Defender Burghley Horse Trials

5 - 8 September 2024

November Night Lrbht Pn18 86

The Russian victory at the 1962 Europeans is a reminder of a different world order . They arrived, after a marathon journey, with jelly-legged horses, yet somehow won Team Gold. The 1967 winner was equally unexpected: Lorna Sutherland’s (now Clark) Popadom was a skewbald cob with a hogged mane. He cost £40 and was coveted by Chipperfields Circus.

Lucinda Prior-Palmer’s (now Green) second European title, in 1977, wasn’t an upset as she’d won Badminton on George, but she was weakened by flu and her father’s death and even fell off on the steeplechase. A cry of ‘Come on England! Come on George!’ from a man raising his bowler proved the spur, however.


Ginny Holgate (now Elliot) was queen of Burghley in the 1980s with five victories. She will forever be synonymous with Priceless, but those present will never forget her gutsy, hair-raising round in 1986 on a tearaway Murphy Himself. Another sight for the memory bank is five-time winner Mark Todd streaking home after a copybook round on the little black Thoroughbred Broadcast News to take the Open European title in 1997.

Fox Pitt 08 Copy

Burghley’s date means it often avoids mud, but in 1998 biblical amounts of rain fell; Blyth Tait complained bitterly about his dressage mark, but it became irrelevant and he scored a one-two on Chesterfield and Aspyring. Similarly, William Fox-Pitt achieved a classy one-two in a muddy 2008 on Tamarillo and Ballincoola.

For me, Pippa Funnell’s lifting of the Rolex Grand Slam on Primmore’s Pride in 2003 (don’t forget long format then meant steeplechase and roads-and-tracks) and Andrew Nicholson’s third consecutive victory on the enchanting grey Avebury, in 2014, are special days.