This weekend put Badminton back in its position as the leading event in the world, and there was no one there who didn’t feel that Andrew’s win was thoroughly deserved.
I was delighted with my horses, who both jumped double clear, finishing fourth and sixth.
Eric Winter was very brave to design a cross-country course like that in his first year; from the word go we thought, “Wow — Badminton is back to its meatiest best”, and he very nearly got it spot on.
Some of the distances weren’t quite right, however, such as the exit out of the Lake. It walked a long one stride, but the majority of horses chipped in an extra one, and a distance which is neither one nor two strides is unfair on horses. On dry land it is different, as you can alter the pace, but after a big drop in and a turn through water to a step up it is very difficult. There were too many questions asked of the horses at this fence at an early stage.
The Hildon Water Pond was uncomfortable to ride through and it was only because of the generosity of the horses and determination of the riders that they kept trying to jump and go between the flags.
But once you were past the corners at 21, you were pretty much home safely as long as you rode sensibly.
We have got so used to courses where the distances are very precise; here you had to be prepared for anything and competitors who sat down and rode by the seat of their pants were rewarded. It demanded bold, sensible riding. Experience showed, but we also saw some less experienced riders who used their head and took some long routes to keep their horses confident get home clear.
Those who didn’t often gave their mounts a fright early on, and if they kept asking the big questions, didn’t get round.
If this is what Badminton is, then it needs to be consistent and to stay at that level. If riders know that, then we shouldn’t see so many combinations who aren’t ready for it turning up.
American rider Elisa Wallace got a yellow card for her fall with a very tired Simply Priceless at the final fence. Frankly, the ground jury should have given themselves a yellow card for allowing it to happen, especially in the main arena — they should have stopped her earlier.
Once again there were too many discrepancies in the dressage marks, and noticeable differences between those on the first day and on Friday afternoon. I know that the different positions of the judges around the arena mean it is difficult to see everything, and not everyone has the same opinion on the quality of a movement, but maybe it is time for TV monitors in the judges’ boxes so they can see a more rounded picture. Marks of four, 4.5 and seven for a late change, for example, are unacceptable and can be avoided.
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 May 2017