One of eventing’s USPs is that it’s one of very few sports in which men and women compete on equal terms. However, although the Roll Of Honour at Burghley includes such legendary horsewomen as Sheila Willcox, Lorna Clarke, Jane Holderness-Roddam, Ginny Elliot and Lucinda Green, the women have some catching up to do, as the ratio of male and female winners since the horse trials began in 1961 is 33:23 in favour of the men.
Anneli Drummond-Hay was Burghley’s very first winner and the Princess Royal heralded a golden age for the sport when she won the European title in 1971. Ginny had a remarkable run of four consecutive wins (five in all) and Pippa Funnell, who is entered this year, rode into the record books with the Rolex Grand Slam in 2003, but Burghley is well overdue a female winner.
The last was New Zealander Caroline Powell in 2010; she was only the second female rider from overseas to triumph, following Australia’s Lucinda Fredericks in 2006.
Since then, male riders, representing Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Germany, have dominated, as they have done recently at Badminton – until this year when Jonelle Price broke the deadlock.
Remarkably, Kiwi riders have won Burghley 13 times since 1987, including on six out of seven occasions from 1995 to 2001 (Mary King interrupted their run, in 1996). Sir Mark Todd, whose Burghley career began in 1979, and Andrew Nicholson have five wins apiece – both have claims to another title this year. Britain’s William Fox-Pitt holds the record: six wins on six different horses.
This year, expectations for a woman on the podium surround, among others, Piggy French, twice a runner-up at four-star level, the hugely experienced Tina Cook, who came so close last year, and Laura Collett, who is enjoying a stellar season, but this is one weekend in which a currently highly successful group of male riders won’t be worrying about chivalry.
By Kate Green