Yesterday the press had a first viewing of this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course, designed for the first time by Eric Winter.
Here are nine things we learnt about the course:
1. Eric was keen to reward those who know their horses well and have a strong partnership with them — there are places on the course which offer a choice of routes, with little time difference. It’s down to riders to pick the one which suits their mount.
2. Nearly all the fences are placed on the same sites as previously, but Eric has moved which fences are used where (for example, the tree trunks previously used at the Swindon Designer Outlet Mound are now in the water at the Hildon Water Pond, previously called the Gatehouse New Pond) and brought in some new obstacles. He has tweaked the exact route of the track this year and has plans to use new sites for fences in the future.
3. There are some fab rider frighteners, which the crowds and photographers will love. The obvious ones are the hanging log into The Lake (fence 8a, above) and the Rolex Grand Slam Trakehner (fence 14).
4. The course runs clockwise this year, the opposite direction to last year.
5. There is no Vicarage Vee this year. But Eric plans to use it next year when the course runs anti-clockwise.
6. The PHEV Corral (fence 19ab, below) is very confusing on first sight. No, that’s not a bounce with one set of flags the wrong way round, nor do riders go through the middle of the chute and jump out the far side. Riders actually have to jump one of two rails on top of a bank (not shown in the picture below), run down into the dip and then jump either the left-hand or right-hand rail at an acute angle. The rail on the far left of the pic is a very slow third alternative.
7. Event director and former course-designer Hugh Thomas reckons the Hildon Water Pond (fence 15abc) should be re-named “Guiseppe’s Pond” in honour of the course-designer of the past three years, Italy’s Guiseppe della Chiesa, who suggested using this site.
More Badminton news:
8. The new last fence (Mitsubishi Final Mount, fence 30) has been brilliantly realised from the picture which won the competition to design it. While the drawing showed one saddle, the final fence has two saddles, so riders can pick which to take. The winner, Victoria Hanson, works on the design team at a swimwear company in her real job and also events.
9. Eric has rung the changes early in the track — fence three, the traditional site of the Keepers’ Brush, has a new whopping table set in the ditch, called the Keepers’ Question.
Read William Fox-Pitt’s assessment of the course in H&H’s Badminton preview (issue on sale 27 April) and come back to our website that week to watch videos of him walking The Lake and the Shogun Hollow.