Reigning champion Pippa Funnell has had to wait an extraordinary amount of time to defend her Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials title but is looking to make up for lost time in making it two in a row.
Funnell, 53, won her second title in 2019, but a Covid enforced three-year hiatus has meant there has not been another Trials since.
Now the Surrey rider, who was also victorious on the iconic Lincolnshire soil in 2003, is looking to defend her title with not one but two rides doubling her chances.
But Funnell insists she is just grateful to be back at Burghley after such a long time away.
She said: “I think it’s quite frightening that three years has gone by, when you’re back here it certainly does not feel like three years ago – it’s great to be back at Burghley, it’s a special event.
“Badminton and Burghley, they stand out don’t they in the world of eventing, so it very much is at the top of my big wins and very, very special moments have been held here, so it’s lovely to be back.
“Whether that puts more pressure on personally or not I don’t know but the main thing is I’m just glad to be back here and you just never know what lies in store over the next few days.”
Funnell’s hopes of defending her crown lie in two horses who have been here and done it before – Majas Hope and Billy Walk On - and Funnell is confident that both her rides will give her a decent chance of a third Burghley success.
“Maja’s Hope has experience, he’s been here before quite a long time ago,” she said.
“I’ve not had a great preparation with him, I’ve kept him off the hard ground, I had a good run in Kentucky on him, but I’ve actually been very short of runs this Autumn.
“But I’m sort of just hoping that his experience and my experience over the years will be enough and we’ll put that behind us, so hopefully he’ll be alright.
“The other horse Billy Walk On has been doing well but was disappointing at Badminton.
“We felt he’s gone well this Autumn and we thought why not bring him and see how he is - he seems in good form.”
The return of the Burghley Horse Trials sees a new course designer in Derek di Grazia, taking over from long time designer Captain Mark Phillips, who was denied a final Burghley Horse Trials due to the cancellation of the 2020 event.
And Funnell believes di Grazia has created a challenging course at the first time of asking.
She added: “He gets you nicely into it, I think the arena is quite nice and then after the arena, fence five comes up very serious and thick and fast.
“It’s a very special event and I think going forward it gives a lot of riders the chance to see what they’ve got and what they’re sitting on.”
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