Late bloomer Phoebe Buckley eager for another crack at Burghley glory

·3-min read
Phoebe Buckley riding Little Tiger at Burghley Horse Trials 2010

By James Reid

Phoebe Buckley started riding aged 12 after watching a TV show, but now the Cambridgeshire rider is back for another crack at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials - the biggest challenge eventing has to offer.

Buckley, 38, was not born into an equine family and instead developed her love of horses off the back of watching If Witches Were Horses as a child.

But her late start hasn’t held her back, as Buckley now approaches her fifth appearance at Burghley, 12 years since the last.

“My family aren’t horsey at all, I actually didn’t start riding until I was 12, I was quite a late starter,” said Buckley, speaking ahead of the event that is back for the first time in two years - due to the Covid-19 pandemic - better than ever, with renewed impetus, a top class field and additional activities on offer.

“I got into horses because I watched a programme on TV called If Witches Were Horses.

“It was like riding lessons on TV and I remember deciding ‘yep this is for me’.

“I started riding lessons and then slowly built from there.”

Buckley soon teamed up with owner Val Ginger, for whom she rode Little Tiger at the 5* event over a decade ago.

The pair picked up the best mare prize in 2009 as they sealed a top-15 finish and now Buckley is back on Little Tiger’s son, Tiger Mail, hoping to create some more memories.

“It was an incredibly tough Burghley that year [2009] and she just gave me the most amazing ride,” added Buckley.

“She was absolutely tiny, only 15 hands, to ride something so small across such a tough Burghley and have such an amazing ride and then winning best mare – that was really special.

“She’s [Val] the most amazing owner – I’m so spoiled because she’s understanding, she’s competitive but understands things go wrong.

“She just wants me and the horses to come back in one piece. We have a brilliant relationship.”

Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is the pinnacle for many riders, and Buckley admits there is something special about the event held in the grounds of Burghley House in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

The event is lauded across the equestrian world, with many holding it to be the toughest test available due to its gruelling cross-country course and riders travelling from across the world to compete.

It is the first time the event will be held since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and now Buckley and Tiger Mail are hoping to make their mark on what is a more anticipated Burghley than ever after a strong build-up, despite the odd setback.

“We’ve had an amazing spring, then I unfortunately had a bit of a tumble and broke my wrist mid-season,” added Buckley.

“That put a little bit of a spanner in the works but we’ve had a brilliant run at Burgham in the 4*, the horses ran fantastically, they seem in great form.

“I’m hoping our little jinx in the middle of the season, that’s got it out of the way. We’ve had a really good run-up for it.

“There’s something really magical about Burghley, you need a proper cross-country horse to get up those hills, just the whole setting.

“Being back after two years, it’s just so exciting.”

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