Event rider Emilie Chandler will put all notional targets out of her mind when she joins the cream of the eventing world at Burghley this weekend.
The Stathern rider takes the ever-improving Cooper’s Law to the famous international horse trial for the first time since 2015.
‘Spider’ made his four-star debut at Burghley and returns to Lincolnshire with a good deal more experience of elite-level competition.
After a fine 21st-place finish on that first attempt, injury protracted the wait for further four-star competition until last October when the combination produced a best 14th-place finish at Pau, in France.
The 14-year-old bay gelding has been in good health this season, earning a place at Badminton in May and a top-20 finish in tough conditions.
“I don’t think they get any easier, but it’s nice to know we have the experience behind us,” Emilie said.
“Burghley was the first and was very much unknown how he would cope with the competition.
“He is on good form, his prep runs went nicely, and I’m happy with how he feels, so I’m really excited to be doing another Burghley with him.”
She added: “There are so many factors in eventing that can change things from one day to the next so to predict which results you want is quite difficult.
“I hope we enjoy it and come home safe and happy, but hopefully be competitive at the same time.
“You always compete against yourself in a way. All you can do is stay focussed on each phase and produce your best performance.”
While her horse’s pedigree and age gives him a light competitive schedule, Emilie has no such luxury.
Last weekend she drove the 18-hour round trip to Scotland to compete a pair of two-star prospects at Blair Castle.
But she will go into Burghley buoyed by their selection in the British squad as reserves for the World Equestrian Games, the sport’s biggest international event alongside the Olympics.
“It was really pleasing,” Emilie added.
“It gives you a boost and feel very privileged to be named on the reserve list, but there is still that burning ambition to be in the squad one day.”
The pair came off British Eventing’s World Class programme in 2016 with Spider out of action, but have re-applied to get back on the next two-year cycle.
His form, allied to the WEG recognition, suggests the odds are stacked well in their favour.
“He has improved in all three phases at different events since his last Burghley,” Emilie explained.
“If we can bring our best performances all together in the same week, I will be thrilled. He seems to get better and better.”
Emilie will be part of a trio of Melton-area riders in the 90-strong start list at Burghley.
Stonesby rider Willa Newton returns with Chance Remark after finishing 35th at the Lincolnshire venue 12 months ago
They will be eager to improve on that and will be buoyed by an impressive personal best four-star finish of fifth at Luhmuhlen, in Germany, earlier this summer.
Tilton-on-the-Hill rider Sarah Cohen, meanwhile, finished 12th in their last Burghley visit two years ago with Treason, the only horse she now competes.
Cohen (44), who grew up in Cambridgeshire, has a best Burghley finish of fifth, with Wexford Lady, in 2005, and boasts an illustrious CV.
She earned selection for the Athens Olympics in 2004 before being forced to withdraw, while she was also selected with Treason as reserve for the 2012 Olympic team.
“We are aiming for the top 10; I want to record my best finish at Burghley and I feel we are in the shape to go and do that,” she said.
“We are not here to make up the numbers; we are here to be competitive and to challenge for the top spots.
“Everyone knows it’s big, everyone knows it’s Burghley – it’s one of the toughest in the world and everyone comes here knowing that level of difficulty.
“It’s great to have that challenge and for people to be able to come and attack the course.”
But a fourth local rider, Old Dalby’s Emma Hyslop-Webb has been forced to withdraw her two entries, Pennlands Douglas and Waldo III.