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Past champions return for Burghley's 50th running

September 3, 2011

» Pictures from Burghley

Former Burghley winner Lorna Clarke was one of many winners returning to The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials for this year's celebratory 50th anniversary.

Oliver Townend, Blyth Tait and Lucinda Green in the Land Rover sponsored Parade of Champions. © Mike Bain
Lorna (nee Sutherland) a winner on two occasions, first won here in 1967 with the rather plain skewbald Popadom - who even at the time was considered an unlikely winner as he was out of mare that once pulled a dray.

They confounded their critics by leading the dressage with a 20 penalty margin - producing a then record breaking mark. "No-one thought that Popadom stood a chance and everyone was very surprised that a horse of his type could even do dressage," remembers Clarke, who later became a BBC commentator for the event.

Despite leading the dressage most presumed that once up against the other mainly Thoroughbred horses he would not be able to complete the steeplechase in the time as well as a four mile cross country course as well.

"After the steeplechase - which he did well inside the time - I did think he might be finished but coming back through the park he saw the deer and got such a fright it brought him back to life," Clarke said.

"When I first won there was just field for practice and warming up whereas now there are several all-weather arenas - but having said that the standard of dressage is much higher now - thank heavens."

In 1978 Clarke gained her second win - with Greco, a thoroughbred of more respected breeding.

"I thought I had sold Greco to Canada. But he failed the vet and came bouncing back and incredibly we went on to win - the biggest favour that vet did me."

Greco was also fifth and sixth the next two years. "He was a charming sweet-natured horse, so much that when my son was young I used to sit him on his back while I fed the other horses," said Clarke, whocompleted Burghley on 16 occasions as well as winning team gold and an individual silver medal (1985) and a second team gold (1989) at European Championships held at Burghley.

"I had one of my more exciting moments during one of the European Championships when coming down to the Trout Hatchery I was catching up the Italian rider before me. He was taking the long route and I could see the fence judge was thinking of stopping me - but I shot through via the short route as I had the right of way. The cheers from the crowd carried me for the next five fences - it was amazing and what makes it all worth while."

So what does Clarke make of this year's cross-country course? "From what I've seen so far I love it - with the exception of those skinnies at the bottom of fence 4. That is not cross-country it is show jumping. Cross-country is jumping hedges, fences and walls. I love the big clean fences like the hedge (Herberts Hedge - Fence 8) all big great fences you can ride at - I love it."

Images below are from the Burghley "Parade of Champions".

Blyth Tait and Lucinda Green

© Horsesports Photographic



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