Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course-designer Derek di Grazia returns for a second year. His 2023 track features a change of direction of the loop comprising the Dairy Mound and Cottesmore Leap this year, taking competitors uphill through Winners’ Avenue.
Kitty, who walked the course exclusively for H&H days after winning individual silver and team gold at the European Eventing Championships, describes it as “a brilliant track, beautifully built and designed.”
“Horses need to be brave, to have stamina, to be scopey and accurate. They have to listen, to be able stay on a line or a curve, and to be manoeuvrable – absolutely everything that riders should be training into their horses. You cannot have missed anything in your building blocks of preparation to come here,” says Kitty, adding that it is “a real course for horsemanship”.
“There are so many questions and only a true five-star horse will make it look easy.”
Read Kitty’s thoughts on every fence on the 2023 Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course in Horse & Hound magazine, in shops from Thursday 24 August
Watch Kitty walk three key combinations on the 2023 Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course
Defender Valley (fence 5abcd)
The direct option, which Kitty walks in the above video, takes competitors over a set of rails (the park railings will be removed), followed by a ditch, then up a slope to a big corner. There are also a number of longer alternative options here at this early question.
“The horses will be quite fresh coming down this hill. I think you’ll see a few conversations going on between the rider and the horse, about getting the horse in the right balance, as you want a nice, bouncy canter for this upright, quite imposing rail,” says Kitty.
She adds that horses should then meet the ditch (5b) on a one-stride distance, but riders will need to be prepared as some horses may fiddle their footwork through here and on landing.
“The way the ground is means you don’t quite know how their footwork and stride pattern is going to be,” says Kitty, “They could jump into the base of that slope [after the ditch] and things could all change. I wouldn’t be concerned about the number of strides, but more about riding my horse, his canter, the route and keeping the balance and control of the shoulder.”
Defender Trout Hatchery (fence 10abc & 11ab)
“You’ve got real rollercoaster terrain around to the Trout Hatchery,” says Kitty, walking the direct route.
She adds that horses will not know that they are not going to be landing in water after the rolltop at 10a, so riders need to be prepared.
The direct route then takes competitors through the water for the first time, before coming out and over a bounce at 10bc and back into water.
“The bounce will have brush at the back, so again horses won’t know they are landing on dry land. Riders will need to be behind them with their leg and nice and upright in their body,” she says.
The direct route then takes horses and riders out of the water over a step, before a right-hand turn to a rolltop and back into more water.
“I would try to put in a nice curve [after the bounce] so I’m not jumping out the step on too much of an angle,” she says.
Joules at the Maltings (fence 14abc)
Horses and riders have several options here, but all must jump the big white corner at 14b. There is an alternative carved hare at 14a, and also a choice of white corners at 14c. The direct route involved less turning than in previous years at this fence.
“Competitors have had a long pull up from the Trout Hatchery, it’s uphill all the way, so horses may well take a bit of a blow when they get to the top of the hill here,” says Kitty.
“You’ll need to keep the engine going. There’s a big hare (14a) to jump, and then you want to keep curving through these corners (14b and 14c).
“There’s a bit of a drop on landing here [from 14a], so riders will need to be sitting back in case the horse pecks.”
She adds that riders don’t want to take this question on too much of a straight line.
“You want to give the horse every option to see where he is going,” says Kitty. “These are big, wide corners. Nearly 90 degrees, I would say, and they are on MIM clips, so riders want to make sure that horses jump these nice and cleanly.”
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