Australian rider Andrew Hoy said today at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials that bullfinches — fences with soft brush which horses have to push through on top of the main jumpable obstacle — have no place in the modern sport of eventing.

His remarks were prompted by the fact Eric Winter has included a bullfinch out of water in his first cross-country course for the competition. The fence is number 22, named the Wadworth Lakeside.

“I don’t know that I’ve jumped a bullfinch since 2000,” said Andrew. “No horse currently competing has ever jumped a bullfinch. My feeling is it’s a very big question.

“I don’t think it’s right that horses are taught to push through fences, as they do at a bullfinch. Horses today jump fences cleanly and brushes are strong, so horses can’t push through them without getting a scratch.”

Fellow Australian Shane Rose said: “I think it’s a bit of an old-fashioned fence. The sport has changed a lot and the horse we’re trying to get is not an old-fashioned barging-through-bullfinch type of horse.”

Tina Cook and Andrew Nicholson both said they don’t have a problem with bullfinches, but that today’s lower-level courses don’t prepare horses for such a test.

“I can’t remember when I last jumped a bullfinch and then you get one at four-star,” said Tina. “If we’re looking at health and safety, and horses being confident, we should see smaller versions [throughout a horse’s career].

“I’m not criticising Eric — he’s been ballsy in what he’s put out there. But my concern is that horses need to be given opportunities to meet every variety of fence in a smaller form so that they know clearly what to do.”

Andrew Nicholson added: “The fence is fine, the only thing I’ve got against it is that a lot of horses will never have seen a bullfinch. That’s not Eric’s fault, it’s the way the sport has gone. Now it’s turning round again and these horses haven’t done it. But I think it’ll jump fine.”

Irishman Austin O’Connor said he didn’t foresee the fence causing problems.

“If you’re going well up to the bullfinch you won’t be that worried about it,” he said. “I’m old enough to have seen enough bullfinches before they were banished and I can’t see it causing much trouble.”

More Badminton news…


Related articles:


New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell said that the fence should jump fine as the brush is “pretty soft”.

Don’t miss this week’s H&H (on sale tomorrow, Thursday 4 May), including a 16-page Badminton pull-out with full form guide, dressage test, judge’s analysis, course map and more.