‘It smacks you in the face that you’re at a five-star’: riders’ reactions to the Badminton cross-country course

  • Competitors have been giving their reactions on their first look at the Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course, at the event presented by Mars Equestrian. The verdict seems to be big, bold and an old-fashioned galloping test.

    Irish rider Padraig McCarthy is second to go round Eric Winter’s track on Badminton first-timer Fallulah.

    “I’ve had a quick look round and the start is a little bit friendlier, everything is obvious up to the Lake,” he said. “Then once you get down to the Broken Bridge, it really smacks you in the face that you’re at a five-star.”

    Ros Canter brings two horses forward, her 2018 world champion Allstar B (Alby) and Badminton newcomer Lordships Graffalo: “I think it’s a great course. I don’t know what I will feel bringing a first-timer, but if the horses enjoy jumping big jumps on nice distances hopefully they’ll have a great experience. If they suddenly start to think it’s a bit big, then there’s nowhere to get their confidence back. But if they are up for the job, then it’s a lovely course to ride. On a course like this is where Alby comes into his own and I hope I’ll have a good experience on him and it will give me confidence for the younger one.”

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course: “It’s big, but you can get stuck in”

    Piggy March rides her defending Badminton champion, Vanir Kamira: “It’s a good, galloping, brave course. You want to set the rhythm, go and keep going. You want to give them confidence at the beginning and hope you get into that gear. I think it’s a good cross-country that you can get stuck in and ride it, rather than guessing and poking around tiny skinnies, or something that’s a bit blind and traps them a bit. It just does feel quite big.”

    Pippa Funnell, who rides Billy Walk On and MGH Grafton Street, said she is grateful that she is acclimatised to the five-star dimensions having competed at Kentucky the previous weekend, as many riders aren’t used to jumping this big across country after the Covid hiatus.

    “Of course, it’s Badminton, it’s really big and very, very intense,” she says. “For example the Vicarage Vee section – if you take each individual jump it’s not too bad, but it’s when you add them all together. Let’s face it, there are a lot of horses and riders here who have not done Badminton. I know from experience that you don’t know if you have a Badminton horse until you ride around it. And that applies to both of mine.”

    The Vicarage Vee section, two-thirds of the way round the track, is intense

    American rider Will Faudree was also competing at Kentucky, and brings Mama’s Magic Way to Badminton. He said: “It was a big Kentucky last week, but the brush there you can brush through. I’m not sure you can do that here and it makes the jumps bigger.”

    The 2018 winner Jonelle Price said: “It’s big enough, it’s Badminton, but it’s all fairly straight in front of you, it doesn’t leave you guessing. I’m happy. I was hoping for a bit more rain to play to my strengths – I could actually do with some torrential rain. But it’s all there to be jumped.”

    Badminton debutant Hector Payne, who rides Dynasty, said: “If you split the track into two parts, I wouldn’t worry about anything – there isn’t one jump which you’d think, ‘I’ve never jumped something like that’. But the terrain will be interesting to see how they cope as every fence seems to be on an uphill slope.”

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course

    Many of the fences are approached on an uphill slope.

    Nicola Wilson is aboard her European champion and five-star debutant JL Dublin. “[Eric Winter has done] an amazing job. It’s a massive course with questions from start to finish,” she said.

    Emily King is also on a first-timer, Valmy Biats. “It’s big and bold but Valmy Biats is a mega, mega bold horse so far. For me, it’s the beginning – balancing him in the Quarry and Huntsman’s Close as I’m going to have to set up for every fence, so I’ll have to look after him through the combinations. Hopefully at other places I’ll be glad he’s free and bold!”

    Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course

    Coming out of HorseQuest Quarry at fence 4.

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