‘We really need to use our brains’: top riders share their thoughts on Bicton’s cross-country course *H&H Plus*

  • This weekend, some of the world’s greatest eventing combinations will do battle at the Bicton International Horse Trials supported by Chedington. Here, some top riders share their thoughts on the course, designed by Helen West and assisted by Captain Mark Phillips ahead of Saturday’s CCI4*-L and Sunday’s CCI4*-S cross-country action...

    Piggy March

    “They are really strong, good courses with hard terrain — it will be a really tough test and something that I think we’re all probably ready for and probably need in order to see where we’re at.

    “We’ve been competing around the same places quite frequently — Aston-Le-Walls, for example, which has very little terrain — and all credit to them as they’ve been doing a great job. However, we have got to be on our A game and really make something happen — it’s good, it’s what the sport should be, and what we probably all need at this stage as well — something to actually get stuck in to and really go and ride and see where we’re at.

    “I really don’t like the rail, ditch, corner [fence 15 in the CCI4*-L, fence 16 in the CCI4*-S, picture, top]. I just think that fence could be a mistake for a horse who’s just not quite understanding or gets its footwork a little bit wrong rather than it being an un-genuine mistake — I’m not a lover of that.

    “Coming out of the water is a serious question with the angled brushes [fences nine and 10 in the CCI4*-L; fences 10 and 11 in the CCI4*-S]. It is a serious line and you’ve either got the line or you haven’t — there is no adjustment for a little bit too left or right.

    “It’s a really good track and I think it will be interesting to see how people ride it. I hope people take the terrain into account, because it’s a great course but it stays big until the end. I think we really need to use our brains, because the hills are a shock to us when we walk it so it will be a bit of a shock to our horses too. We’ve got to be responsible for our cross-country rides. It’s what the sport should be and there will be problems everywhere.”

    Laura Collett

    “Both courses are seriously beefy. The CCI4*-S basically jumps the same course as the CCI4*-L, bar missing out one loop. I got three-quarters of the way around when I was walking it and said to myself I had forgotten where the last let-up fence was — it’s just one question after another. I think it’ll be very intense to ride — it’s a proper track and it’s not going to be a dressage competition.”

    There’s no margin for error. I think coming out of the water is a tough question and I’m not really sure how the rail, ditch, corner is going to work but with another coursewalk or two it will come become clear.”

    Tom McEwen

    “It’s a proper track and it looks unbelievable. You should never undermine Bicton if you’ve never been — personally I would never bring a first-timer here, because it’s always big, but they’ve done a great job. I don’t mean this in a rude way but with the step-in events we’ve had recently, maybe some people are expecting a similar sort of course to those, but we’ve come here and pretty much found Bramham at Bicton — it’s pretty exciting really.

    “The rail, ditch, corner is tough. You can do all these schooling exercises at home to try to train for those sorts of questions, but tackling something like that five or six minutes into a course is different.

    “I think all the lines look really good — they’re all positive distances. It’s just a shame that there’s no Burghley this year, because I think if you had a great ride around here, you’d have been pretty content heading there as it would set you up nicely with the terrain and the style of course.

    “I think this course is a serious ask, especially with the types of competitions we’ve had since the second half of last year and people will have to be on form riding around here.“

    Chris Burton

    “It’s beautiful — the ground is great and they’ve gone to so much effort here. The parkland looks amazing. It’s like a proper proper four-star — it’s big and tough and really in your face.”

    Andrew Nicholson

    “It’s a decent track. I think it’s a bit strong for a first-timer at CCI4*-L level and for me, it’s a little bit more suited to the five-star horses that are here, but it’s all very fair and we’ve just go do it.”

    Nicola Wilson

    “I think it’s really intense — there is question after question from start to finish, and the terrain is really hard work.  It’s going to be one serious cross-country test.”

    Emilie Chandler

    “It’s a proper course and it will take some riding so it’s all to play for.”

    Read the full report from Bicton in the 17 June issue of Horse & Hound magazine and keep checking back to horseandhound.co.uk for further updates and insight

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