Townend relishing terrain at Burghley Horse Trials

·2-min read
Sammi Birch is riding at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials for the first time since 2007
Sammi Birch is riding at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials for the first time since 2007

World No.1 eventer Oliver Townend insists he is relishing the prospect of tackling the toughest terrain on the planet after kicking off his Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials with two top ten dressage results.

The Ellesmere-based rider, 39, opened his account with a score of 27.5 on Tregilder before finishing off in style to post a fifth-best 23.6 on Swallow Springs in the final test of the day in front of a packed crowd.

The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials have returned bigger and better than ever after two absent years due to Covid-19 and Townend, who takes to the gruelling cross-country course on Saturday, believes the iconic 5* event represents the trickiest test around.

“It’s spectacular, it’s beautiful and I think it’s probably the toughest 5* in the world with the undulations as well as new course designer Derek di Grazia,” said Townend.

“It’s a beautiful place and the home crowds are always fun to ride in front of.

“As one of the best course designers in the world, I think he’s very clever to get anybody that’s struggling out of the competition very early and then let hopefully the rest of us, if we’re going well, chase the clock all the way home.

“It’s tough, it’s big, it’s more technical than previously early on.”

Townend, Burghley champion in 2009 and 2017, is competing at the storied 5* on two less-experienced horses, with top steed Ballaghmor Class rested for the upcoming World Championships in Pratoni, Italy.

But the Yorkshireman believes he is still in with a good chance of fighting it out for top spot at Burghley, despite leaving his best horse in the stables.

“It’s Burghley - normally they win from sixth or seventh generally,” added Townend.

“Ballaghmor Class was sixth last time he won here so we’re close enough.

“It’s always the same, whether that be a Be100 or a World Championships; just try and ride my best and get the best out of the horse that they’re capable of.”

And Townend, who won team eventing gold at last summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, believes the British team have a great chance of more glory in Italy.

“We’re the same team as we were last year on horses that have progressed for the experience,” he said. “They’re getting older, they’re getting stronger.

“You’d be going there very hopeful.”

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