It’s that time of year again, when The Duke Of Beaufort kindly hosts a press lunch, and the Badminton crew excitedly unveil the cross country course for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. The 2015 Course is a significant departure in many ways from the courses we’ve seen over the last 15 years or so. Like everything at Badminton, the competition’s outcome will very much depend on the weather during event week, but I think this course will be a great one to ride around or watch from the strings. Here are my key notes:
1. It’s More Flowing – Less Intense
If you look at the Map of the cross country course you’ll notice that there is a good even spread of fences and combinations around the course, and the Vicarage Ditch area is less intense than previous years.
2. Two of the largest ‘portable’ fences ever built
The ISH Studbook Huntsmans Close is home to two of the largest portable fences ever built. These box corners with brush are enormous and good luck trying to move them (or jump them). The fast route catches many good riders out, watch the animated fly thru to see how it is intended to be jumped. These are big narrow corners on a bending line in poor light.
3. Three infamous Badminton fences missing
This year’s course doesn’t have The Normandy Bank, The Vicarage Vee, or the Shooting Butt. I’m sure there will be many who describe this year’s course as ‘soft’, but believe me much of the rest of the course is chunky, with some clever use of undulations and parkland furniture.
4. There are four water fences on course.
The first, [10. The Outlander Lower Lake] is relatively tame and will produce a nice picture for those that make it this far, but “The Lake”, The Mirage Pond, and the Gatehouse New Pond, are as tough as you’d want here at Badminton with the crowds etc.
5. There are plenty of Oxers to jump
Badminton has always had a very rustic feel to it’s courses, you won’t find colour dustbins adorning any of the fences here. Most of the fences themselves are either Oxers, box brush of one description or another, or fallen trees. What this should mean particularly on Badminton’s relatively flat ground is a good strong galloping track.
As course designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa is quick to point out in the Badminton preview video, no one fence should be read in isolation. You need to read the course as a whole. I always remember Paul Tapner pointing out how a few of last year’s riders hadn’t read some of the course properly to leave enough energy in the horse during particular sections. This year’s course might look easier on the face of it with an encouraging flow, but there are some interesting strategies Giuseppe has used at various points to test whether the horse and rider are still in sync both physically and mentally. The Mirage Pond, The Gatehouse New Pond, The Sense Silver Birch and the Savills Escalator (pictured) all need careful planning in my view.
I like so much about this course, and of all the Badminton’s I’ve had the privilege to know intimately this is the one I’d most like to ride around. I’d probably prefer the other direction though as Huntsmans Close could well end any attempt I made (left hand corners and I are not best friends).
You’ll find everything you need to know on the page I’ve created over on the Badminton website: