Harrogate eventer Hazel Towers is confident of producing a career highlight at this weekend’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
Towers, 28, will ride alongside nine-year-old mare Simply Smart in the CIC three-star event – the second highest ranked event of the weekend – against some of the best riders in world equestrian.
The pairing finished fifth at the Chatsworth International last month and Towers is anticipating another strong performance from her young charge – if coping with the extra noise of home support.
Towers will be competing at Bramham for a second time in her career but for a first time on board Simply Smart, affectionately nicknamed ‘Stumpy’ by the rider due to her short legs.
Towers said: “It’s an incredible event.
“Last time we rode around it was really humbling to have everybody there shouting your name going round the course.
“You try not to notice it and try and treat it like it’s any other competition. It’s important not to let the atmosphere and the fact that it’s on home turf get to me.
“It’s just a matter of keeping my head down and hope that we get through the cross country course.
“In my head, I am very happy with where we are in terms of cross country,. She jumped around Chatsworth last month and the fact she has that under her belt makes me feel pretty confident.”
Towers came 30th in the CIC aboard Simply Clover on her only appearance around Bramham two years ago, totalling 82 faults across the three disciplines.
On that occasion, she incurred 5.6 time penalties over Ian Stark’s infamously challenging cross country sector, while adding 17 faults on the final day showjumping.
Improving on that score with Simply Smart will be Towers primary focus for her second visit to Bramham Park, according to the rider.
“She is definitely in the best shape she has ever been in, and she’s better than the last horse I did Bramham on,” Towers said.
“The aim is to get around safely and in one piece.
“In the dressage, she is very capable of producing a very competitive test. It’s just he atmosphere that can affect her. If she can keep her cool in that massive arena, then I am confident she can get a good score.
“The aim is to get around clear, and a top 20 place would be the goal, but that’s me being confident.”
Olympic qualification may have come too early for Towers for the Rio Games but her ambitions to join the best in Britain remain moving forward.
The 28-year-old has targeted a run at Burghley for Simply Smart next year and can see no barriers stopping the horse progressing into the highest level three and four-star events.
She added: “I never thought she would get as far as she has done. She make it all look so easy and is never worried about the fences no matter how high or wide they are.
“I nickname her stumpy because she only has little legs and she hasn’t got any thoroughbred in her so she can find long distance gallops hard.
“But if we get her fit enough then I wouldn’t rule out doing four star competitions in the future.
“She has not given me any sign that she wouldn’t be capable of getting there.”