Returning to eventing this year at BE90 level has shown me how misleading cross-country course pictures can be. When you see photos of a track you have to jump being posted on Facebook, it’s irresistible to take a look.
It’s amazing, though, how different fences can look in real life, when their difficulty is so much affected by their positioning. Brightling and Eridge, both designed by Scott Brickell, were great examples. Both courses looked relatively straightforward in photos but, when you were on the ground, hilly terrain, narrow cut-throughs and clever placement of fences off turns and among trees played a part in making them tricky.
Tracks can be wonderfully varied, while still all being a fair test for the same level. Brightling and Eridge felt quite old-fashioned, with many fences having clearly been there for a while, although they were well-presented with a new lick of creosote. The teams had also worked hard to produce decent ground in a very dry summer.
Larkhill in the spring — which ran on a weekend when everything else cancelled because of the wet weather — provided an ideal first run, designed by Andrew Fell. Plenty of plain fences got you going at the start, with the questions mostly coming on the way home.
At Rackham, designer Adrian Ditcham and the team made a real effort to create an interesting course in a relatively limited area and without many natural features.
They had dug banks, steps and ditches, and made use of opportunities to dive in and out of the woods. It was probably the most technical BE90 course I saw this year, ticking all the boxes of skinnies, corners and the like, as well as lots of decorations and colours.
I was impressed by my first visit to Elmwood Equestrian in Oxfordshire, for an unaffiliated event. It had a similar feel to Rackham, with a challenging course put together in quite a small space. The ground also held up well for Sunday after a wet Saturday.
Credit where it’s due
People are quick to criticise British Eventing (BE) and organisers if refunds are slow after cancellations or balloting.
I recently asked BE whether I could have a refund on a day ticket I hadn’t used, having been balloted out of my final event.
They replied within the hour to say yes and the money was back on my credit card the same day, which was pleasingly efficient.
Ref Horse & Hound; 25 October 2018