We were treated to a sneak peek of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2017 cross-country course yesterday, with none other than course designer, Captain Mark Phillips, as our guide.
Here, he gives us the low-down of the course and what the riders can expect at this year’s fabulous four-star event.
“The course sets off over a horse shoe,” says Captain Mark. “This fence is nice and easy to help the horse get warmed up.
“The riders then go round over Lambert’s sofa at fence 2. The horse is starting to get into a rhythm and fence 3 [Fairfax Saddles Table] is the first bigger fence on the course and the start of the bigger 4* fences.”
“Fence 4 is the Lion Bridge. There’s a short turn and approach to part A. There’s a steep drop down behind and the horse can’t see where he’s landing, but the jump has a forgiving top. This is where the technicality is starting to begin.
“Part B is under the bridge and over the Range Rover. This isn’t too difficult but the horse’s feet are wet for the first time. After this jump, the warm up is over. This is around the one minute marker. The first minute is a chance to settle nerves and get both horse and rider going.
“Fence 5 is the Anniversary Splash. This fence is 1.45m and the log is big and unforgiving. They’ll have to make a clean jump here.”
“Fence 6 is the first place where the riders can make a choice.
The fast way is through the two swans and over the blue corner. This has quite an acute angle, so there’s the risk of a run out here.
“Fence 7 is the Collyweston Slate Mine. This is maximum height and maximum spread. An unforgiving fence, but the ground works in favour of the horse. After this, it’s up over Capability’s Cutting at 8, with five to six strides to go over a brush fence.
“Fence 9 is the Storm Doris logs. The logs used in this fence were blown down in Storm Doris, with each one weighing around 8-10 tonnes.
“The first choice is to jump the log to the corner in two strides. You’re going to need a good jump going in. The alternative is the corner of 9 and 10 then over 11a and b.
“This is the first big headache that riders have to solve. Hopefully spectators will approve. I think it’s fun, but whether the riders do is open to debate!”
“After the logs, there’s a long climb up Winner’s Avenue. Riders need to be careful not to take too much energy at this point on the course. We’re at about 2mins 15 here.
“The woodpile at 12 is straightforward, but big. I’ve put this in because it’s important mentally to give the horses a bit of a break.
“Fence 13 is Cottesmore Leap and is renowned as being the most scary fence in the event.
"After the jump, you’ve got 10 to 11 strides to the table at fence 14. This fence is a bit of a breather.
"You then go round the corner and you’ve got the Keeper’s Brushes. These are big and wide and ridden in two strides.
“Alternatively, you can go over two triple brushes – these are still big, but have three strides in between. They’ll take so much more out of the horse.
“16ab and 17 is the Land Rover Dairy Farm. The gate on the left has now moved to the right. This scared the whatnot out of me when we first jumped it. The horse does ride it relatively easy though. We’ve taken the corner out and it’s marginally easier this year.”
“At 18 you come to the Rolex Combination. The quick way is to go over the oxer, then four to five strides to the angled rail over the ditch. It’s then another four to five strides to fence 19.
“The further you go in towards the angle rail, the more difficult the angle will be for the corner fence at 19.
“The long way for this combination is to go over the corner of the oxer at 18, then go down a ditch, bounce over rails and back to 19.
“This fence is technically right up there. I hope people respect it.
“Fence 20abc is the Joules at the Maltings. You can either go over the gate or the oxer. There’s then a sharp 90° turn to the oxer at b, where you can either jump big or small. It’s not really an accuracy question, it’s just whether you’ve got control for the turn.
“After this, there’s then a log at fence 21 [Captain’s Log]. This is a let-up fence on the course before the Trout Hatchery at 22.
“Fence 22 is two half-moon brushes and the one you pick determines whether you go the quick or long way.
“The quick way is to go over the log at 23 – last year, some didn’t respect this and had an early bath. After the big log, it’s four strides to the triple brush and five more strides to the triple in the lake.
“The long way is to go over the smaller log into the water, up a step and over the other brush into the water. The triple brush looks horrible at the take off, but as long as you have both stirrups and reins, you should be fine.
“After this, it’s onto Herbert’s Hollow at 24ab. This is one place where I’d give the horse a breather and take extra effort. We’re at about eight minutes here and horses can hit the wall."
Fences 25 to 34
“After Irish Horse Gateway at 25, it’s onto Discovery Valley at 26ab. A lot got launched and found it difficult last year. Here, you can also go over the ditch, over the trunk and over the ditch again. 27 is then over the white trailer on the Land Rover.
“The Rolex Grand Slam rails are at 28. I don’t think riders respected these enough last year, so hopefully they will this time round.
“Fence 29 has two options. The fast way is to go over the larger house and down the bank and over b at the bottom. There’s then a bending two strides to fence 30, which is a triple bar.
“The longer is to go over a smaller house, down into the bottom and choose the right-hand triple, which has three strides to fence 30.
“After this, you then come back to Discovery Valley where you jump the trailer and then have three strides to part b. We’re around the 10-minute mark and we’re on the way back home.
“32 is a hedge, followed by a fountain, followed by another hedge. This will look more impressive on the day.
“The last two fences [fence 33, the Picnic Table and Fence 34, the Land Rover Finale] are quite straightforward and give the horse a break mentally.
“The whole course is roughly around 11.30, but this is the first time the fences have all been in place so it might be slightly shorter or longer than this on the day.
“There’s 45 jumping efforts, 34 fences and 11 places where there’s choices. This isn’t Pony Club, it’s Burghley!”