By James Reid at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
Francis Whittington insists he will take each fence as it comes as he looks to thrive on the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials' showpiece cross-country course.
Whittington, 45, enjoyed his first day back competing at Burghley after a two-year absence due to Covid-19, scoring 34.1 on the opening day of the dressage.
The Crowborough rider was pleased with how DHI Purple Rain, his 12-year-old horse, began proceedings in his maiden Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials campaign.
And he admitted that this year was more of a practice run for next year’s event on an exciting but inexperienced horse.
He said: “I’m really pleased with Purple Rain today, we’re consistently inconsistent, so now we just need to be consistently consistent.
“He’s settling down more, and it’s about next year and prepping for that with our flat work but for this weekend it’s all about the cross-country course now.
“He’s [course designer Derek di Grazia] built a strong track out there, it’s definitely not one you want to go out thinking lightly.
“You need a good night’s sleep out there, there are so many alternatives and options.”
With the much-anticipated cross country next up for Whittington and DHI Purple Rain on Saturday before the show jumping finale on Sunday, the Sussex star is adamant he is not looking too far ahead.
“We’re taking every step as it comes along, I’ve been around for a long time, I’ve done some great tests and it’s not gone to plan,” he added.
“We’re just going to focus on getting to the first fence, the second fence and just riding through each fence if we can.
“As far as Saturday and Sunday, we’ll just take each fence as it comes and what will be, will be.
“We’ll do the very best that we can with the training that we have done.”
And with Whittington marking his much-delayed return to Burghley, he reflected on how much it meant to him to return to the prestigious Lincolnshire soil.
“I think we all have our favourite event, and over the years for me this is a favourite event partly due to the crowd.
“It’s an incredible atmosphere and people here are people that genuinely want to be here and genuinely want to watch the sport, which only adds to the atmosphere that we have.”
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