Top riders have generally reacted positively to their first sight of the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course — although 1 fence has caused some consternation.
This year’s course has been more eagerly anticipated than usual as director Hugh Thomas stepped down as designer last year. This time Italy’s Giuseppe della Chiesa (right) has been responsible for the track for the 1st time, although he has worked closely with Hugh.
Mark Todd said: “I think it’s a proper 4-star test. You’ve got to be concentrating all the way round. Giuseppe has breathed new life into the course and made it more interesting.”
Riders agree the course will be influential and most expect a maximum of 5 combinations inside the time.
Nicola Wilson said: “It’s not going to be a dressage competition.”
Andrew Nicholson said: “It’s a big ask to come to a place like this and design a course and Giuseppe has done a brilliant job.”
Hugh today described the course as “evolution, not revolution”, while William Fox-Pitt said: “Overall the course is quite similar, it’s a gradual process [of change]. Giuseppe has made a few changes that have got us thinking.”
Pathfinder Izzy Taylor was among those who said that the intense Vicarage Ditch area will “take a lot of riding”. She also mentioned the 3 logs on an S-bend through the Swindon Designer Outlet Sunken Mound at fence 18 (pictured top). “There won’t be one way of doing it, you’ll have to ride what comes up,” she said.
William Fox-Pitt also mentioned this jump, which was discussed at the riders’ meeting last night, although Giuseppe said the riders have not asked for any changes to it.
“There are 1 or 2 jumps that have got us scratching our heads and 1 we hope is jumpable, the logs,” said William. “I think it’s a bit unfair as the horses can’t see their way through it. The terrain is punishing and there are lots of things going on. I think it’s a bit of a mess.”
But Andrew Nicholson said he did not think it was an unfair test: “The 3 logs on a turn are very different to what you’ve been doing before. You’ve got to sit on your backside and have a lot of control.
“Until then you are going forward — pushing them to big fences — while there you have to be a bit backward. Horses will have problems there and afterwards because you are breaking the rhythm.
“I think it’s fair and that’s what cross-country riding is about. The riders have to change gears to jump the jumps. I’m concerned about it, but that’s what the course-designer’s job, to make us think about how we’re going to deal with it.”
Everyone is agreed that the conditions could play a big part on Saturday — it has been raining on and off all day today.
“I hope conditions are good and we don’t get more rain as if not it’s going to be a very interesting day,” said William.
Full 24-page report of Badminton in H&H next week, out 15 May.