*Exclusive* Nicola Wilson analyses key fences on Badminton cross-country course: ‘A lot to get their teeth into’

  • Nicola Wilson has given her expert insight into the 2024 Mars Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course, for H&H’s preview ahead of this year’s event (8 to 12 May).

    Nicola, the 2021 European champion, rates and reviews all 32 numbered fences on this year’s track in the current magazine.

    Badminton course-designer Eric Winter’s 2024 course runs anti-clockwise this year, meaning that Voltaire Design Huntsman’s Close will be one of the earlier combinations on course – closely followed by the Mars Badminton Lake.

    Plenty of familiar fan favourites are featured on this year’s course – including the KBIS Broken Bridge and Holland Cooper Vicarage Vee – and there are a host of new fences for 2024.

    “I’m really looking forward to seeing competitors set out on cross-country day this year. They have a lot to get their teeth into – there are plenty of questions, but they are fair questions,” says Nicola.

    Read Nicola’s thoughts on every fence of the 2024 Mars Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course in the current magazine – on sale from today (Thursday, 2 May).

    Watch Nicola Wilson analyse three fences on the 2024 Mars Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course

    Voltaire Design Huntsman’s Close (7abc)

    The direct route at this first major question is over a big parallel, then two left-handed corners on a related distance.

    “The angles of the corners are steep – and being early on adds to its complexity – but if combinations are confident and riders are riding positively, which they should be at this level, then this is very jumpable,” says Nicola.

    Mars Badminton Lake (10abcd)

    Horses will have already got their feet wet at the Lightsource bp Log at fence nine, before galloping down to this question. The direct route takes competitors over a MIM-clipped wall-type fence, then down a slope to a big corner in the water, and out over a single arrowhead. There is also a long option, which starts with an alternative wall-type fence, which gives a different approach to the corner in the water, followed by two arrowhead brushes on dry land.

    “I think it’s really nice that there’s a relatively tight turn to the first element, which will help riders to go through their gears and re-balance their horses,” says Nicola, analysing the direct route.

    “When I first came to the ‘a’ element, I thought they had put the pergola in the wrong place! But once you get over the first fence and down the slope, the turn to the corner in the water starts to become much clearer.”

    She adds: “Competitors will then come out up the slope, to the right-hand side of a second pergola, and over a skinny brush on top of a mound. They are quite tight turns, but if riders keep the balance, rhythm and have horses in the right tempo, this should flow very nicely.”

    LeMieux Eyelash Brushes (15abc)

    This is a new question on the Badminton cross-country course this year. The direct line comprises an angled brush, to a ditch, then over a second angled brush. There is also a much longer alternative route at this fence.

    “When I first walked up to the ‘a’ element, I thought, ‘this is alright! We’ve jumped lots of angled hedges, and this is another,’” says Nicola, walking the direct line.

    “The ditch in the middle will be full of water, which adds another dimension to the question. I think it’s very important that riders don’t get drawn down to look at the ditch, and that they stay on their line.

    “It isn’t until you get to the other side of the ditch that you see the incredible angle to the last element, where everything is encouraging you out to the left. It’s going to be crucially important that riders keep their horses between the leg and the hand and in that tube, holding that straight line, to get a good passage through the final element.”

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