‘The young horses will have to try hard’: riders react to Blenheim’s cross-country courses

  • Riders have commented that the track for the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S is particularly strong this year, as they assess the Blenheim Horse Trials cross-country course, designed by David Evans.

    Izzy Taylor said after her CCI4*-L dressage test early this morning that she had had a quick look at both tracks yesterday.

    “It’s a lovely course – David does a fantastic job,” she said. “The ground feels very good already, which is exciting. As ever, there’s plenty to do – I thought on my very quick first walk the eight- and nine-year-old track is actually the toughest I’ve seen it. We’ll see on Saturday and Sunday.”

    Alex Bragg also said the eight- and nine-year-old Blenheim Horse Trials cross-country course is strong.

    “I actually think the eight- and nine-year-old course is far more technical than the long format course,” he said. “The long format course does seem very kind – it’s a lot of galloping. If you were on a blood horse, I think you’d be laughing, you could gallop, slow down, jump, gallop, slow down, jump, and still make the time.

    “I’d like to see it a little bit more technical so it tests your flow in the riding and the real training. But it’s all there to be jumped  and I think the horses will learn from it. And certainly for the eight- and nine-year-old horses, they’ll be educated – they’re going to have to pull their fingers out and try very hard.”

    Sam Griffiths commented: “The first half is very inviting and then it gets quite serious in the middle, so they’ll need to be on top of their game. There are a couple of combinations with arrowheads to corners out the back on undulating ground [such as fence 12abcd in the CCI4*-S – the log roll to double brush and corner combination] that will take a bit of jumping, but I feel that if you get it right, it’ll ride really well.”

    Olympic team gold medallist Oliver Townend commented on the way the course is strung.

    “It could do with cutting a few corners off and making them a bit smoother,” he said. “But apart from that the course itself looks very good and fair and testing enough. It will be a stamina test, there will be a lot of time-penalties, especially if it remains strung the way it is. But it’s all fair and all in front of you.”

    Ros Canter added: “The course looks beautiful. It’s really well presented – big, chunky, how we like it really, with lots of galloping stretches.”

    Will Rawlin said: “There’s plenty to do out there, lots of combinations and questions. The ground looks incredible – the team have done an awesome job. For me it’s just nailing every combination and being really disciplined with my lines.

    “We’ve got the hills, but they’re not quite like Bramham and Bicton, so I don’t think the horses will be coming back quite so tired. It’s a fair track, and it’s all jumpable, and there’s no particular fence I’m thinking, ‘Oh god, I don’t want to do that.’ So I’m ready to get stuck in.”

    The cross-country for the CCI4*-L takes place on Saturday, while the young horses in the CCI4*-S take on this phase on Sunday.

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