There are a few changes to this year’s cross-country challenge for the British open competition at Gatcombe’s Festival of British Eventing (1-3 August).

New assistant course-designer Ian Stark revealed the course’s tweaks on Tuesday 8 July, when he was helped in entertaining the press by joint-organiser Peter Phillips. Peter and Ian have joined the team this year and ably held the fort on the press day as joint-organiser and course-designer Mark Phillips was absent on American team training duties.

The main change to the track is a new combination at fence 10, the Dodson & Horrell Crossing. Here horses must take on a meaty hanging log (pictured above) before running steeply downhill into the road and over a wall.

“It’s a gymnastic exercise,” explained Ian. “Riders need to get the horse in deep and jump with a round bascule so the horse lands close to the fence on the flat ground. If you stand off, the horse will land on the downhill slope and it’s in the lap of the gods how you jump the wall.”

There is also a new fence at number 5, the Goodyear Safety Rails, an imposing parallel which will be wired up to the new technology being used this season to collect information on the pressures put on jumps when horses hit them.

The Land Rover at the Folly fences (number 16) have a new profile this year, with last year’s rounded Land Rover logos — which did not jump well and caused several falls — replaced by skinny square box fences.

Peter Phillips and Ian Stark at the new Land Rover fences at Gatcombe
Peter Phillips and Ian Stark at the new Land Rover fences

The BETA water at the end of the course (number 23) still boasts the Loch Ness monster seen last year, but rails replace the normal house fence jumping into the water.

The organising team are expecting a strong entry from top riders at the Festival, although nearly all the riders competing at the Olympics will already have left Britain for Hong Kong.

Gatcombe website

Gatcombe entries