Ian Stark, who has won the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials three times and is now a respected course-designer, walked this year’s cross-country track for H&H last week. In this video, he explains how riders should tackle three of the most difficult fences.
Read Ian’s thoughts on the whole course in H&H this week (issue dated Thursday, 28 April).
Fences 10, 11 and 12ab: Fallen Tree and Swindon Designer Outlet Mound
What I like here is that the designer, Giuseppe della Chiesa, is making the riders think. They have choices — get it wrong and it would be all too easy to pick up 20 penalties for a run-out at the last element.
The approach appears rather friendly and could encourage complacency, but it’s important to be organised well in advance and have a planned route, though always with a back-up plan should any element go wrong.
The first two elements should ride well, then the log at the top of the mound has to be jumped cleanly in order to get to the final element on three strides.
I think that we will see a lot of emergency changes of plans here as the riders cope with their horses’ reactions!
Fences 17, 18 and 19: Gatehouse New Pond
This pond has now had time to settle and is a very attractive addition to the course. But this is no time for the riders to be admiring the view.
There’s the same rail in as last year, but the jockeys can chose to jump in straight and bend to the second element, an open oxer, or risk angling the right-hand side of the rail to get straighter to the oxer. It may be worth remembering that trying to angle a vertical rail into water can create some early duckings.
Survive the way in, then riders are confronted with an open oxer in the middle of the water, which is unusual and will require a forward approach so get your “brave pants” on for this one. The oxer has MIM clips, the frangible device new to Britain this year, so I hope we don’t have too many picking up those dreaded 11 penalties here for breaking the clip.
It’s not over once competitors have cleared the oxer as six strides out of the water there’s an open corner that looks to me to be on the upper side of 90°. The alternatives might be required by some here.
Fences 25 and 26abc: Silver Anniversary L200s and The Lake
It’s no coincidence that the Mitsubishi L200s are fence 25 — I’m sure it took some calculations by the designer to make this happen on the 25th anniversary of Mitsubishi’s sponsorship.
The L200s create a big jump leading towards The Lake. Then there’s another sharp left turn to a big brush with a downhill approach. I don’t think this will cause too much trouble, but some will need a bit of a Pony Club kick.
There’s lots of room to rebalance in the water before the jump out, which looks like another brush but is concealing the large step up. If horses don’t read this step properly then the distance to the bullfinch may ride rather long.
It’s not the most difficult combination I’ve seen here, but never underestimate the effect of the huge crowd that gathers awaiting the inevitable ducking. I hope they’re not disappointed!