5-8 September 2024

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It’s a Game Changer for Grace

With the dressage phase complete at the Defender Burghley Horse Trials, this year’s first-timers are over the first hurdle.

Friday, September 01, 2023 - 17:54
Grace Taylor Game Changer DBHT 99384

The last of this year's debutants, Grace Taylor, pulled out the performance of her life to post a score of 28.9 on her mother, Ann Taylor’s, Game Changer.

An extremely emotional Grace said after her test: “I'm speechless... thank you Game Changer. He was brilliant today. I was secretly hoping for a score like that because I know he's capable of it, but you can never predict what will happen on the day. If I'm honest, on entering the arena I was just hoping to turn the right way.”

Northamptonshire-based Grace has dual nationality but has chosen to ride for the United States where her mother lives. She goes forward to tomorrow's cross-country phase in seventh place.

None of today's other combinations could challenge either Emily King or Jennie Saville, who performed yesterday, although fellow American Tiana Coudray is just one penalty behind her compatriot, scoring 32.1 with Cancaras Girl. British-based Tiana spent 10 years as an Irish dancer, competing around the world before switching her focus to eventing.

While she is a Burghley five-star first-timer, Tiana has some Burghley experience — in 2015 she claimed the five-year-old Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse title riding Cavalier Crystal, who is contesting her first Burghley this year under Harry Meade.

Of Cancaras Girl, Tiana said: “She's a tiny, meek little thing who feels about 15hh when I'm sat on her. We call her Nana because she'd rather be sitting quietly at home having a cup of tea than going out and about. This was the biggest stage she's been on and she didn't let me down.”

Richard Coney and James Rushbrooke sit 0.1 of a penalty apart on Poetry In Motion (35.2) and Milchem Eclipse (35.3) to lie in equal 33rd and 35th place respectively.

A relieved Richard admitted that he has been trying to get to Burghley for the last three or four years. “Anyone who has tried to get a horse to a competition like this knows how hard it is,” he said. “To be honest, I didn't think my first visit would be on Poetry In Motion; I only started riding him last year, but I’m absolutely delighted. We've only done one sub-40 test at four-star, but he put his head down and got on with the job today.”

James, who is currently joint-master of the Badsworth and Bramham Moor, was pleased with Milchem Eclipse.

“At Badminton this spring he got very tense in the arena, but he stayed with me here. He tried his absolute hardest in there, and that's all I can ask,” he said.

Another very smiley rider was Emma Thomas, who last year won the World Student Showjumping individual gold medal. She posted a score of 38.5 on Icarus, otherwise known as 'Sticky'.

“I'm chuffed to bits,” she laughed. “All I wanted was to break the 40 barrier and this is his second-best test ever. He's a bit of a wild child in terms of energy and enthusiasm, but he's never tried to chuck me off; he's always adored his job. The first time I jumped a cross pole it took three laps of the field to pull him up.”

Emma doesn't take Sticky into the cross-country warm up because he gets too excited. Instead, he warms up in a quiet spot and then goes straight into the start box. Watch this space tomorrow.

Today's remaining 'newbie' is this year's youngest competitor, Tom Bird, 21, riding Rebel Rhyme.

“I wasn't sure how he'd cope in the arena, but he was great,” said Tom, who scored 41.1. “I made a mistake in the canter half-pass, which was frustrating, but it's now all about the cross-country.”