Stark’s new Bramham course to test Olympic hopefuls

Britain's Sarah Cohen and Treason were fourth last year.
Britain's Sarah Cohen and Treason were fourth last year. © Mike Bain

A new course by former Olympic eventer and now course designer Ian Stark will be unveiled in 10 days’ time at the Bramham International Horse Trials, and is expected to test London hopefuls to the limit.

With 2012 being an Olympic year, the cross country at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials, from Uune 7 to 10, will be the star attraction for over 250 riders from 18 nations – and of course some 50,000 spectators. Dreams will be dashed or realised, a coveted Olympic place won or lost and some riders face their biggest challenge ever.

Each rider and horse who cross the finish will know they’ve achieved something special – mastering a course from one of the sport’s foremost designers and built by the ultimate craftsman, David Evans.

Riders and horses will be in action on Saturday, June 9 and for the first time, also on Sunday to allow for the extra runners following Bramham taking on more than 100 additional entries following the cancellations to the eventing calendar this spring.

The cross country course starts at one of the highest points in Bramham Park with magnificent views all around with fence one, the Yorkshire Post Garden. A downhill run to fences two and three; the Lycetts British Eventing Young Horse Championships Saw Bench and the Leeds Festival Wall respectively which will test the brakes of fit, fresh and enthusiastic horses. The first combination test comes at fence four, the Shooting Butts which comprises two large brush oxers which Stark calls ‘friendly and should get the horses in the air’. A new open spread fence at five, the Fulmart Feeds Oxer, leads to the landmark Round House and crowd pleasers the Equi-Trek Step up to Sonic and the Equi-Trek Leap which are the same as last year but at number six and early on, this is where the riders will find out if their horses are up to the task.

The big Triple Brush at seven gets the horses back on the attack before the tricky combination at eight, the Suregrow Fertiliser Owl Hole – which comprises a three fence maze of tight angles and a central hole to be jumped through. The Joules Clothing House View at nine is an impressive blue wagon to jump on a slight slope – a great spot to catch a photo with the house in the background. This leads down to the first water with the Tuffa Boots – which looks just like it says – a pair of wellies.

The rider-frightening Horse & Hound Leap of Faith at 11 follows – Stark comments; ‘It always surprises and thrills me that horses are so brave and fearless at fences like this!’ After a rather table-type fence, the Harrington’s Kennel (12), the riders are faced with the new combination fences at 13 and 14, the Woodheads Seeds Hollow) – some big machines were required to dig the ditch so it will be an interesting new feature.

The new, huge Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream Cones (15) will be spooky for the horses but should be a let up before going down into the Front Park. Here the sun and the moon at the Hey Diddle Diddle will require accurate jumping before the sunken road Carter Jonas Combination at 17. The Generator Power Ditch Brush (18) allows a gallop up to the Welcome to Yorkshire Stick Piles (19). The Alan Chappelow Beech Delight under the magnificent Beech trees sets the horses up for the main water attraction at 21, the Dickinson Dees Beachside – will the riders have left enough petrol in the tank? Stark adds: ‘I’m sure the spectators on the bank will get their money’s worth of viewing here!’

Nearly home but for the final effort hill climb – the British Horse Feeds Trakehner starts the ascent to an offset pair of upright brushes at 23, the Nuffield Health Longhorn Question and just a short gallop to the last, the Askham Bryan College Seat.

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