One of the most prestigious events in the equestrian calendar is getting in the saddle to fight motor neuron disease.

Defender Burghley Horse Trials has announced the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation as its charity partner for the 2024 edition, which takes place between September 5-8.

The Foundation was launched in 2017 by Scotland rugby player Doddie Weir to fight the disease, from which he died in November 2022.

Doddie enjoyed a storied rugby career, making 61 international appearances for Scotland, but was also a keen horse rider in his youth, competing on the Scottish eventing circuit including the Scottish Novice Championships held at Thirlestane Castle.

Speaking to Scottish Field in 2017, he said: “I’d say most of my rugby skills came from my time with the horses.

"I had a decent core which allowed me to get plenty height in the air and manoeuvre during line-outs, and the ability to see ahead when correcting a stride or making a turn mid-air transferred to line-outs too.

“But the bigger picture was learning line-out calls and when you’re used to learning showjumping courses and dressage tests, this was a big influence.”

The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation was established in November 2017 following Doddie’s diagnosis with MND, and fights for a world free of the disease.

Doddie was frustrated with the lack of options available to MND patients, with no effective treatment and limited access to clinical trials, leaving many with no hope.

The Foundation aims to fund research into the causes of MND and potential cures as well as support those living with the disease to make their lives as comfortable as as fulfilled as possible.

The charity’s plans during Defender Burghley Horse Trials 2024 include a very special tug-of-war competition in Burghley’s Main Arena, featuring rugby players and event riders.

The Bolton News: David Doel jumping the final cross-country fence at DBHT 2023 (Pic: DBHT/Peter Nixon)

Paul Thompson, Director of Fundraising and Communications at My Name'5 Doddie Foundation said: “We are incredibly excited to be named as a charity partner of the Defender Burghley Horse Trials.

“To be associated with such a prestigious event means a great deal to My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and this will make an important impact on our ability to invest in vital motor neuron disease research.

“Our founder, Doddie Weir, loved his horses and riding was one of his favourite pastimes - although at 6ft 6in, it had to be a big enough horse! 

“This partnership is therefore especially meaningful to both the Weir family and My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and ‘excited for it to get underway.”

Burghley’s Event Director, Martyn Johnson, added: “The partnership between Burghley and My Name’5 Doddie is fantastic news and we hope to help this very worthy charity, which funds, guides and enables the best research to find a cure for motor neuron disease, raise both awareness and funds.

“The celebrity tug of war, ‘Pulling Together For MND’, should be great fun for our weekend spectators and be a real spectacle ahead of the main event cross-country on Saturday morning.’’

Tickets for Defender Burghley members go on sale on 25 April, while the box office opens for general admission the following day, 26 April. Purchasers will have the option to add a small donation to My Name’5 Doddie Foundation when they buy their tickets: