By Tom Masters at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
Land Rover Burghley Horse trials’ youngest rider Alice Casburn’s sublime cross-country run saw her rise into the top ten in her first-ever attempt.
Casburn, 20, went round the iconic Lincolnshire course in 11 minutes and 37 seconds, 17 seconds over the optimum time – which was achieved by just one of the 52 riders on the startlist.
That run saw 6.8 penalty points added to her 33.6 dressage points which sees the Corpusty rider sitting in eighth place on 40.4 points alongside horse Topspin – ahead of reigning champion Pippa Funnell.
And Casburn was delighted to conquer the Burghley cross-country course for the first time as well as her nerves.
She said: “He was incredible, I’m still a little bit in shock to be honest.
“It’s definitely Burghley, it was hard and I didn’t have the strides I wanted everywhere, but he was so honest and so genuine - I was really pleased with him.
“I was really nervous, it doesn’t get any easier and I spoke to Pippa (Funnell) and people like that earlier and they said it doesn’t get any easier which I think makes you feel better because you worry that you’re more up tight than you should be.
“I was nervous, but it seemed to pay off.”
Nerves have been a constant issue in Casburn’s young career, something she admits cost her pre-Covid, but that she has now managed to find a solution for.
“I’ve had to work quite hard on it, I had a period in 2019 where I wasn’t getting the results I wanted and that was largely down to coming out of the starting blocks cold,” she said.
“I came out a little bit slow and a little bit nervous and then I’d get better halfway through and I’d be fine.
“Obviously the start was never great though, so I just thought of some things that worked for me whether it be listening to music or some quiet time, but I found if you stick to a routine, it normally works.”
Topspin is a particularly special horse in the Casburn household, after Alice’s mother Caroline, an eventing rider in her own right, rode both Topspin’s mother and grandmother.
And knowing her horse so well is something that Casburn believes was extremely useful in getting round a course as challenging as Burghley.
She added: “My mum rode his grandmother and his mother, so he is the favourite child, but he is very special to us and he certainly proved himself out there today.
“I know all of his quirks, I know the silly stuff that he’s probably going to look at, for example on one of the hills they’d obviously moved a fence and the grass had gone a funny colour and I knew that was probably something he’d not like so I went straight over it instead of around the side.
“I know he doesn’t really mind the crowd, so I think little stuff like that all helps and I think knowing where the crowds are going to stand and the cameras is helpful.
“I went through a phase in 2021 where whenever he saw a camera, he used to spin, I used to stay on, but it still wasn’t very pleasant, so that definitely helps knowing what he’s going to do.”
Ahead of Sunday’s show jumping finale, Casburn is hoping she has learnt from her previous mistakes.
“I don’t want to say too much to be honest, normally it’s alright, I hit a pole at Badminton and on a horse like him that’s not really bad, but it did feel like the end of the world at the time,” she said.
“Normally it’s good, but obviously the terrain here is like nowhere else and I think it takes a lot more out of them than you think it would.
“So I think I’ll have to see how he comes out tomorrow, but whatever happens it’s my first Burghley, his first Burghley, and I’m just grateful we had a great ride today.
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