Mark Todd: Cross-country will take centre stage *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    The weather gods must have been smiling on Belton and its organiser, Stuart Buntine, last weekend. On the Friday, we all thought they were mad to run the novice and intermediate classes — lorries were being towed into the lorry park and off again. But it is staged on amazing old turf, and next day the sun shone and the park dried out. Stuart and his team did a great job.

    The area that contained the novice and intermediate dressage arenas and their warm-ups got quite churned up, but people were grateful to get a run after so many cancellations, and the going on the cross-country was good.

    I had two horses in the CIC3* and one in the national advanced class, and was pleased with all three. My only criticism was that we weren’t allowed into the warm-up area for the main arena until half an hour before we did our tests to save the ground, which was a brilliant idea, but left us with a very small warm-up for lungeing and riding — it needed to be bigger. But that was a very minor blip.

    The showjumping ground held up well, and although there were patchy places on the cross-country that got quite deep, horses seemed to go through them pretty well. The course had changed a little and caused quite a bit of trouble — whether it was because people lacked previous runs because of the weather, I don’t know.

    There were two fences I would like to see changed. The distance out of the rail-ditch-angled brush combination was too short — some horses tried to bounce it, others had really uncomfortable jumps.

    Similarly, the sunken road, which has been a feature for some years, is past its sell-by date. Again, the one stride is very tight and it causes unnecessary messy jumps.

    My less experienced horse, McClaren, felt a little green in places and ran out at the skinny out of the water. Kiltubrid Rhapsody gave me a very good ride, and Leonidas II, who led the dressage in his advanced, was clear across country but definitely felt in need of the run — he was a little hair-raising at times. They will now head to Badminton, and just need a bit of final polishing; I’m experimenting with Leo’s brakes a little.

    It was interesting to see the new dressage scoring in FEI classes in practice. Cross-country time will be a much bigger influence from now on.

    Kick on to WEG

    Encouraging reports came back from the World Equestrian Games (WEG) test event at Tryon. The arenas and the equine facilities will be good, and I hear that the footing on the cross-country will be fine and that there will be a decent hill in the latter part of Mark Phillips’ track. The athletes’ accommodation is about an hour away from the site, but I think most teams will try to find housing nearer.

    Always friendly

    I, along with many others from the horse world, attended Mike Tucker’s memorial service last week. It was well done with great tributes made to a man whose influence in equestrianism was worldwide. In the early days of international eventing in New Zealand, he played his part by coming out and giving advice on courses, and what to expect when riders started competing abroad. He was always friendly with a great sense of humour — one of the good guys.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 19 April 2018