White Pants, Big Withers And Thoroughbreds Are All The Rage At Burghley

Aug 31, 2011 - 5:08 PM

Hi everybody, from the Burghley Horse Trials! Apologies for the brevity of this post, as I am typing on my iPad :)

I’m one of those people who really values her sleep. And by values, I mean I will cut you for interrupting it. So I find it surprising that I was able to stay awake for the past 36 hours in order to travel to England for the Burghley Horse Trials.

Not only did I not wreck my stick shift rental car in the process of getting here, but I also didn’t run anybody over, and only went down a one-way road the wrong way once. I call that a success.

I was happily able to meet up with some local Southern Pines folk at the airport and even recruited one sucker to be my navigator from the airport to Burghley House. We got lost a few times but eventually made it in about four hours (for a two-hour trip).

Lucky me, upon arrival I was able to walk the course with veteran four-star riders Bobby Costello and Mark Weissbecker. It’s pretty fun walking a course with such knowledgeable people, and I learned an awful lot in the process. The course is as big as you would expect and pretty technical.

At one point, after we’d stepped up to what seemed like the 40th giant corner, someone from our group asked, “Is it against the rules to have a course be all corners?” So that tells you something about the rest of the course.

I won’t go into each jump, as there is a fabulous course walk on the Burghley site, but I will say that I have met the face of Four-Star Hell, and that Hell is named The Leaf Pit. If you’ve never walked up to a down bank the likes of which Satan himself would spook, I can assure you it’s as terrifying as every story you’ve heard. As you walk up the small berm that gives you the full view of the pit below, you start to think, “This cannot possibly be real.” It is not unlike jumping off a two-story building with your horse. There is such a drop on the bank, that as you walk down it, you are forced to walk with your toes pointed perpendicular to your body. Anything less will have you going hiney-over-heels into the demonic skinny brush just waiting for you at the bottom.

Those of you who haven’t done so, I encourage you to zip over to see the course walk for yourself, and in the meantime I’ll attempt to capture the terror on film.

After the course walk, we went on to watch the jog. All horses presented passed, though several were held for reinspectionnnn. As mentioned in a previous blog, I really love watching the jog because it gives you a fabulous opportunity to see the conformation of horses that have successfully done the work to get to a four-star. What I love most is recognizing the traits that, for the most part, all the horses share. This year the presence of Thoroughbreds was impressive. Among the entries from North America, all but two were off track Thoroughbreds. COOL! Despite all the stories that Thoroughbreds are a thing of the past, they persist at the top levels of the sport.

This year I paid attention to one conformational trait, mostly because it pretty much poked spectators in the eye! I would say 95 percent of the horses presented today had MASSIVE withers. You know the kind, ladies and gents—the ones where, upon laying eyes, make you cross your legs in a whimper, saying, “No bareback on that one!”

Lucinda Green calls withers the suspension bridge of the event horse. I don’t know exactly what she means by that, but I intend to do the research to find out the correlation between athletic talent and withers because there has to be one.  It was uncanny how many horses had saddle-fitting nightmare withers, and there has to be a link to athletic talent and the four-star horse. I dare say it was nearly as common as the white jeggings that showed up at the jog.

More soon!

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