In his third year as course designer at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, Giuseppe Della Chiesa has bucked tradition and sends riders the same way out of the Main Arena as last year.
In the above video, eventing rider Harry Meade talks to Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes about Badminton, which he describes as the “unofficial world championships”.
Meade, who is not riding this year, has a sneak peak of the course with Greenwood-Hughes, checking out the 33 fences with 45 jumping efforts.
The 6500 metre course (just over 4 miles) will have an optimum time of around 11 minutes 30 seconds.
First over the ASX Starter then left to the angled hedges may be familiar, but the HorseQuest Quarry now has a completely new look. Entering the pit down a grassy slope the first obstacle is Mike Weaver’s Hay Cart, seen in many locations in the Park. It is then a left loop out of the dip and back in over an uncompromising dry stone wall, up a steep slope and another wall. This certainly has the feeling of Quarries of old.
To break a very long gallop, riders have to steer off the straight and jump an inviting parallel before the serious question of subtly altered distances at the brush corners in the Irish Horse Gateway Huntsmans Close.
Then it is the first fence where horses get their feet wet, a big log on the flat at the lower end of the Lake, which jumped very well on its introduction in 2015. Giuseppe then reroutes from last year, going to the white spreads at the Jack Wills Garden, his only decorative concession to long distance show jumping.
Past the front of the House it is a right turn to a revamped Swindon Designer Outlet Mound, a gnarled log on the flat, followed by another in the dip, up a steep slope to an airy suspended log and down to a very narrow log on a left handed turn.
There is then a let up spread before a new look Mirage Pond. The first element is a narrow kennel with an immediate drop into the pond. There are two choices of kennel exit, with little to choose, but it is the gap between which will keep the horses guessing which one their pilot will opt for.
In keeping with letting the horses have a bit of a mental break after a serious question, the next is another let up, the PHEV Oxer alongside the Vicarage Ditch then up one of the few inclines in Badminton Park to Giuseppe’s ‘discovered’ location, the Gatehouse New Pond. Again very different to last time, the direct route involves a birch drop into the water, a spread in the pond and out on a sweeping left curve to a very open birch corner.
A portable ‘chase fence comes before the classic KBIS Vicarage Vee. The difference this time is that though the obstacle has to be jumped going left, the course track hangs right thereafter, doubling back to the rebuilt Outlander Bank, an upright frontage with a bounce to a narrow roll top feeder.
Then it is a right turn to re-enter the Deer Park over the Shogun Hollow, an angled double of hedges, with a dip between them. Another long gallop ensues before a return to the World Horse Welfare Garden, where riders will need to really steady up before a double of upright white gates.
Down to the crowd favourite, the Lake complex. It is much later on in the course this year, which changes its significance. The first element, which miraculously finds itself as fence 25, celebrates the silver anniversary of Mitsubishi Motors sponsorship, with the back to back silver L200 Pick Ups. It is then a left loop to a quite inviting brush into the Lake, followed by a choice of exit over another brush followed by brush cubes.
There are now only two rather than three birch fences at the Alexanders Silver Birch, then the same large tree trunk, looking down the Avenue towards Worcester Lodge.
Last year Savills Escalator proved perhaps on the kind side, so more of a slalom effect is required this time. The Devoucoux Keepers Brush is the same as ever, but there’s always the penultimate question at the Rolex Crossing. Different logs, different distance this time, then finally back into the arena over the Mitsubishi Finale.