‘Riders will have to use their heads’: how the Bicton Horse Trials cross-country course is riding for the first competitors

  • The Chedington Bicton Horse Trials cross-country course is causing plenty of problems in the early stages of cross-country day.

    Pathfinder David Doel was going well until Galileo Nieuwmoed suddenly looked tired between the first two elements of the final NFU Water (fence 22abcd). David took the long route over part c, but the horse then fell on the turn to the last brush. He was soon up on his feet and was washed off in the water before heading back to the stables.

    The second horse out, MHS King Joules (10th after dressage), also failed to make it home when he had an awkward jump through the third of The Burghley Brushes (fence 19abde) and tipped Oliver Townend off on the landing side.

    Padraig McCarthy, the third to start, was the first rider to finish the course, having taken all the direct routes on the five-star first-timer HHS Noble Call. He finished with 7.2 time-faults

    “I had a fair idea from riding plenty of young horses round here that the terrain plays a big part in how it feels as you’re very rarely on flat ground. You’re always having to balance and adjust the horses and make sure they’re with you,” said Padraig.

    “Luckily my horse can do everything – he can gallop and he can wait and it made my round feel really crazy good.

    “After the last water he got tired and for that next loop I just let him go his own speed. Once he jumped the blue houses [Fisher German Mounds at fence 23ab] he ran comfortably down the hill and when I got there I had a forward distance on the hedge [St James Place Double Brush at fence 24]. He was full of running all the way home again so that was really nice.

    “But I think riders will have to use their heads – you have to let horses breathe if they are getting tired as you won’t get home if you have your foot on the accelerator all the way.”

    Bicton Horse Trials cross-country course: the trickiest fences

    Pippa Funnell finished with 15.6 time-faults on her first ride, Majas Hope, having lost time when she mistakenly jumped the string near the end of the course. Otherwise, she had a very good round apart from an awkward jump at the final arrowhead at the The Burghley Brushes (fence 19abcde).

    She said: “The horses are all trained to go on their line, but they’ve had such a long gallop by then and opened up, so that while it walked quite an open distance, horses were just making up so much stride. He just made up ground and then I went to my hand to the last arrowhead to make sure we jumped it.”

    Pippa also had to circle before the double of Topspec Double Corners at fence 9ab when she didn’t have the control she wanted after the steep bank down into the main arena. Both circling before the corners and taking the long route at fence 9b – either or both of which can be done without penalty – are proving popular. The sixth rider out, Louisa Lockwood, had a run-out at 9b on Diamond Ructions.

    New Zealand’s James Avery, who followed Pippa as the fifth rider out, came home with a jumping clear after taking some longer options on Mr Sneezy.

    He was brilliant – there were a couple of unexpected moments where I had to go to the long route as I didn’t get the shot in I wanted, so we had to make plan B,” said James. “It was a bit twisty having to take a couple of options, but he kept his energy and got me to the finish.”

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