EARDISLEY eventer Louise Harwood hopes she can cap the best season of her career with a sparkling performance at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in September.
The 38-year-old has already claimed three wins and 25 top-ten finishes this year and has seen her 11-year-old gelding Whitson reach number two in the British Eventing horse rankings.
And she returns to Burghley House on September 4 on 12-year-old Mr Potts, who made his debut at the Trials last year, finishing 32nd.
Harwood’s best finish at the trials came in 2009 when she finished 16th on Bit of a Barney, Mr Potts’ uncle, and she is confident her new star is capable of going even better.
“It was great to return to Burghley House last year after waiting three years for my next home-bred horse to come along and reach the level required,” said Harwood, who’s stables are based at Rose Cottage.
“We were steady but he was looking at the crowds a little bit and I’m hoping this year we can kick on and be a lot faster and a lot more competitive.
“Preparations are going really well so far. We got a good fifth at Aston-Le-Walls and he’s been jumping well so I’m hoping he’s on track. We just need to do a bit more canter work to make sure he’s really fit.
“Burghley is my favourite event. It’s the scariest event because the jumps are ginormous all the way around but there is something about it which makes it better than the rest. At every jump you’re approaching wondering how you’re going to get over it.
“At some of the other four stars you’ve got the odd nice little hedge in between where you can relax somewhat but at Burghley and the supposed easy jumps have still got a massive ditch or a huge drop and you know you can’t afford to mess up one jump. You need to keep the horse’s confidence up all the way around.
“There’s just something magical about Burghley with the big house, the golden gates and riding out towards the lakes. It just has that aura of a really special place.”
Harwood developed Mr Potts from birth and as the big day approaches, the former Hereford Cathedral School pupil was left to reminisce about the ups and downs to reach her favourite event.
“It’s so much more special competing at a four-star event when you’ve seen the horse be born and you’ve done all the early work with them and you can’t ever believe they will do anything that amazing,” she added.
“I remember him as a novice when he was the wobbliest horse and couldn’t go in a straight line and I’d never have believed he’d get to Burghley which is the pinnacle of eventing.”
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (4-7th September) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk