Eric Winter’s course is proving to be a five star test in the early stages at the Badminton Horse Trials Cross Country at the event sponsored by Mars Equestrian. Girl Scout Kirsty Chabert retired at the second Nyetimber bend by 20 while Toledo De Kerser, second in dressage, Tom McEwen, fell while jumping while putting in his usual blindingly brilliant round.
In the first third of the field, just two drivers were within the time limit. Irishman Austin O’Connor and his Olympic bike Colorado Blue appear to have climbed way up from 58th place after stopping the clock for four seconds after the first stage.
“After the Olympics, a lot of people said he was one of the best cross-country horses in the world, and it’s up to me not to let him down,” Austin said. “It is very hard. Dimensionally, everything is an effort from the start. It’s really good cross country because you have to mix it. You walk a track, but you don’t necessarily stay on track, it’s instinctive driving. Very good space design.”
Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs sauntered over the finish eight seconds before time. However, it was later decided he hadn’t jumped the pickaxe at the quarry (gate 4C) as the gray took off a whole step early and Oliver did well to keep up.
Meanwhile, Piggy March and Vanir Kamira showed why they are defending champions after losing a leg early in the fright at Huntsman’s Close. They stopped the clock just one second off the optimum.
Cross-country badminton horse trials: lots of action
There was early drama as Toledo’s crash two rides later was followed by a nasty crash for European champions JL Dublin and Nicola Wilson in the Mars M flower box at 27. This fence was subsequently removed. Nicola was taken to the hospital for scans and is said to be stable. The horse stood up straight after the fall.
There was a third horse fall before midday when Cathal Daniels rider Barrichello came up with an extra step at the Savills Hay Feeders (fence 29B) and somersaulted. Luckily both horse and rider got up quickly and walked away.
There were also two rider falls – Ben Hobday was just warned by Shadow Man at the Mars M (fence 26) which also ended US rider Lillian Heard’s chances at LCC Barnaby.
Two riders have been eliminated so far – Pippa Funnell had an uncomfortable jump when Billy Walk On plowed through the C element at KBIS Brush Village (14ABC) and the bay refused the roll top into the water a few fences later. After jumping cleanly through this complex, Pippa raised her hand to back away. And Kiwi rider Bundy Philpott also finished the day on Tresca NZPH at Nyetimber Corners.
Helen Wilson was eliminated after cumulative rejections at My Ernie, with her bid ending in the solar panels bouncing.
“It’s whoa, whoa, boom”
Riders agree that the course is tough, big from the start and very intense.
William Fox-Pitt finished seven seconds ahead of time on his first Oratorio ride and said it was “exciting to ride”.
“Although it’s all fair and in front of you, there’s quite a bit of snatching to the left and two steps straight to a jump,” he said. “Even three steps away sometimes you can’t see the fence, so there’s a lot of whoa, whoa, whoa, boom! So you need a horse that listens enough in that corner and is quick enough to pick things up. There’s quite a repetitive left, jerk, jump whether you’re in the Quarry or the Lake or Huntsman’s. I think there’s only one right turn, so that’s probably what gets people. You don’t have time to stand up straight, balanced and up. I think you’re a little surprised.
“I was so happy with my horse. He was really genuine, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Read our full badminton form guide in this week’s edition of horse & dog (May 5, 2022 edition). Our superb 20 page badminton report appears in our 12th May issue and keeps you up to date with all the action during badminton week via horseandhound.co.uk where a variety of features and reports are published.
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