It was a case of what might have been for Piggy French despite delivering a strong performance in the cross-country at the 2018 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
French and horse Vanir Kamira placed third in the overall standings after an entertaining day of equine cross-country action at Burghley House, near Stamford.
The 38-year-old, based near Maidwell in Northamptonshire, was runner-up at the prestigious four-star event last year and once again in contention for the title.
But while she showered her 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare with praise, French said she couldn’t help but feel the pairing left some time out on the course.
“It was slightly frustrating – when she finished as well as she did, I wasn’t far from my minute markers, I think I was pretty much on them actually, so she finished so full of running,” she said.
“But you do what you’ve got underneath you and it’s proving quite hard to get the time, but there’s still some really good combinations to come and it will be gettable.
“But she was great, wasn’t she? It’s hard work out there, it’s a big track, it rides tough but she’s fab and she’s finished well. Fingers crossed she’s alright.
“The dressage wasn’t quite what we wanted but she’s not a dressage horse. It’s hard to get her as brilliant as she can be. It’s such a fine line with her.
“We can probably count on one hand all year when we have that really great dressage performance and be in the top few after the dressage.”
Family-friendly Burghley is one of two UK-based four-star events and one of only six in the world, with 160,000 people and the best equestrians on the planet descending on Stamford for the week’s action.
Now, with the dressage and cross-country concluded, Sunday’s final day of action will see the riders tackle the show jumping trials.
And having recovered from a disappointing dressage score to jump up the leader board, French believes it is now all to play for going into the competition’s climax.
“I don’t think you dare to think it could be your year,” she said. “I think you have to just take each day as it comes, and I knew coming here I have a Burghley horse.
“It’s nice to have that confidence that she can do it, but it’s another year, it’s another day and such a fine line between it being right and not being good enough.
“She didn’t blow up, she didn’t make any big mistakes. She could have been a bit smoother for those few more marks to kick in, but I don’t know, we take each bit as it comes and it’s another day tomorrow.
“She was pretty there for me today, the only thing is going uphill sometimes, she definitely dropped the bridle and just found a way up them.
“And going to the Trout Hatchery, it’s a steady climb there and she dropped the bridle there, too. It’s unlike her, but she settled into it.
“You have to keep letting them fill their lungs once they’ve got the hills done and she always picked up afterwards.”
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