By Ben Hart, Sportsbeat
Cirencester rider Tom Rowland believes he was justified in resisting the urge to retire Possible Mission after the veteran horse made a flying start at the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials.
Rowland, 33, considered retiring the 16-year-old after a 19th place finish at Badminton earlier this year.
But on their third trip to the fabled 5* event in Lincolnshire, the pair made a bright start, with a dressage score of 31.9 fuelling hopes of a shock victory.
“The problem is it’s always in the back of your mind and you constantly want to do the right thing by your horse and you don’t want to be greedy,” said Rowland.
“He loves his big events but equally I’m sure he’d love to be in the field eating and stuffing his face.
“His body felt good and it’s stupid, after 11 years, you know how the horse is going to feel.
“He came out of Badminton brilliantly and we thought, ‘why not give it a go?’. I also think that their fitness from the spring carries forward, they don’t lose that core fitness.”
Judges have been harsher in their marking so far this year, but they liked what they saw from self-confessed eventing geek Rowland, who sits comfortably inside the top 20 ahead of Saturday’s cross-country.
And with the end firmly in sight, Rowland hopes they can bow out in style.
“I’m really pleased with him,” said Rowland. “He comes into his own in a big atmosphere like that, so you always think afterwards there are places where you would’ve liked to have gained a couple more marks.
“My halt was a bit early, my changes could’ve been better, but I think you’re only human to come out of it and think you could’ve done things better.
“In the best way they take over your life.
“It’s a strange feeling to think that eventually he will head back to his owners in Surrey.
“They become like family and in many ways I think of him with very human characteristics, he’s a very intelligent horse.”
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