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is returning for the first time since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with change afoot as fabled course designer Captain Mark Phillips has been succeeded by Derek Di Grazia.
Large crowds are anticipated to descend on Stamford, Lincolnshire and Baughman is excited to see the changes made ahead of the event's return.
"I think it makes everything quite exciting because nobody really knows what it is going to look like.
"It has all kind of been behind closed doors, especially for us because we don't really hear much of what happens over here.
"There is a new course designer and [it's] under new management, so no one really knows what we are walking into."
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