Twenty-five percent of the field didn’t finish Sunday’s Cross Country phase at Badminton Horse Trials, and the carnage was wide spread around the course. There were the obvious bogey fences that you just knew were going to catch a few out but the problems weren’t limited to these by any means.
Dan Jocelyn kicked things off but only managed to get as far as the Colt pond, and standing on the sidelines it became very clear he, and more importantly, his horse just didn’t seem committed to getting over this fence. He had started well but perhaps burnt a little too much fuel.
Probably the biggest shock was Tina Cook taking to water like a duck on the fabulous Miner’s Frolic (see clip). A little too much hesitation in putting the strides together on the way into the lake meant leaving a leg behind over the narrow willow fence. She survived this well with her spirits intact though.
Today’s conditions of course made the track more challenging but the going was generally considered very good and whilst 2 fences were removed for safety the ground held up well and we didn’t see bucket loads of sand that are usually used to secure the footing on slopes in these conditions.
I think the main cause of problems was riders getting a little complacent and misreading the effort required in certain sections of the course in wet and cold conditions. The riders who went clear kept a steady even pace up to fence 15, resisting temptation to gallop on too strongly between the lake and the sunken road.
With fence 15 (farmyard corners) behind them, the more challenging Colt Pond and Hexagon Hedge could be tackled with a calm, clear head. Get over these and the rest of the course could be attacked with some vigour, with opportunity to make up time. There were probably only half a dozen issues on the later half of the course, half of which could be put down to first timer inexperience and another, the very unfortunate Francis Whittington.
Interestingly a good few of the clear round riders do not watch others go round the course, Andrew Nicholson and Paul Tapner to name two, instead preferring not to let others’ problems cloud their judgement. (most wise).
Certainly not the toughest course we’ve seen at Badminton over the last decade, just a year in which many rider’s had become complacent. You could almost suggest the Hugh Thomas had designed the course specifically for a rainy Badminton! (very clever if he did)
Mark Todd, the comeback king, rode a very positive and attacking round on a relatively inexperienced horse and with a glut of withdrawals likely before the showjumping probably has a decent chance of making the top 10, if his horse stays sound.
Sasha Pemble & Nicola Wilson also both rode exceptionally well and deserve to finish the competition with something to show for their efforts. Good Luck!