By Abi Curran at Defender Burghley Horse Trials
Leamington Spa equestrian star Emma Thomas admits the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials were ‘beyond her wildest dreams’ after delivering a dazzling debut display on the fabled Lincolnshire turf.
Thomas, 24, is in just her second year of full-time eventing and made sure to announce herself as a serious competitor on the 5* Burghley stage.
She rode stallion Icarus to a top 20 finish with an overall score of 60.1 with a stunning show jumping clear run on Sunday.
“It’s been unbelievable, beyond my wildest dreams,” she said.
“He’s such a jumper but to come out and jump like a fresh horse after going round the home of Burghley was something else, I just didn’t want to let him down.
“I’m normally quite relaxed about show jumping but I was probably more nervous for it here than I was for the cross-country because I never expected to be in the top 20.”
The Royal Veterinary College graduate picked up 21.6 penalty points in Saturday’s cross-country showdown.
But paired with a faultless show jumping run, Thomas propelled herself up the leader board to a prize-winning finish of 18th.
And throughout the week, Thomas admitted stallion Icarus settled her nerves with his calm nature in front of the Burghley masses.
“I’m elated, I was so nervous about letting him down,” she added. “I can’t believe he’s jumped like that.
“I’ve really been trying to focus on doing my job and not the result.
“He didn’t care so much about the crowd which I was worried about and he just let me ride.
“It’s the pinnacle of the sport, I never thought I would be here. So to actually be here is incredible.”
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