Exciting changes are being made to the 2013 Burghley cross-country course with designer Mark Phillips promising a typically tough track at the event

Mark Phillips has made a number of changes to this year’s Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course, which many riders now consider the world’s premier four-star, eclipsing Badminton.

The course-designer visited Burghley at the end of last month and spoke to H&H about the new fences.

“This year, the first 10 fences are totally new and have been turned around,” he told H&H. These include the Elephant Trap (pictured top).

Another difference is that fence four will be in the arena. Riders then gallop down to the Discovery Valley before heading to the Leaf Pit, then jump back through the Discovery Valley — which contains two different combinations for 2013.

“After Herbert’s Hollow, the course follows a similar route to last year — but obviously not the same fences,” said Mark.

Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course: a new jump

There are more changes in store when riders reach the water. Having crossed the lake, the course goes back into the water and under the Lion Bridge, before heading in front of Burghley House.

And Mark is promising a typically tough and testing track.

“I’ve changed a few things around, but it hasn’t got any smaller!” he said with a laugh. “I’m thinking the riders have got what they’ve asked for.”

Burghley verses Badminton

On Monday (8 July), Badminton Horse Trials announced that course-designer Hugh Thomas was handing over to the Italian, Giuseppe Della Chiesa. Hugh’s course had attracted heavy criticism from competitors, including H&H columnist Tina Cook, who said it had “lost the ability to scare riders”.

Captain Phillips did not wish to be drawn into that debate, but it is clear his Burghley course will contain the “rider frighteners” that many felt Badminton lacked.

“When you get up to the fence you think, ‘Ok, this is not a three-star!’” he said.

But spectators watching riders tackling the fearsome fences might be surprised to learn that some of the dimensions are “almost two-star”. It’s all to do with the undulating ground at Burghley, explains Mark.

“If you’re on a down slope, it [the fence] might measure 1.15m from take-off, but it’s probably 1.40m because of the ground.”