It’s a British top four after day one of dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials today (1 September). Despite riding with an injured knee, Sarah Bullimore — who had a fall at Wellington Horse Trials earlier this week — is out in front on her pint-sized home-bred Corouet with a score of 22.5.

“I’m delighted; he’s just a proper little dude,” said Sarah of the 15.2hh chestnut on whom she won individual gold at last year’s European Championships. “He’s got a huge stride, huge heart, huge attitude, just small body. The range of movement he has really shouldn’t come from such a small person, but he’s quite phenomenal.”

The pair are a mere 0.1 of a penalty ahead of Piggy March and Vanir Kamira, the 2019 Badminton winners who were also second at Burghley that year. They scored a personal best of 22.6 today.

“There’s plenty of pressure I’ve put on myself this week,” said Piggy. “She’s felt great this year – Badminton [where they finished fourth] was one of her best tests and I felt that she probably deserved a PB.”

‘Oh balls, she’s not on the button’

Piggy March and Vanir Kamira. Credit: Trevor Holt

Piggy confessed that their test didn’t get off to the start she wanted when the mare tried to halt too early on the first centre line.

“I thought ‘oh balls, I’ve not got her on the button today’,” she stated. “There’s always such a fine line; in my mind I thought ‘get on with it and believe, ears up, sit down, hands together, breathe, just ride it’ and she kept the right side of the line.

“She’s a mare that half-halts herself and she naturally wants to go a bit ‘swishy’ and croup-high in any transition and it takes a lot of attention to detail to stop her doing it.”

Tindall’s in the hunt

Defending champion Pippa Funnell lies third with Billy Walk On, while Zara Tindall is in the hunt on Class Affair, fourth.

Pippa said she was disappointed that the judge at E marked Billy Walk On some 5% & 6% lower than the judges at C and M.

Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On. Credit: Trevor Holt

“That was frustrating because I felt I got the balance right with him feeling lovely and fresh, but just did enough work,” said Pippa. “He’s a big horse and so you can’t do too much.

“I would say it was a PB for him at this level and I was very happy, it was just a shame that the judge wasn’t the same as the other two.”

Zara said she is “delighted to be under 30”.

“I’m so pleased with that,” she said of the 13-year-old chestnut’s test which scored 28.4. “He’s always got the potential, but his brain takes over a bit. It did a little in some of the movements, but he came back and was much calmer than he’s ever been in there.”

Strong British performances

America’s Meghan O’Donoghue (Palm Crescent) currently lies fifth, ahead of New Zealand’s Tim Price (Bango), who was first into the arena this morning and will be pathfinder for Saturday’s cross-country phase, with this year’s course being designed for the first time by Derek di Grazia.

Another American, Woods Baughman (C’est La Vie 135), shares sixth place, ahead of Frenchman Rodolphe Scherer (Song du Magay).

Two more British riders round off the top 10: Harry Mutch (HD Bronze) and Tom Rowland (Possible Mission) respectively.

View the overnight leader board here

Tim Price will also be first into the arena at 10am tomorrow, this time riding Vitali. View the full running list here.

Main image: Sarah Bullmore and Corouet. All photos by Trevor Holt

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