Badminton: A Cross-Country Preview
Badminton, Glos., England
by Amber Heintzberger
The course begins and ends in the main stadium, with plenty of space for spectators who want to cheer on their favorites from the stands and remain relatively close to the shopping and dining areas. The reversal of the course means that the Lake comes much earlier in the course, but otherwise the difficulty is not severely affected.
The course begins with an inviting flower box fence and leads on to the park wall, which looks simple enough but has some tricky terrain following the straightforward stone wall. The sheep feeder looks straightforward, but the massive table is maximum size and will require the horse stay forward and on an open stride.
The Countryside Close is a difficult combination of big tables, tall brush jumps, and a very upright gate that has caught out a few horses in the past. It will be a test of bravery, accuracy and good navigating.
The Wadsworth Barrels are nearly half a mile down the road, so horses have a little breather and a chance to make up lost time with a good gallop. Passing the trade fair still gives them plenty to look at, but no doubt the riders will be thinking about the massive water complex waiting for them at The Lake.
The quick route is an oxer, sharp left turn to a bounce in and another sharp left turn to a step up and bounce out over a solid brush jump will keep them on their toes! Any miscalculation could have grave consequences, so some might choose the option here - maybe William Fox-Pitt, for instance, who went swimming last weekend in Kentucky.
The Hunt Kennels are likely to cause some problems, with a combination of three massive narrow ascending tables that must be ridden in an "S" curve. Mike Weaver's Haycart offers a quick easy fence followed by the more technical Waves at the Colt Pond, a combination fence constructed of woven willow wicker and decorated handsomely with basket-filled boats.
The RDA Staircase would be easy enough if it just involved two steps up, but the extremely narrow palisade at the top should make things interesting. As riders proceed toward home they will navigate the Medieval Village Suite, which consists of a tricky combination of straightforward fences.
The Keeper's Bruch is big and wide with a slightly downhill landing that riders should not take for granted as they gallop for home. The final fence, the Mitsubishi Garden is a wide table with a sharp turn on the approach that will hopefully ensure riders don't drop their guard until they cross the finish line.
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