Mark Todd: They had to stop selling cross-country tickets at Aachen *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Aachen is such a great show — it is amazing to be part of it, mixing with the best riders in the world in all disciplines. The facilities are first class, and everything is run with military precision. And for the New Zealand team to win the Nations Cup was fantastic, and a boost before the World Equestrian Games (WEG).

We went there with a fairly strong team, trying out some horses and riders for WEG consideration, and were hopeful of a good performance. So were quite a few countries and, given some of the mishaps, I’m not sure they are any the wiser about WEG selection!

Our dressage efforts were solid and we were second at that stage — although the Germans had rather run away in front.

The showjumping caused a fair amount of trouble. The French overtook us with three clear rounds; a couple of our performances were a bit disappointing, including my own — I had a rail down and six time-faults on Kiltubrid Rhapsody, which was a shock. But there was all to play for.

When we walked Rüdiger Schwarz’s cross-country track, we felt it was a bit more galloping in places than it has been. But there are always a lot of jumping efforts in a short time at Aachen and we knew it would be measured tightly.

Our team achieved four fast clear rounds and that won it for us. The cross-country caused more trouble than I imagined and, even if that hadn’t worked in our favour, it’s good it was the most influential phase. It was also interesting to note that Aachen’s show director Frank Kemperman said that, for the first time, they had had to stop selling cross-country tickets as the course couldn’t hold any more people.

That’s great news for eventing at a show — and in a country — where showjumping and dressage have traditionally taken priority.

The organisers had done a superb job on the cross-country ground, which was almost soft in places. They had help from local farmers to water it and had gone to huge effort to provide us with the best possible footing.

On that note, every event I have been to recently has done the same — Jardy, Barbury, Arville, and Upton House, which is fast becoming the best national novice and intermediate event in the country. It is fantastic to see ground preparation being taken so seriously. And where, despite the organisers’ efforts, it has been hard, you have to choose either not to run or run slowly.

Stronger cross-country, please

I love the Event Rider Masters concept and am a big fan of the series, but the cross-country course at the most recent leg in Jardy was not strong enough. It’s the same with many events that use a lot of portable fences — they tend to become rather unoriginal and uninteresting.

The questions are the same and, because many events now are on flat ground, they tend to become seven-minute sprints round a Derby-type course. I’d hate to see cross-country becoming just a race over portable jumps.

Having said that, I’m off to Hickstead for the Eventers’ Challenge this week, which certainly is a race — and one that I haven’t won, although I’ve come close a few times. I’m taking NZB Campino, who probably isn’t ideally suited to it, but we’ll see what he makes of it. It’s a fun class, worth supporting and always a good day out.

Ref Horse & Hound; 26 July 2018