Defender Burghley Horse Trials

5 - 8 September 2024

Burghley 2018 M Lewis107

Amid the razzmatazz of HRH Princess Anne’s victory in the 1971 Europeans, few people remember the individual bronze medallist, Stuart Stevens on Classic Chips. An Exmoor farmer and pupil of the legendary Bertie Hill, he was the only rider to have time penalties in single figures.

Burghley’s influential course inspires heroic performances, often from brilliant horses that are heartbreakingly unreliable on the final day, such as Oliver Townend’s ride Armada. Connections of Andrew Nicholson’s Spinning Rhombus grew similarly resigned, so there were huge celebrations when he jumped clear for third place in 1993.

At the 1989 Europeans, Course-Designer Mark Phillips bet British anchorman Ian Stark, riding a hard-pulling Glenburnie, that he wouldn’t take the direct route at the fiendish S-shaped Remy Martin Selection. No one risked it until Ian flew through with a cheery wave to the cameras. Two years later, Mark’s Sunken Road caused similar head-scratching: only one rider went direct, Carolyne Ryan-Bell on Cross-Country specialist Hooray Henry.

Sixty-year-old riders are nothing new nowadays, but in 1984, Sam Barr’s ambition of completing Burghley, aged 64, was considered remarkable. All went well until he was eliminated in the Show Jumping, but the organisers felt he still deserved a completion plaque.

Perhaps the most heartwarming Corinthian story was Vere Phillipps’s bid to qualify, from scratch, in one year on his late wife Polly’s Coral Cove. Vere was an accomplished horseman, but had never done dressage. In a story that gripped both the Eventing world and the wider media, his fourth place in 2000 was remarkable.