I travelled to Kentucky last weekend, principally to see my daughter Zara ride High Kingdom (pictured above competing at Bramham), but also to keep up to speed with four-star course-design.

I was mortified to learn, while waiting for my connection in Detroit on the Friday night, that Zara had been unable to do her dressage as “Trevor” had kicked his stable wall while having acupuncture and needed four staples in a back fetlock.

Imagine my dismay when I arrived to discover he had had to go to hospital to have his joint flushed under general anaesthetic. He stayed there over the weekend and at the time of writing was due to travel home with the other European horses on Monday.

I walked the cross-country at 6.15am the next day on perfect footing. The track was a credit to Mick Costello’s build team as snow and floods left them a mountain of work to do in the closing weeks. I liked Derek di Grazia’s course: lots of angles and let-up fences, big but not too technical, especially in the final four minutes.

The shortened three-minute intervals to hurry the competition through before the weather came in created problems for cross-country control and the TV coverage, as there were always three horses on course and sometimes four.

It all looked too simple as four of the first 13 starters went inside the time, but by 11am conditions were changing and the softer ground made beating the clock increasingly hard.

Aside from the top guys, Bill Levett was superb after a sticky moment in the first water. He was one of those held on course, although only for a few moments after Will Faudree’s Andromaque broke a frangible pin. Will would have contested his 11 penalties had the mare finished sound. She now retires to stud.

Francis Whittington demolished a fixed corner, so got off with no penalties as they are only for frangibles. He did a great job just to get round as Easy Target did not enjoy the conditions. But he paid the penalty when the horse was too sore behind to showjump.

The new frangible rule did work for some, when riders had penalties removed after the MIMs clip on the footbridge went.

William Fox-Pitt was masterful — his time-penalties gave others breathing room, but he left nothing in the tank.

The Americans had a mixed day, but the pressure is off now they only have to beat Brazil and Mexico at the Pan Ams to claim their Rio ticket.

Up the requirements

Reflecting on this weekend I was glad Luhmühlen has strengthened its qualifications so category C and D riders (the least experienced) have to hold a second CCI3* result. This seems sensible as at Kentucky we saw a significant proportion of pairs who probably should not have been there. We need to strengthen the requirements further for four-stars as they are not for everyone.

I designed at Belton the weekend before Kentucky. It worked running the 115-runner Grantham Cup in the middle of the day so the massive crowd could see many Badminton horses. This was in sharp contrast to Weston the week before where advanced horses were still running as the clock closed in on 7pm.

I’ve been confused by the discussions about medical armbands. The responsibility is now on riders with medical conditions to show that for the paramedics. If you are healthy you display nothing. This must be better than the old system of out-of-date cards and riders borrowing each other’s cards to comply with the rules.

Ref: H&H 30 April, 2015