Burghley Horse Trials is world famous for being stunningly picturesque, famed for its incredible shopping and above all is a serious challenge to horse and rider. As we saw last week the undulations of the beautiful park create a serious stamina test to every combination not to mention the enormous fences they have to tackle on their way round. With only 39 combinations making it through to the Show Jumping phase on Sunday from the original 72 that started the competition it’s clear to see why Burghley is still ranked one of the toughest competitions in the world.
It takes a huge amount of skill, grit, patience and luck to win the coveted Burghley title and we have been chatting to all-time leading Burghley rider, six time winner William Fox-Pitt to get his views on the world famous 4*.
What changes have you seen at Burghley since you first competed there in the 90’s?
Many significant changes, the one thing is it used to be long format and is now short. And obviously Burghley is still a very physical test and it used to be obviously even more so. They have made huge improvements from a rider’s point of view on the ground. The ground used to be notoriously dry and now it is nearly always the best footing in the world.
You have been incredibly successful at Burghley, winning a record 6 times, what is your winning formula?
Burghley is an iconic event in a stunning setting but what makes it so special for a competitor?
I think the amount the Burghley team are prepared to put in to conditions for horses and riders, and owners.
Of your 6 winners, who was the most memorable and why?
Chaka – he was a magnificent horse and there was no big build up to the win, this was also my first 4* win of my career so it was a landmark.
There have been a lot of changes in the sport of eventing over recent years, if you could change one thing what would it be?
I wouldn’t bring back the long format. I really want to keep the cross country at his 4* length. 4* should really be 11-12 minutes and courses worldwide are getting shorter and shorter.
How does Burghley compare to Badminton and other 4* events across the world?
The Burghley Park is historically beautiful. It is the ultimate physical test for the horse. Other 4*’s like Badminton are on much easier terrain.
Keeping a horse fit, sound and well at top level requires a huge amount of skill from both you and your team. You are renowned for your horses’ success and longevity at the top level, what is your secret behind this?
Patience, waiting until the particular horse is ready.
What type of horse suits Burghley?
You want a horse with lots of thoroughbred so he can cope with the terrain. You want an athletic nimble horse who is very quick over the country.
Of your current team of horses which do you hope will go on to compete at 4* and Burghley?
I have got some lovely horses and I am hopeful that an up-and-coming one called Oratorio II might make the grade one day.
Thanks to William for sharing his Burghley experiences with us. We will be following his one to watch, Oratorio II, closely as he’s certainly well-bred for the job. Oratorio II is by Oslo who himself was a 4* winner with William so it’s definitely in the genes!
If you went to Burghley this year we hope you had a great time watching your favourite horses and riders and that you got some inspiration for your own adventures!