After a spring marred by drought the heaven’s opened just in time to swamp the summer
schedule of events and shows. Badminton was the first to go followed by Chatsworth and
a host of others. After a summer which broke all records for rainfall the week leading up to
Burghley was a tense one. Would the rain which had fallen by the bucket load stay off long
enough for the event to be held? Thankfully it did and lovers of all things equestrian flooded
into the breathtaking parkland surrounding Burghley House.
Of course every event of this size can’t be hosted without its share of problems. Ours came in
the form of a hotel that refused to be found, even with the most precise of directions and then
there was the cheerful bowler hat clad official who gaily waved a stream of vehicles in the
wrong direction, only for us to be parked patiently on the road for an hour before some bright
spark realised something was very definitely wrong.
But, bumping slowly over fields of barely dry mud, not daring to contemplate what the tracks
would be like if the ominously grey skies gave us yet another downpour, it was impossible
not to feel a huge surge of excitement when the magnificent opulence of Burghley House
came into view.
It wasn’t hard to imagine how Sinead Halpin had to be feeling over the weekend. The 30 year
old American had nothing but success during the US 2011 season. However she still failed
to win a place on the ultimately unsuccessful Olympic squad. Halpin, with her French bred
Manoir de Carneville lead after the dressage at Burghley. Her penalty score of 36.3 put her
ahead of the following nine horses all closely bunched with scores in the early 40s.
The cross country course rode beautifully for most of the competitors. Mary King retired
after an unfortunate run out in the early stages of the cross country. It is a tribute to the
bravery and long hours of training the horses and riders put in how easy they made the big
solid obstacles look.
Halpin, a former pupil of eventing maestro William Fox Pitt, retained her lead after cross
country and thus was the last to compete in the show jumping arena. The red post boxes
which caused so much trouble in the Olympics proved to be the bogey fence yet again being
thudding to the ground time after time. Such was its power that riders that did leave the red
poles standing seemed to go to pieces with relief after it and forget to ride the remaining
Every one of the spectators must have been rooting for Sinead Halpin as she rode into the
arena with two fences in hand. What a fairy tale a Burghley win would be. Sadly it was not
her day and the support of the spectators was not enough to keep the fences standing with
three eventually clattering to the ground to make Andrew Nicholson the eventual winner.
Riding Rosemary and Mark Barlow’s 12-year-old Avebury, the New Zealander went into
the ring in second place and had one fence down, the final element of the treble at six. This
guaranteed him the runner-up spot and gave Halpin two fences in hand.
Unfortunately for Halpin Manoir De Carneville hit fence three, fence nine and the second
part of the double at 12 ultimately giving them second place and giving Nicholson his third
Burghley title, twelve years since his last one.
William Fox-Pitt, attempting to win his seventh Burghley title, and Parklane Hawk rose from
joint fourth after the dressage to finish in third place after the cross-country phase.
Burghley was not the place for the Irish riders to shine. Geoff Curran’s ride the chestnut
Shanaclough Crecora, who lay in 10th place after cross country, was spun on Sunday morning
on re-inspection after being sent to the holding box. Sam Watson finished the best of the Irish
riders coming 30th on Horseware Bushman with a final penalty score of 87.
Taking her defeat with true stoicism Halpin said: “I’m disappointed but I’m also proud of
him(Manoir De Carneville) — he tried really hard. This week has been amazing — I’m so
lucky to have the horse and we’ll be back again and again and again.”