Ahead of tomorrow's cross-country day (7 May 2016) we joined Zara Tindall (née Phillips), back at Badminton for the first time since 2013, on the Musto coursewalk to find out what she makes of Giuseppe Della Chiesa's 2016 track
“It’s good to be back here with my top horse [the 16.1hh gelding High Kingdom] — it’s what we all work towards. There are plenty of places to do something silly, but I’m really looking forward to jumping it. High Kingdom is happy to be here too and hopefully we have done all we can to be ready.”
Having missed most of the 2015 season due to an injury at Kentucky last year, High Kingdom (‘Trev’) still needs to gain his individual qualification in order to be considered for Britain’s team for the Rio Olympics this summer.
“I’m setting my sights on this weekend first and taking it day by day after that,” says Zara.
Zara takes a look at some of the influential elements of the 2016 cross-country course
Fences 4-5: HorseQuest Quarry
“You have to be careful here because the hill can unbalance the horse. You have to let the horse find its way and balance itself. The haycart at fence 4 is on a mound, which is another place where the horse could become unbalanced. The walls at fence 5 aren’t massively big but they are on a slope, which makes it a bit of an exercise.”
Fence 6: The Oxer Chicane
“This is a big track with some wiggly bits. The oxer on the way to Huntsmans Close (fence 7) has been designed by Giuseppe so that you have to deviate from the long gallop and can’t cruise along.
“It’s a big wide oxer but you want an easy jump over here so that you don’t waste time and energy.”
Fence 7: Irish Horse Gateway Huntsmans Close
“Giuseppe has perhaps made the Huntsmans Close a bit easier this year. They are massive corners but they’re jumpable. But you do need to keep your line — you definitely don’t want to be sliding over the middle of these fences. Accuracy and power are key and you need the best canter that you can get here. They should ride nicely but you have to attack them.
“There is a nice long gallop after Huntsmans Close which is a good chance to catch up a few seconds, especially as it’s downhill.”
Fence 8: Wadworth Lower Lake
“This is a good opportunity to get your horse’s legs wet before the other waters. You’ve just had a long gallop so you need to make sure he’s listening to you.”
Fence 9: Jack Wills Garden
“This is a showjumping exercise with massive oxers. It’s a big jumping effort but you want to make it as less taxing at possible by keeping a good canter and staying straight. You need to have the horse in your hand and coming from behind so that you can pop them, rather than opening up.”
Fence 14-15: Mirage Pond
“We are now getting to the busy, intense part of the course — there is a lot going on in these couple of minutes.
“You are going to need a really good jump over the first house because when horses see the water some of them might sit behind. This is an accuracy test with the added element of water to make them look.”
Fence 21: KBIS Vicarage Vee
“This is the worst fence in the world — I don’t think you’ll find anyone who will want to jump it. It’s such an accuracy thing and you have to get the right line. We practise jumping on an angle all the time at home, but there is no where else that you can practise anything else like this. And why would you want to?
“It’s a big jump but there are lots of other big jumps. The width isn’t a problem — it’s the ditch and angle that make it such a rider frightener. The long route here is not that much longer, so it could be a popular option.”
Fence 22: Outlander Bank
“There is quite a big step up here. Landing on high ground takes a lot of impulsion out for the one stride to the skinny. So you need to get the horse really bouncy so he has a punchy stride up the step.
Tiredness could start showing at this point on the course and we might see horses lengthening — but it’s important that they’re really underneath you and firing.”
Fence 26: The Lake
“The Lake has quite a big hedge into the water this year and you need to be careful not to launch in. It is harder for horses to balance themselves going downhill so you have to get them sitting on their bum.
“It will be packed with crowds here, so you need to make sure your horse is listening to you and not looking at all the people.”
Fence 29: Countryside Tree
“This looks like the easiest fence on the course, but you could easily do something silly here. It looks like a novice fence but it could be a ‘tripper upper’.”
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Fence 33: Mitsubishi Finale
“That feeling as you go into the arena at the end is great. So much goes into what you do with your horse to get here, and to get through it as planned and to have them home safe and sound is why we do it.”