‘Very much five-star’: cross-country course for Burghley replacement event at Bicton revealed

  • The Chedington Bicton Horse Trials cross-country course for the five-star event in September was unveiled yesterday (23 August).

    The track, designed by Mark Phillips, consists of 26 numbered fences and 45 jumping efforts over a distance of approximately 6350m.

    “Having just run the four-star in June, I was struggling to make this five-star Burghley replacement look very different. So although riders set off in a familiar direction, the course is reversed,” says Mark.

    The first real challenge on course is the EHOA Dewpond, fence 5ab, where Mark says “the holiday is over”.

    “Positive riding is required as the brushes are quite daunting on the angle with the water in between,” he adds.

    This is followed by the Chedington Oxers and Triple Bar at 6abc.

    “There is time for horses to catch their breath at the top of the hill before the first two-metre top spread, four strides to the next oxer and then three strides to the skinny triple bar,” says Mark.

    “If riders didn’t understand that they were now at a five-star, they will as they come down the hill to the Voltaire Brush [fence seven] before a quick turn to the Berenberg Cabin [fence eight] at the top of the Derby Bank. It’s then all about control on the steep descent down to the TopSpec Corners [fence 9ab]. Anyone a little out of control might think of doing a circle before attempting a left corner, four or five strides to a right corner, both very missable!”

    Bicton Horse Trials cross-country course: control and accuracy

    Some let-up fences follow, before control and accuracy are needed at the Clinton Devon Estates Cliffhanger at fence 14abc. On the direct route, horses must first jump the frangible rail clear, then go down a big drop and take three or four strides to the massive triple brush at the bottom.

    Frangible rails are also part of the test at the Ariat Challenge (fence 16abc), where horses bounce from the rails over the ditch, then bounce again to a 1.45m arrowhead brush.

    Mark goes on: “Riders can then gather their thoughts as they gallop to the W. H. Bond Sawbench [fence 17] but will need to be wearing their five-star pants as they approach the daunting Western Counties Tall n Narrow [fence 18]. There is no time to relax though. As horses get to the top of the hill they are met by The Burghley Brushes [fence 19abcd] – four consecutive triple brushes, something none of them will have ever seen before. There are, though, alternatives for those thinking discretion is the better part of valour.

    “There is no let up as riders come down to Vardag Oxer to Corner [fence 20ab]. Again, the two-metre oxer looks enormous and there are then a forward four or more conservative five strides to an awkward looking corner.

    “A long gallop follows down to the HTSG Wilma & Crumble Stumps [fence 21ab]. Riders just need to take their time here over a not so easy piece of ground before galloping back to the NFU Water [fence 22abcd]. Riders will ponder long and hard here, but may well opt for the slightly slower bending lines as three of the four brushes are very missable.”

    The final combination on this Bicton Horse Trials cross-country course is the Fisher German Mounds at 23ab, of which Mark says: “Another bending line but the brushes are tall and not very inviting.”

    Mark concludes: “There is more terrain on this five-star course than any other in the world, therefore some of the let-up fences are more forgiving and there is less intensity than say Badminton or Burghley. The overall examination, though, is very much five-star and will produce a worthy champion.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Read Mary King’s thoughts on the course in the 26 August issue of Horse & Hound magazine and see videos of Mary walking the key combinations at horseandhound.co.uk next week. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

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