Working hunter competitors were treated to a stunning course of 12-fences laid out on the grassy turf of the Science Supplements ring 5 at the 2021 Royal International Horse Show (RIHS).
Designed by resident course builder Kevin Millman, the flowing course required stamina, fitness and a bold hunting ability. But could your own horse take on the challenge and will you be aiming to qualify next season?
H&H walks the course and explains how the 28 lightweight entries faired:
The championship track produced seven clears in the lightweight section as well as five eliminations.
An inviting oxer with a chunky filler which caused few problems apart from the odd rolled pole. It was heading away from the gate and riders had to make a sweeping left turn to head to the second fence.
A deceptive jump which looked easy but the light stick structures required riders to proceed with caution or an unlucky top pole was rolled. The brush underneath helped riders out as it made horses push for a little extra height.
This fence separated those horses who have enjoyed outings on the hunt field, and those who have not. Two animals stopped at this and one ran out. While most horses took a look into the ditch, riders needed to rebalance quickly ahead of fence four which was just around the corner.
Once sat up and ready to go, competitors had to take on this hefty, solid permanent wall. While arguably one of the most spectacular fences on the course for the spectators, not one of the horses who made it here had a problem and all cleared it well. The photographer was shooting this fence, too, so we expect some pictures for the mantelpiece where taken here.
The first of two doubles. While it looked inviting, this combination was one of the most problematic, with some horses opting to spook at the water jump to the left causing them to lose focus and be unprepared for the jump. Three stopped, one rider fell off and one combination chose to retire here.
Only one horse touched this lovely narrow white gate which was coming down a hill.
The famous hedge was another course showstopper for the growing crowd, who turned out at 7.3oam to watch the class. Only two horses dislodged the top pole. Another test of hunting experience and bravery, this hedge was bigger when up close and personal than it might appear…
Another unexpected problem fence — a skinny with a brush filler — which was frustratingly knocked by six animals. Coming up a slight hill and placed more than half way round the course, perhaps fitness let some of the horses down here, while others may have been caught out by the lack of groundline.
The second double coming on a dog-leg from number eight. Three horses tapped a pole here.
Third from home and this white upright gave riders the opportunity to pick a side to aim for. The fence was approached round a corner and some slipped on their approach leaving them in hot water. Nevertheless, only one horse stopped here and only a couple managed to knock it.
The water is always the bogey fence of the course and today was no different, with fence 11 producing a handful of stops. Most horses who stopped once here refused to go again and riders had to really push on to encourage their unsure horses to leap the impressive obstacle. Those who rode with gusto, pace and confidence tended to fair better here.
The final fence of the course — an oxer with a water tray underneath — was picked out as a possible problem but it proved a delightful finish to the course as only two dislodged the top pole. Horses were heading home, too, and were able to finish on a high.
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.