Opinion

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The biggest news — the only news — so far this season is the weather. All I have achieved to date is a single BE100 run!

Hopefully we won’t lose Burnham Market next weekend to any more “beasts from the East”, or my pair of horses might have to go to Badminton with just one run under their belts. I don’t think that matters so much for the experienced horses, but ones going there for the first time don’t want to have their preparation interrupted too much. But with the right facilities, we can get them pretty much match-fit at home; more often than not, prep runs are for the riders’ sake, rather than the horses, who just need to get their eye in over fences.

The Badminton entry list, with its paucity of serious contenders for the French or German teams — we know that Michael Jung, the only German entrant, has stood La Biosthetique-Sam FBW down from team duties — asks the question, do you run at four-star level in the spring of a major championship year?

The French and Germans are clearly favouring a softer run-in to the World Equestrian Games (WEG), whereas the New Zealand and British squads are mostly targeting Badminton first. Who knows which the most effective approach is? The WEG cross-country is being run at three-star level for the first time, but will it be like the Rio Olympics — a three-star with four-star technicality, or a “true” three-star? Badminton is still Badminton and some people would rate a victory there more than at the World Championships.

I don’t think doing a four-star necessarily takes more out of experienced horses than a three-star does, and I think you can run at the highest level twice in the same year. And who’s to say that if you save your horse for an end-of-season big run, it won’t get a stone bruise a week before and not run at all?

I am in the fortunate position of having more than one horse to choose from for WEG, but the important thing is planning your campaign to suit an individual horse’s needs and preferences.

It will be interesting to see what Eric Winter does in his second year as Badminton course-designer. I think we can expect another strong four-star track and I doubt he will have backed off in terms of difficulty. The main concerns centred round the water fences last year, and I expect we will see fairer tests there this time.

We will ride the CCI4* dressage test B at Badminton and when practising it, I am finding it nice to ride — one of the best yet, in my opinion. It has a good flow to it and asks slightly different questions that should show up a horse’s obedience and training well.

Is this rule needed?

I’m not sure that we needed British Eventing’s new rule that if you fall off in any phase, you are eliminated and cannot continue. It seems like “safety” taken a bit too far.

I’m not aware of cases in the past where people have carried on when they have been badly injured. Most people who fall off don’t hurt themselves, and most people who do don’t want to get back on and keep going, surely?

Ref Horse & Hound; 29 March 2018