By Ben Hart at Burghley Horse Trials
Matthew Heath beamed with pride after ‘brave’ mount Askari completed his first Defender Burghley Horse Trials.
In his seventh Burghley, the Rutland rider, 40, guided 5* debutant Askari to a top 30 finish at the famed 5* event in leafy Lincolnshire.
While Heath is no stranger to reaching the final day of the competition, having done so on four occasions with The Lion, the development and determination of his latest ride was cause for celebration.
“It’s strangely been a pretty extraordinary week if I’m completely honest,” said Heath.
“This horse has a pretty sketchy past and one way or another he wasn’t overly confident in the cross-country phase, I thought that was a very strong track.
“I was very proud of the way he dug deep to jump round that, he’s had a lot of rails down in the show jumping recently as well and he’s jumped out of his skin, so I’m pretty pleased.
“It seems silly to be really pleased when you’re sat at the bottom of the leaderboard but an awful lot haven’t got this far.
“He’s probably been braver than both myself and Dickie (Richard Waygood) who rode him before, so I think we’re both pretty proud of him and maybe coming back next year and having another go.”
Heath had modest expectations heading into Saturday's crucial cross-country stage following Askari’s struggles at less high-profile events.
But on a day where some of eventing’s biggest stars failed to complete the course, Askari came through unscathed much to the delight of his rider.
“I said when I came here if he comes round here it’ll be a fair achievement, it wasn’t that long ago we were at Osberton struggling to get round the three star,” added Heath.
“He doesn’t really think for himself when it comes to the distance when you’re coming to the fences, he doesn’t really adjust himself and you have to do a lot of that for him, but you can’t fault him for bravery.”
Defender Burghley Horse Trials (31st August - 3 September 2023) has been a major international sporting and social event for over 50 years. It attracts the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit