Reigning European champion Ros Canter admitted she never could have dreamed of competing at the Defender Burghley Horse Trials and hopes it is another step on her destined road to Paris 2024, writes Sportsbeat's Abi Curran.
The Louth-based rider stormed to European individual and team gold in August after also claiming the Badminton crown on Lordships Graffalo.
And a second-placed dressage score of 26.9 in Lincolnshire on Pencos Crown Jewel sets up the equestrian ace swimmingly for Saturday’s highly-anticipated cross-country phase.
“It’s an event I’ve been coming to for years,” she said. “I don’t think I ever dreamed I would get to compete here so it’s still an absolute privilege.
“I was absolutely delighted with Pencos Crown Jewel, we call her Jasmine at home, she really tried her hardest.
“It’s not the phase that she ever found the easiest but I feel like I got her preparation right today and she gave it her all when she got in there.
“Paris is the really big dream. I was the reserve rider in Tokyo, I went out to Tokyo and experienced the whole thing but unfortunately didn’t get to experience any of the competition.
“It was one of the hardest two weeks I’ve had to endure.”
The 37-year-old held the world champion title in 2018 and is currently ranked number three in the FEI World rider rankings.
Canter has come a long way since making her Burghley debut in 2015, where she won the 'best British first-timer' award.
“You never get used to the sheer size of the fences at Burghley,” she said.
“In preparation events it can sometimes feel quite big but it’s got absolutely nothing on Burghley, you have to take into consideration the huge atmosphere that’s here on Saturday so it’s definitely not to be underestimated.
“There are some fences that I think are a bit kinder than they were last year but other fences where I think they look nice but are actually very cleverly designed.
“I’ve got a huge amount of support, at the trot up yesterday everybody gave me a huge clap and cheer that really helps to make you feel like you deserve to be here and give it your best shot.
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