OLIVER Townend saluted the ‘special’ Summer Springs after seizing the lead on day one at the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials.

Ellesmere-based Olympic gold medallist Townend, 40, made the perfect start in pursuit of a third Burghley crown, scoring 24.2 alongside his mount in the fabled 5* event to hold the overnight lead after the first day of dressage.

The 15-year-old Summer Springs was one of only two horses to break the 30-mark barrier on Thursday and is now among the favourites for top spot in Lincolnshire.

“We couldn’t be happier with Swallow Springs, he’s a special horse to everybody involved with him and he’s continuing to enjoy his job and continuing to improve,” said Townend, who is based in Ellesmere. 

“That’s hopefully what all the horses do with good management and training. He’s getting stronger and a lot more cadence through the work and I’m able to go in there and ride him, so it’s nice to get it right.”


Townend set the early pace for the day with Tregilder, who went out second and finished fifth overall after a score of 30.5.

He has one last dart to throw, with Tokyo gold medal winning horse and 2017 Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class set to get his week underway on Friday, leaving Townend with three genuine chances of success.

“All three couldn’t be more different,” he said. “I’ve got from a little blood racehorse looking thing to a huge giant that takes two strides to another horse's four so they are going to be different but at the same they are all very good in their own right and we know them very well.”

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And Townend, who won on debut at Burghley 14 years ago, insists the event has not lost its charm over the years.

“It’s indescribable to win at Burghley and that’s why you see a lot of older riders coming back because they want that feeling again,” he said.

“It’s a very special event and for me it’s the most important eventing competition in the world.

“It doesn’t matter what they build out here, it’s the terrain that makes this place so special and tough.

“It’s probably a little kinder early on but at the same time you never know, anything can happen at these special venues and there’s definitely enough to do.”

Defender Burghley Horse Trials (31st August - 3 September 2023) has been a major international sporting and social event for over 50 years. It attracts the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk