Each of the world’s seven five-stars have their own “flavor.” Some courses are big and bold, while others are twisty and packed with accuracy questions. Each requires a different type of horse, and while some horses can excel over all types of tracks, it’s well known among eventers that horses need a special grit to succeed at the Defender Burghley CCI5*-L.
Jennie Saville has wanted to put FE Lifestyle to the Burghley test since last year, and this year owners Tim and Nina Gardner gave the green light to send him to Stamford, Lincolnshire, England for the event.
It proved worth the journey, as “Foxy” demonstrated he had that necessary grit to tackle the five-star, held Aug. 30-Sept. 3. The 13-year-old German Warmblood (Leo Von Faelz—Berina A, Brandenburger) put in a personal best in dressage (31.1). They added 15.6 time penalties on cross-country and an additional 4.8 faults in show jumping to finish 12th on a final score of 51.5. Saville was the top-placed Burghley first-timer, while “Foxy” received the Best-Shod Horse Award thanks to farrier Russell Deering.
While Foxy has earned a well-deserved break after his fifth five-star completion, Saville still has plenty on her schedule this autumn. She’s heading to Boekelo (the Netherlands) to contest the Nations Cup, Oct. 5-8, with Connory. After that she’ll have a short turn-around for the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill where she hopes to ride Twilightslastgleam in the five-star. She’ll also have horses competing in the three-star and The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships there.
We caught up with Saville after Burghley to talk about her experience.
How does it feel to have had such a great result at Burghley?
I’m pretty jet lagged to be honest, and poor Foxy, he did not have a good ship over, so he was definitely doing that event at about 60 percent. So I’m really grateful he’s such a tough horse and would love to come back when he’s feeling a bit more 100 percent.
The U.S. horses’ flight was delayed, did that affect him?
It got pushed back a day. I guess they’re having trouble getting back over now. He shipped over [with difficulty], but I don’t think it getting pushed back a day helped. [At Boekelo in 2021 he didn’t have any trouble], but they brought him over earlier. So I won’t do that to him again; I think it’s too hard of an event to do, just going and doing it like that.
For many riders, Burghley is a huge dream, was it a long-held goal for you?
When I walked it when I was like 21, I thought it was quite difficult, and I was like, “You know, I don’t really need to ever do this because you can be quite successful without ever doing it.” I think FE Lifestyle is the first real [Burghley horse I’ve had]—like Cambalda was not blood enough, and Stella [Artois] was very strong for me, so … after having him, I was like, “Yes, this the horse I want to go to Burghley on.”
Is there anything in particular that made you think he is a Burghley horse?
He just equitates around. He’s a brilliant cross-country horse. Most of the time riding him around five-star—especially having all three of those horses at [Land Rover] Kentucky this spring—the fact that I had “Toddy” [Stella Artois] waiting to load onto an ambulance and got onto FE Lifestyle and could just go around like that, he takes like a fifth of the effort to ride of any other horse I’ve ridden cross-country. He’s phenomenal naturally, so yes, he’s a Burghley horse.
What’s his personality like?
He’s so sweet on the ground. He doesn’t like people moving fast around him or being stressed out around him. He’s just a little lamb. Little kids could pet him. I’ve got pictures of him at Boekelo with children petting him. He’s just a sweetheart on the ground. And he loves bodywork. He really shows appreciation that way, and he loves being scratched, and he loves the attention. He’s just a cool dude.
He’s done several five-stars at this point, can you talk about how he’s matured and what’s made him so successful in his last few starts?
On the flat he’s always been quite tough, and Erik Duvander initially helped me get through to him, and Silva Martin had him in training and did so much work with him. Tamie Smith helped me going into Maryland last fall, and then to be honest, Phillip Dutton. This year, he helped me ride him while I was at Rebecca Farm [Montana], and he’s been helping me ever since then, and that’s been the real key on the flat.
As far as the other phases he’s always been quite solid. The horse has only done one four-star long, which I wouldn’t normally take a horse to a five-star that’s only done one four-star long. But it was nice because I had Stella [at the level], so I’d go out on him at his first four-star and just cantered him around. I didn’t try to make the time, and he’s been able to be produced in a nice way because of having another horse that’s more in the spotlight, and now he’s the main man. He’s earned it.
Is there anything in particular that Phillip helped you with that has made a big difference?
Phillip really helped me with his canter work and laying boundaries for him. I tend to be quite sympathetic with the horses to a point where maybe I’m not clear enough, and Phillip really helped with that. It just has been a lightbulb with him. I used to have to longe him before dressage and do all this stuff, and now I just do short flat rides and no longeing at all. That’s exciting for the horse’s longevity as well.
Is there anything that led you to doing a shorter warm-up?
Silva always said to do a short warm-up on him as well, because he’s built to run cross-country; he’s not really built to sit and do dressage. I watched Harry Meade do that with his horse [Superstition] at Kentucky: he hopped off him. [So I tried the same:] I was in the final warm-up at Burghley, just standing at the sidelines chatting away. I warmed him up, got off him, got back on him. I think my mental maturity as a competitor [helped me make that change], you have to start to get pretty comfortable with doing things outside the box. They’re all so different.
I remember I had a horse called I Bella. I would literally not warm her up, and I would walk straight into the arena. That takes a certain amount of mental strength to be able to do things like that, try to figure things out.
What was your prep work with Foxy this year? How did you plan out his season?
I’ve historically not evented the horse very much. He did two events before Kentucky ,and then he had a break, and then he did Bromont and then went to Burghley, and that’s all he’ll do this year. I just don’t have a ton of horses, so I try to keep the ones I have sound, and that seemed to work for the horse. I just try to peak him at the right moments and believe in my fitness program and go from there.
Foxy won the Best Shod Horse Award. Can you tell me about your farrier, Russell Deering?
He’s a character. Erik Duvander brought on this farrier named Russell Deering, who was recommended to him by farrier that he had in Europe when he was competing, who was a very famous farrier—Billy Crothers is his name. He recommended Russell.
Then Stella broke down at [Kentucky], and I was in Liz Halliday’s barn every day. I was icing Stella, 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off for two days in a row, and [Russell is] shoeing all of Liz’s horses, and I realize this guy’s hand-making every pair of shoes that’s going on Liz’s horses. I asked him to explain some stuff to me, and he went around and showed me different things on Liz’s horses, and then I pulled out Stella, and I was like, “Oh wow, I see what he’s talking about.”
I was in the mental space, I think, to learn, where normally I’m running around riding 20 million horses. I was doing what I thought was best, and I don’t know that much about shoeing. Now I know a lot more. There’s no question. He literally hand makes every pair of shoes that goes on my horses. It’s pretty phenomenal, and the balance and trimming. I didn’t realize the years you have to put into school in Europe to be a farrier. It’s a totally different ball game, so I’m very grateful to him. It’s been really good for me and my education, and then obviously the proof is in the pudding. He is that good.