Andrew Nicholson admitted his horse Jet Set IV was not quite ready for a title tilt in the big arena just yet – but the seasoned campaigned knows he has a potential winner on his hands.
Marlborough-based Nicholson, a three-time team eventing Olympic medallist for New Zealand, sits 16th in the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials standings after the first day of dressage action after the first run out with Jet Set IV.
Fellow Wiltshire-based New Zealanders Mark Todd and Tim Price also fared well, sealing overnight sixth and eight respectively on their horses NZB Campino and Bango.
Swede Ludwig Svennerstal, also based in Marlborough, lies 12th on Stinger.
Jet Set IV is one of two horses which Nicholson will ride at this year’s competition – the other being Swallow Springs – and the five-time Burghley champion believes Jet Set will benefit from the experience of four-star eventing.
“He’s quite a strong horse – he’s a beautiful mover and very athletic,” said 57-year-old Nicholson. “But he’s had a few too many gaps in his competitive career to come in these sorts of places [and make an immediate impression].
“He needs to do a few more four-star events and then I think he’ll get used to the people and the surroundings.
“He’s a beautiful horse to sit on and any rider will tell you that the moment you sit on a horse you get a feeling whether they’re athletic and when you sit on him you feel he’s got a whole range of gears.”
“Him and the other horse are totally different. Jet Set is pretty much full on in everything he does – he keeps his engines running and he’s ready for whatever.
“Whereas Swallow Springs is very nippy but can be a little bit idle. He felt very impressive around Blenheim Palace and Bramham earlier this year.”
Todd was left lamenting two errors which cost him a place higher up the overnight rankings.
“The horse got off to a good start, but unfortunately I sort of let him down a bit. We made two errors, which is unforgivable.
“At this level, with the way the dressage course the way it is, everything is so tight and it’s annoying to say the least to make two mistakes.
“The horse went really well I thought, he did a really nice test, but unfortunately I made two stupid errors, one forgetting the 20m circle and then I ended up halting in the wrong place at the end as well, which didn’t help my cause.”
Thursday and Friday’s dressage are followed by cross-country on Saturday and show jumping on Sunday at family-friendly Burghley, which attracts 160,000 visitors each year and hosts the top equestrians on the planet.
While Nicholson will be back in action on Friday in the dressage ring with Swallow Springs, he is in confident mood and looking forward to the tough terrain that awaits in the cross-country.
“It’s a big course and it’s clear for the horses and riders where you go. There’s no jump tucked around behind a bush or something last-minute. You can see what you’ve got to jump, they’re big fences and I think it will be quite a hard work out for them.
“It will be quite a test, but I think it will be very fair.”
The multi-award-winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials from August 30 – September 2 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