There were no 10s this year and few nines, after more “wow dressage” and top marks over the past few years at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. The four-star test used [A 2009] requires more collection than the other one and so many top riders dropped from the top ranks because of the flying changes.

The first change, after the extended canter, sets the scene — riders who can’t collect and have a wild change here take a while to recover.

There’s almost a need for a judges’ supervisory panel — as we have in pure dressage — because some marks needed correcting. A late change should get a poor mark, a clean but boring one an average mark and an expressive change a high mark. Some late changes garnered a seven or eight, while clean ones got 6.5, which is ridiculous.

Nicholson’s risks

Among the top players Andrew Nicholson had the rideability factor — he took risks, as he does across country, and it paid off. William Fox-Pitt’s Chilli Morning has more lightness and he could have led without the mistakes in the changes. And it was great to see Oliver Townend’s ride Armada finally become submissive without losing his sparkle.

Ingrid Klimke was impressive as Horseware Hale Bob is not the best mover. Young riders should aspire to emulate her softness and good position. I felt Jock Paget was slightly undermarked on Clifton Lush, but to be fifth and sixth was quite something.

Titan was the best mover

I would take Bill Levett’s Shannondale Titan (pictured) as a horse for the future. He was the best mover and his springy trot, with a clear moment of suspension, deserved better marks. If he could be mistake-free and show better self-carriage he could score in the 20s, something we’ve not seen for a while.

The young German Niklas Bschorer is a lovely rider and it was nice to see Louisa Milne Home hit the 40s with King Eider after steady improvement each year. Paul Tapner is a top rider — both his horses were between leg and hand and Indian Mill showed lots of potential. Let’s hope Laura Collett’s Grand Manoeuvre can fulfill his promise and also Flora Harris’ Amazing VIII, who showed the best outline in extended trot.

The take-home message? Flying changes have returned as a weakness in eventing dressage, having improved since they were first introduced. The placing of them is difficult in this test and I’m not sure if it’s the best arrangement for fit horses, who have to deal with quite a difference between the warm-up and competition atmosphere.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 14 May 2015