Fence 3-4 — Old Village
Before you know it, up pops this bit of awkward ground, the foundations of the old Badminton village, and two big, wide houses that do not necessarily say: Come and jump me. There is a big need to slow down, find the line and jump the wide first house off a show jumping canter, before making a right-angled turn to the second house, powering up a sharp ascent.
Fence 7ab — Shogun Hollow
Even at the highest level, riders can be famously indifferent as to just how slow a coffin canter needs to be. Even with the ditch removed, this exercise is no easier and needs to be ridden as if the ditch is still there because the steeply rising ground on the other side comes up fast. Hit that wrong and the subsequent corner could be messy.
Fence 10-11 — Grandis Choice
The parallel is now a foot wider than 2006, so I wouldnt recommend angling this and making it even wider. The spread is probably best ridden thinking left over of it and then finding the horses focus and planting it firmly on the skinny elbow that looks like a branch that needs avoiding. Horses will jump the elbow fine, if they see it. There hasnt been much trouble here before, but that doesnt mean it can be treated lightly.
Fence 14abc — Colt Pond
Just when you think a respite is deserved, here comes something serious. Theres a 100° turn to a friendly-faced bounce over fences made of contrasting materials (frangible-pinned rails, then brush) to a landing in virtually unseen shallow water.
The interesting feature is that the horse will think he has seen the third element (which is actually part of the alternative route and jumped in the opposite direction) but will have to be pulled right-handed on to a different line to the real third element.
Someone will surely lose balance as they jump down into the Pond and sail straight on, jump the alternative third element backwards and thus get eliminated.
Fence 17abcde — Spinal Injuries Association Sunken Road
Your nicely stretched-out horse has to return to a coffin canter for this charity complex. In contrast to the skinnies, you have to jump probably the longest log in the world, home-grown at 40ft, before one stride to the sunken road, one or two strides across the bottom, and a nice curving line to a wide log pile, followed by what looks like three short strides to another. This should ride marvellously, provided you havent stumbled in the bottom of the sunken road the approach pace is key to that.
The difficulty here is in the atmosphere and the foreboding. If the line is right, the question a single fence in, though with a maximum 2m drop, then a bounce out over a skinny is not all that tough and the beautifully woven waves are forgiving to a certain degree. Once in, the biggest danger is panicking and yanking the horse in the teeth because the stride out cant be seen, thus denying the horse the chance to sight it and balance himself.
As told to Kate Green, freelance writer
Visit the Horse & Hound stand
Visit Horse & Hound (stand 15) at Badminton and you could walk away with a saddle, cut-price subscription and any number of goodies.
H&H has teamed up with Devoucoux to give away a bespoke hand-made fitted saddle worth £2,500 at the end of the event. Also up for grabs are products from Harry Hall, Airowear, Spillers and Rambo and you can pre-order your H&H/Puffa shirt supporting the strangles campaign (news, 19 April).
Discounts of 30% from subscriptions to H&H, HORSE and Eventing will also be available.
Don’t miss Lucinda Green’s thoughts on all the fences on the course in the current issue of Horse & Hound (26 April, ’07), which also includes the low down on first-timers, how it feels to jump (or fall) at the Vicarage Vee and the best of the shopping at Badminton