The cross-country phase at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is always an exciting, thorough test of some of the best horse and rider combinations in the world.
The Eric Winter-designed cross-country course has 32 fences in all, with 48 jumping efforts. It’s big, it’s bold and Petplan Equine ambassador Lucinda Green — a six-time winner of Badminton — calls it “a cracker”.
If you’re visiting Badminton to watch tomorrow (Saturday 5 May), these are the five fences you need to see...
Fence 6abc — Huntsmans Close
These three huge, narrow, angled logs are positioned under trees. The first log has to be jumped on an acute angle, with a gentle left-hand turn to two narrow logs on a two-stride distance. They are positioned so that you can’t line up for C until you have landed from B.
Horses will need to be nimble, listening to their rider and genuine enough to stick to a line that isn’t visible early on.
“It will be very easy to find yourself on the wrong side of a tree here — you have to know exactly where you’re going,” assesses Lucinda. “Trees create shadows and when the shadow moves the horse thinks the fence is moving.
“Riders have to think fast in here and so do the horses. It will take a lot of riding and horses will need to be slow enough to make a serious turn to each log, but with enough power to jump them.”
Fences 8, 9abc — Wadsworth Water & The Lake
Lucinda says the Lake is the first mega challenge.
A 4ft high log (fence 8) takes horses into the water at one end of the Lake, before galloping alongside the water and jumping back in over a tree stump with 6ft drop behind it (9b).
Once in the water there is a brush (9b) followed by steep bank up to a 4ft 10in brush (9c) on an acute angle. This will be fascinating to watch.
“It’s easy to be unseated at water, either by the horse suddenly stopping when he sees the water or jumping flat and scraping his belly on the way in,” explains Lucinda.
“If you’re on the buckle over B, you won’t have control to turn to C.
“This is a fiddly fence. You’ve got to be familiar with all the options so that if plan A doesn’t work you can instantly make a decision to go to the alternative.”
Fences 14, 15, 16 — Outlander PHEV Mound
This open corner (14) to rails on top of a bank (15) followed by a downhill run to another corner (16) is, according to Eric Winter, one of most difficult combinations.
Both corners are wide open at a huge, 90° angle and the bank in the middle is steep. There’s a right-hand option, where the bank is steeper but the rails are lower and there’s more room to get to the third corner, while the left-hand bank is less steep with bigger rails and a related four-strides to the final element.
“The corners are massive,” says Lucinda. “At the moment I don’t have a preference for which route to take. Left means horses are less likely to be distracted by horses passing on their way back to the finish, but going to the right gives you more margin to kick on into it. This is a clever fence.”
Fence 24abcd — Shogun Hollow
Rails take horses to a narrow, rugby-ball shaped ditch at 24b. This is followed by a bank up to a skinny house (cd) but none of the fences are in line, meaning the ditch will have to be angled.
“It’s a little ditch — what sensible horse would jump that when it’s so easy to go round?” says Lucinda. “This is another place where riders and horses will have to be quick thinking and able to hold a line.”
Fence 26abc — Joules Corners
The box at 26a is 4ft 10in high with a 6ft top spread, followed by two giant corners (b & c) on a curving line.
“You’ll be on a tired horse by this stage and you’ve got to manage that, without going too fast because you’ve got to get back for the two corners afterwards — and they are enormous,” says Lucinda.
The cross-country action kicks off at 11.30am tomorrow (Saturday 5 May). Come back to yourhorse.co.uk/badminton-2018 over the weekend for more news and stories.