Piggy French insists she has no intention of allowing the Chinese Year of the Pig go to waste as she continues to ride the crest of a wave at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
The 38-year-old and her horse Vanir Kamira are up to second in the overall standings after a thrilling day of equine cross-country action at Burghley House, near Stamford.
French was the only rider to complete Captain Mark Phillips’ demanding course inside the time as many of her competitors fell foul of the challenge, with only 33 riders crossing the finish line.
And having put herself in position to win her second five-star event of the year, the Badminton champion admitted she has no idea why her year keeps on going from strength to strength.
“I finally made the time in I don’t know how many attempts,” said French. “She’s great a horse, the heart on her, and I went to plan B and C on a few of my options with my strides.
“I didn’t have that in my mind but that’s just how it goes and she actually felt tired for the first time ever after three to four minutes, especially as she was going to the Trout Hatchery.
“I was nudging her along and nothing was happening and I’ve never felt that so I was thinking it was really early to be having this sort of feeling, so I was down at the next markers.
“I just wanted to give her the chance and read how she was feeling, but as soon as I had a downhill bit I let her freewheel and she seemed to fill her lungs back up again.
“It’s just a relief to have it over and done with. It’s great fun once it’s finished but I don’t want to do it again. It was great to look at my watch and realise I’d finally done it.
“I’ve got great support around me and I always work hard at it, but I think with horses you have your good runs and someone keeps telling me it’s the Chinese Year of the Pig.
“Maybe it is and I’ve just got to keep enjoying it because this wave will break at some stage and I will fall off a fence or make a mistake but I’ve got to say it’s been an amazing year.”
The world-renowned Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is one of only six five-star events in the eventing season - and one third of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing.
It has become one of the most popular and highly regarded events within the equestrian and social calendars, ranking within the UK’s top ten national sporting occasions by attendance.
Two days of dressage are followed by cross-country on Saturday and the showjumping finale on Sunday at family-friendly Burghley, which attracts more than 160,000 visitors each year.
French, who is based near Maidwell in Northamptonshire, will now turn her attention to Sunday’s showjumping finale - although she was full of praise for Phillips’ cross-country course.
“The double of Gates was a fence I thought was hideous and nearly un-jumpable when I first saw them for personal reasons because it wouldn’t be a fence that would suit my horse,” she said.
“You do have faith in Captain Mark Phillips who has built so many brilliant courses over the years. They are there to be ridden and attacked. The horses are going to read them.
“It rode as big as it walked but I’m very lucky that my horse has built up the experience over the years at Burghley. I’ve never made the time before, I’ve always just been out.
“So I put a bit of pressure on myself to never think that this feels nice and to always give another kick when I want to sit here and think this is pretty and to get to the end.
“She is a real trier, a real blood mare and always runs onto the finish, which is a Burghley horse and what you need. She is such a little fighter, her head goes down and her head goes back.”
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (September 5 - 8) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk