The Badminton XC course for this year’s Mitsubishi Motors-sponsored event (2-6 May) was unveiled yesterday. Here’s what we learnt…
1. Course-designer Eric Winter is trying to develop different course features which can be used in each direction. Fence three this year, the HorseQuest Hump, is situated on a new mound. “It gives horses a bit of work to do before the first combination going this way [anti-clockwise], but probably won’t be used going the other way,” says Eric. The bank in the middle of the course is not in the track this year as the designer doesn’t feel it works with the flow running this way.
2. Although the first combination is the HorseQuest Quarry (fence 4ab), two walls jumped down and uphill with a 90-degree turn between them, the first “real challenge” is Huntsman’s Close at fence 6abc. Riders must sharply angle the log in to set up the turn to two acutely angled skinny logs, made more difficult by the roots sticking up from their ends.
3. The viewing from The Lake (fence 9abc) will be excellent, with the possibility of seeing six fences from one spot on the grandstand — Eric reckons people will claim prime positions by 6am on cross-country day.
4. Eric admits he had a “learning curve” at The Lake last year, with horses launching in over the rail and then struggling to make the turn out. Although the log in is the same height this time, horses should “roll over it” more. They will then have to tackle a skinny brush in the water and curve right up a bank to a skinny brush arm.
5. There’s a waterfall at the Hildon Water Pond (fence 20abc). The straight route involves jumping a logpile on the right, then a steep slope down to the water and over the log trough with water running off it (the generator to power it will be hidden behind the food concessions here so only the water can be heard). Eric stresses that riders need to pop rather than launch here and then generate energy through the left-hand turn up to the angled brush oxer.
6. Eric had the idea for this fence as he was driving back from Tweseldown one evening. “I’d rung my wife Lizzel to say I was just popping into Badminton but I’d be home about 10pm. At 11pm she called to find out where I was – I was parked up by the hedge with the headlights shining over the pond, imagining it all,” he says.
7. The KBIS Vicarage Vee (fence 23/24) should be easier this year – “I want it to be more of a run and jump fence,” says Eric, explaining this is appropriate with the tough fences before and after the Vee. The addition of a post to define the line on the left and other tweaks make this terror fence a touch less forbidding this time.
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8. Although the slow routes are time consuming, Eric likes them to flow and often designs in such a way that if a horse runs out, it’s pretty much already on the long route.
9. Eric believes that fit, quality horses will be able to make up time in the final third of the course, on the long stretches after the Shogun Hollow (fence 24abcd).
Don’t miss our exclusive Badminton course walk with Mary King in the 26 April 2018 issue of Horse & Hound magazine
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