The cross-country course for the 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials was revealed to the press yesterday (10 April), as well as to the public via the online preview.
Here are seven things we learnt about the track…
1. Designer Eric Winter believes the new FEI flag rule — which awards 15 penalties if the horse’s body strays outside the original line of the flags — will be influential. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see horses having three or four incidences of 15 penalties on the way round,” says Eric. Event director Hugh Thomas adds that he is not a fan of the rule and he expects officials to be reviewing video evidence long into the evening. Among the fences where Eric thinks the rule will come into play is the Shogun Sport Hollow (fence 10ab, pictured above), where riders take a route under a roof, down to a ditch and then have a choice of two narrow angled tree trunks on the right or left.
2. Eric takes inspiration from all sorts of places. Fence 24, the World Horse Welfare Lakeside, consists of a table with water running along the top of it into The Lake. Eric was sitting by a similar water feature at a restaurant in Oxford with his wife, Lizzel, when he wondered whether a fence using the idea could work.
3. He also likes to create spectacular fences. The Hildon Water Pond (fence 15ab) has a new entrance, a big drop down which will have a waterfall running down the back of it. “For the horses its basically just a 70cm rolltop with a drop — I wanted something a bit easier as the combinations before and after are tricky — but it should look spectacular,” he says. The second fence in this complex, the water trough, will have a waterfall running down the front of it, which could be spooky for some horses.
4. Riders and horses will need to know each other well and jockeys must have the ability to react. Several of the fences will be somewhat unpredictable in terms of how horses jump and where they land, including the Outlander PHEV Bank (fence 13ab) and the open ditch with running water at the Mirage Water (17abc and 18), so competitors will need to be able to think on their feet.
5. Eric is constantly looking to disrupt horses’ rhythm. Because Badminton is an open, galloping track, and there is not a lot of natural terrain, the time would be easy to get — particularly in good conditions — if he did not find places where he can force riders to slow down.
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6. The team have to take all sorts of factors into account. Eric and course-builders Willis Bros prepared a new area of ground to use this year, but then it was pointed out that it would bisect one of the car parks, so it wasn’t possible to send horses that way.
7. The route of the course is slightly different this year to previously when the track has run in this clockwise direction. The team were keen to keep the photogenic run beside The Lake which was brought into play last year and therefore had to tweak the route elsewhere to keep it to the correct distance. “Changing the route takes the advantage away from the mileaged riders, who otherwise know when they are going to be up and down on the clock,” says Eric.
Don’t miss our full Badminton cross-country preview, in which world champion Ros Canter reviews every fence, in 25 April issue of Horse & Hound magazine.