Mary King: The importance of the ‘coffin canter’


  • H&H’s eventing columnist on allowing a horse to feel his way through an old-style fence

    My past two weekends have been spent at Tattersalls and Bramham and, interestingly, Ian Stark’s good old-fashioned coffins were the bogey four-star fences at both events.

    At Bramham, he had resited the complex — it was influential in previous years as well — but several riders didn’t ride it very well. Perhaps this is because we seldom see this question at a one-day event nowadays.

    The approach, the “coffin canter”, requires the horse to be in a condensed stride yet still going forward. A lot of people seemed to be riding backwards and lacking commitment, while others were too free.

    A theme of recent courses has tended to be on turning lines and perhaps riders have been concentrating on practising these, which are more a test of precision than the art of allowing a horse to feel his way.

    I also wonder if the idea of picking their way — or “hunting” — through a fence like a coffin, popping lightly over the ditch element and adjusting in front of the uphill rail out, goes against the grain for the more careful, Continental-type horses that we see in the sport now.

    Frangible rail penalties

    The other big talking point at Bramham was the rise in penalties incurred for knocking down a frangible rail: 10 in the CCI4*-L (formerly CCI3*) and four among the under-25s. This is higher than in previous seasons and, of course, the ruling has been changed so that you can’t object to the penalty.

    This rise seems to be due to wider use of the Swedish-produced MIM clip, which is more likely to release under horizontal pressure, as opposed to the frangible pin, which is chiefly effective under a vertical force. A clout with a hindleg, as at Badminton for Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser, is now likely to result in a penalty.

    It’s hard to argue against a device that’s designed to prevent a rotational fall, but hitting a fence with a hindleg usually causes nothing more serious than a stumble.

    Riders were complaining about the penalties, but with eventing safety in the spotlight due to the ongoing inquests into the deaths of two young riders in Australia, the MIM clip is likely to be here to stay.

    Worryingly, there were only four clear cross-country rounds in the under-25s, but two performances stood out. Cathal Daniels has, at 22, already won a world team silver medal and made light work of winning — he’s a star in the making for Ireland — and Yas Ingham, the best Brit, did a lovely job on her new ride, Sandman 7.

    Jung is back

    While at Bramham, news came through from Germany, where Michael Jung, who has been suspiciously quiet — 2018 was the first championships he’s missed in a decade — had an easy win in Wiesbaden’s ERM leg. He’s back! But the disappointment was the small field of 15, which isn’t healthy for the momentum of this series, now in its fourth season.

    Badminton director

    News also came from Badminton of a new director after 30 years. Jane Tuckwell is the nicest person and has been there since Frank Weldon’s day in the 1980s. She knows exactly how everything works, so this is a lovely continuity. It’s also great that Mike and Angela Tucker’s son, Andrew, will be her commercial director. If only Mike was here to see it.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 June 2019