EVERY time Cirencester event rider Neil Spratt goes into a top-level competition he admits he can’t help but think it’s going to be his last, writes Marios Papaloizou.

The New Zealand native has just one four-star horse in his stable – the ageing Upleadon – and when the 16-year-old gelding decides enough is enough then Spratt will follow suit.

A low-key start to the season was epitomised by elimination at the Badminton International at the start of May.

But, despite the setbacks, Spratt has the experience of finishing 15th at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials last year and 20th in 2011.

Spratt insists he is still looking for his best result at this September’s Burghley event.

“I really don’t think I’ll be bringing any four-star horses through for myself for a while,” said the 36-year-old.

“So when Upleadon decides he’s had enough then that might be it for me in terms of top level events.

“He’s 16 now but he doesn’t have a lot of miles and after Burghley we’ll reassess where he’s at.

“If this is his last then the next few years will be non-existent for me at these competitions but to be honest I have thought that it could be my last for a while.

Whether Burghley is Upleadon’s swansong remains to be seen but Spratt already has his eyes on the future, when breeding will be his main focus.

“If we can finish in one of those top 10 spots this year then that would be incredible,” added Spratt. “If Upleadon comes through Burghley well we might look at another season, but you wouldn’t see a lot of 17-year-old horses at that level.

“Now we have started breeding horses and that is something that is exciting in a different way.

“And maybe if it comes to riding one to raise its profile then I will do that.

“When you’re younger you don’t care what horse you’re riding because you just want to be part of the big events.

“But I don’t want to ride horses that aren’t good and just be cannon fodder making up the numbers.”

The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (September 4-7) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the autumn sporting calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk.