The 3 Star wrap up from a beachy Burnham Market

       Andrew Nicholson and Byrnesgrove First Diamond


Andrew Nicholson and the nine year old Irish Sport Horse Byrnesgrove First Diamond put in a personal best score of 37.2 to lead the CIC3* incorporating the Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam at the Barefoot Estates Burnham Market Horse Trials at the end of the first day of dressage on Thursday.

 The horse that Andrew started to compete last year stayed at the head of the pack despite concerted efforts by some big names such as Andrew Hoy, Pippa Funnell, Caroline Powell and Nicola Wilson and young riders also featured in the mix after the dressage phase with Emily King and Dargun posting a 40.2, Bella Innes-Kerr and Carolyn in ninth place on 42.6 and Willa Newton within striking distance on her Blenheim winner Caja 20 with a 46.

Izzy Taylor also had two rides in the top 20 after dressage with Trevidden in equal 13th place and Frog Rock in 19th but the winner of the first leg of the Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam at Belton opted to withdraw her 3* horses after this phase.

The large number of competitors in this class meant that the dressage ran from Thursday to Saturday lunchtime and last year’s winners, Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class put in a strong performance on Saturday morning to move into second place on a score of 39.2.

With four horses in this class there was no doubt that Oliver meant business, especially when all four jumped clear in the show jumping, prompting Oliver to comment that he felt ‘like Marcus Ehning’, although Ballaghmor Class and Cooley Master Class both incurred one time penalty.



The eventual top ten all jumped double clear, apart from Oliver’s one time fault, on an arena that provided plenty of good viewing for spectators seated on the grassy bank and those in the popular hospitality tent and EHOA marquees.

Their outdoor areas provided the perfect spot to sit and sip on something when the sun was out and the Norfolk breeze wasn’t blowing too briskly; the rain stayed away for most of the three days of competition but a downpour on Friday night was perfectly timed to help soften the going on the cross country slightly (a little note to Australian based riders here who would think the going on this course would be perfect for their horses)

The CIC3* cross country on Sunday, which started in the early afternoon had the unusual interruption of a camel race (more about that soon) and early in the afternoon Piggy French threw down the challenge on Vanir Kamira, the 12 year old mare that was competed by Australia’s Paul Tapner until late last year. Piggy and Vanir Kamira produced the first of only five double clear cross country rounds to hold the lead for much of the day when Andrew Nicholson and Byrnesgrove First Diamond picked up 8.4 time penalties with Andrew obviously having an eye on the future of the less experienced horse rather than going flat out.


      Piggy French and Vanir Kamira


Nicola Wilson and her Boekelo winner Bulana had a frustrating run out at Fence 19ABC, the Barefoot Estates Seaside Village and she very nearly came unstuck two fences on, the Nags Essentials Ditch and Rails with Annie Clover. Thanks to Nicola’s stickability and Annie Clover’s nimble feet they came through unscathed to finish in fourth place overall with 6.4 time penalties   

This fence proved troublesome for several riders, with three eliminations and one retirement also happening here and was the fence that the eventual winner Oliver Townend liked least of all

Watch Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino through the Nags Essentials Ditch and Rails (below)




“To have to angle a tall vertical onto ground that’s running away relatively steeply from you with a ditch at the bottom that takes their eye off things isn’t something I think we should see. But at the same time, course designers have to be brave and push limits; I’m not a course designer but from a rider’s point of view I think it was one step too far at that point in the course (the fourth last fence)”

Three riders were eliminated here, one retired and one picked up 20 penalties but it was the Barefoot Estates Seaside Village which caused riders to collect the most penalties with the horse needing to really come back and listen to the rider after a big jump in to the water before a sharp right hand turn to the B element in the water.


Watch Piggy French and Vanir Kamira through the water in the video below


Andrew Nicholson seemed to have always planned to take the option on his young horse and jumped it beautifully this way, without appearing to add too much time but some other top class riders, including Mark Todd, Jeanette Brakewell and Francis Whittington, who opted for the direct line, picked up penalties. Poor Emily King got caught out on both horses, disappointingly dropping the very competitive Dargun down the leader board

Francis’s penalties came on Carlchen, a horse previously ridden by Stuart Tinney in Australia, and the pair is still in the process of getting to know each other

“I could probably have helped him a little more there but we’re at the stage where we have to make some small mistakes to truly work out where things are at. It’s better to mess it up a bit now and work through it than leave it till later” says Francis “He is a lovely horse and my style of riding is probably a little different to that of Stuart’s but I’m really excited about this horse for the future”


      Francis Whittington and Carlchen


Francis had no such problems on his more experienced horse Hasty Imp who finished in sixth place, adding just 6.8 time penalties on cross country to their dressage score while young Tom Jackson on Dusty II took fifth place with one of the few double clear cross country rounds of the class. Tom has recently been taking some lessons with Pippa Funnell, who finished in 10th place on Billy The Biz, prompting Pippa to congratulate Tom on beating her but ‘don’t make a habit of it!’


      Tom Jackson and Dusty II


“Dusty is really nice young horse” says Tom “She won the U24 2* at Tattersalls last year and was on the Nations Cup team at Waregem but she did a much better test here. She’s quite a feisty character but she is good on cross country – she felt amazing around there today and made the time feel very, very easy. I was pushing her but not really going for it and she just cruised around to make the time”

Tom also took his Badminton bound Waltham Fiddlers Find for a steadier gallop around to finish in 16th place and enjoy ‘the perfect preparation for Badminton’

Another young British rider, 25 year old Olivia Craddock enjoyed one of her best results at this level on Billy Liffy. The 10 year old liver chestnut finished sixth in the CCI3* U25 at Bramham last year but they finished seventh here in very eminent senior eventing company; they added just 1.6 time penalties to their dressage score to finish on 49.6, just 0.1 penalties ahead of Oliver Townend on Arctic Mouse and Caroline Powell on Sinatra Frank Baby.


Caroline Powell and Sinatra Frank Baby angle the first element of the troublesome Nags Essentials Ditch and Rails


Caroline was also the last rider of the day on course riding Up Up And Away on a very competitive score of 41.7 after the dressage and show jumping. However the downhill brush arrowhead at Fence 17 caused their demise and Caroline walked home

The big story of Burnham was of course Oliver Townend’s dominance of this event but Piggy French’s second place in this class is yet another indication that Piggy is back with a vengeance. It has been a fantastic start to her season after a year off with wins and placings across the board at all levels. Her first four international starts have yielded a third place at 2* and a second and third at 3* level while her young stars have been amassing points at national levels, including two wins for Fernhill G and Cooley Monsoon and second place for AKD Corline in the Novice classes here on Friday

Piggy French is certainly back in the saddle and on great form .......

Final results here