MOST people would be pleased with a 12th-place position on day one of the 2017 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, but five-time champion Andrew Nicholson was left wanting more. Story by By Becky Grey, Sportsbeat.
The Marlborough eventer, who has competed at seven Olympic Games, scored 49.6 in the dressage to finish 10.7 shy of leader Michael Jung after the first test in arguably the world’s greatest four-star event.
Riding Qwanza, Nicholson has put himself in a strong position to challenge for yet another title after enjoying success at Badminton on Nereo in May.
But the New Zealender was dissatisfied with the sub-50 score, feeling he deserved lower after what seemed like a strong display.
“Qwanza was very good today, I was a bit surprised with my marks because I thought the changes felt alright,” said the 56-year-old.
“Seeing the scoreboard when I was in there I thought maybe they were late, but people told me they weren’t.
“That’s dressage, it doesn’t help the ones in front with the weather being particularly good today.
“Normally she hits a good mark, the walk is the tricky bit, but today she walked well and it felt good.”
Nicholson’s reaction is understandable given that his last outing with Qwanza, at Aston-le-Walls in July, saw the pair score 31.4 in the dressage.
He finished sixth with the horse in that event and, despite the early disappointment, Nicholson is already looking ahead to the world-famous cross country on Saturday to better his Burghley standing.
Later in the day, fellow Wiltshire eventer and New Zealand expatriate Tim Price fared even better in the ring to come in with a score of 46.5 on Xavier Faer.
The 38-year-old is expecting a baby with his wife Jonelle, an Olympic medallist, and admitted the prospect of a new arrival has distracted him in recent competitions.
But after such a strong showing in the first test, Price is fully focussed on the world-famous cross country, which he will face on Saturday.
“I’m confident, he’s a brave, Burghley-type horse – the dressage is his weakness but he’s done a 46 so that’s really good for us,” Price said.
“The rest is just up to managing a good cross-country course, then bringing it home safe and sound on Sunday.
“I think Burghley suits me, it allows you to relax into the course and I’m at my best when I’m relaxed, I sometimes get a bit stewed up so I like being let into the course.
“Then the difficulty keeps on coming, that’s where you need the good horse and some good going, as well as the fitness work behind the scenes so that you’re okay when you’re coming home.
“There are so many elements, but you just hope you’re in the startbox in the best possible way.”
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials from August 31 — September 3 has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk