By James Reid at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
Wills Oakden admitted his pride in steed Oughterard Cooley as the pair cruised round Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials’ cross-country course to head into Sunday’s show jumping in tenth place.
The Crieff-based rider put in a strong display on the infamous challenging course to finish 25 seconds over an optimum time that was met by just one pair on a whirlwind day in Stamford, Lincolnshire.
And Oakden was full of praise for the way his horse emptied the tank to make it round clear in a competitive time.
“It was everything you expected it to be, hard work, but everything I expected it to be,” said Oakden.
“He just kept digging deep and kept jumping, and I just kept looking after him and together we got home.
“He gritted his teeth the whole way, I’m so proud of him for it. Even when he got tired, he gritted his teeth and kept going.
“We did find it hard work but that’s what Burghley is about.”
Oakden admitted that the pair might have set off too quickly, with the Perthshire rider struggling to keep control of his boisterous 12-year-old gelding at the start.
But the 32-year-old soon took back the reins to ensure the duo got round safely ahead of the last day of competition on Sunday.
“At the beginning, I thought it was all going wrong because it was going so fast but once he settled down I just said start using your head, take each combination as it comes,” added Oakden.
“He’s a very fast horse and it was just about trying to use it. It probably helped me more than anyone as I was out of control in the first three minutes, I went off the Leaf Pit before I knew it.
“The plan was to jump off the Leaf Pit, jump the first brush and deviate to the long route but because of how he was going I couldn’t steer I just said ‘keep going boy!’”
Oakden is making his debut at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, which returns in 2022 for the first time since 2019 after two missed years due to Covid-19.
And he admitted the challenge of the iconic 5* course was everything it was made up to be.
“There wasn’t a let-up anywhere,” he said. “For me, it was about riding every combination as it comes. Drop one, move on to the next and that’s what kept us going.
“It’s about using your head, looking after them. It was everything I’d been told all week.
“We’ve never jumped after something like this, she jumps very well but we won’t think about it yet.”
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