Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Badminton Entries - Dropping like flies

After such a strong and bumper entry list for Badminton this year it seems they are all dropping like flies. 

From a wait list that topped 40 this has swiftly been whittled down to less than ten and we've lost many of the stalwarts as well as some big names like the comeback king himself Mark Todd as I hear Gandalf has a neck problem that would have had a negative impact on any dressage score, so I presume one of the other 4 stars will get the pleasure of Toddy's return at this level.   

With the number of double entries still in the drawn order it looks possible that there will be no one left on the wait list, I'm sure Dan Jocelyn will be pleased!

See 2009 Badminton Drawn Order for more info.

Badminton have also just released their latest Interactive Course Map (v. cool)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Are Brush fences just another way to increase the height of fences

With Badminton '09 incorporating so much brush on the cross country, it's reminded me why I think the rules regarding these fences are a complete nonsense.

 The FEI Rule book says:

Brush on top of fences must be measurable and be made of flexible and deformable material. 

It also states:

The fence must be constructed so that a horse clearing the fixed and solid part is unlikely to be injured by the brush or hedge. 

In a 4 star event these fences can be up to 1.45 metres. (that's 0.25m higher that a solid fence).

So the idea here is that the horse could brush through the fence because it is 'deformable'. I would challenge anyone to brush through any of these fences on a 3 star or 4 star course. On the whole they are so tightly packed this creates two potential problems:

  • There is much greater risk of incident due to a false sense of security
  • Horses are more likely to get cuts and bruises 
This rule allows a course designer to effectively raise the height of the whole course.

 Is this rule being ignored by Course Designers and Technical Delegates or simply overlooked? 

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Kentucky is just round the corner....

...well at least it is if you live just round the corner. I'd love to say I was "reporting live from Lexington", unfortunately I'm across the pond, but hey, the sun is shinning so it's not all bad.

Being only a week or so before Badminton makes it very tough to get as decent a field as some of the European 4 Stars but looking at the entries for this year there is quite a good smattering of international riders, and it's nice to see Nicolas Touzaint entered, you so rarely see the french venture outside of mainland Europe.

Noticably absent from either event is Andrew Hoy! The cross country master seems to have hit a bit of a grey patch. His two 4 Star horses of recent years (Master Monarch & Moonfleet) are both retired and he seems to have had to move to Germany, not a country exactly overflowing with eventing opportunity. I can't help but feel a little sympathy. His wife Bettina could shortly be following in his foot steps with only one serious 4 star horse to her name, Ringwood Cockatoo, who is now 16 but as they say, make hay....., and the grey is at least entered for Kentucky.

Badminton certainly spoils us for information, making just about every piece of information you could possibly want available online compared to the other events. I had hoped we would at least have some pictures of the Kentucky cross country course on line by now but sadly not. Hopefully it's just a matter of time. 

Bring on the competition..........

Saturday, 18 April 2009

25 points for a Pin

The FEI has changed its tact on the frangible fence penalty rule at last!

Instead of being eliminated you now pick up 25 penalties. Now that is an improvement, but this rule is a load of rubbish. We now have an element of showjumping in the cross country phase.

I can't see how this does anyone any good, and just needs scrapping.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Showjumping on a Monday!

Now this is a turn up for books.....

Badminton has signed a new 3 year deal with the BBC - how fantastic I hear you cry! But here's the sting in the tail. To avoid any potential clashes with other major sporting event coverage on a Bank holiday Saturday the event will be run Friday -> Monday! That means cross country on the sabbath. 

Now I can see the benefits of this to sponsors (hopefully larger TV audiences), but on balance I'm a little skeptical.  One of the great things about Badminton on a Bank Holiday weekend is you get the Monday to recover, especially if you've been camping.

I'm sure there are plenty of pro's and con's for this move, and I haven't made up my own mind on this yet, but I can't help but feel a little sad about it. Saturday just always seemed to fit cross country and Sunday the Showjumping. I wonder if in 2010 it will have quite the same feel?

This is of course no different to the Derby being moved from a Wednesday to a Saturday, so perhaps it's just a case of getting used to it.

The PR machine will need cranking up to make sure this change is firmly in the front of everyone's minds come next year, it would be preety disappointing to turn up on the saturday to find dressage when you expected cross country......



Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Badminton - The new Ryder Cup Venue?

I managed to get a sneak preview of the Badminton course today, generally reserved for the good and great of our glorious press, and the condition of the course is far cry from the drought ridden course we saw in 2007. There is a distinct difference between the the track and the surrounding grass. It looks like a top flight golf course fairway! Superb. I had become quite proud of my lawn until I went round Badminton

The whole course looks fantastic, and as expected its big, flowing and bound to present a few problems in more than one spot.  This picture shows the 3 fences that make up the shogun hollow, the first three fences of the 
"intense" vicarage fields sections, and this first one (foreground) is massive.

The next really interesting fence is fence 11 (the countryside turn), which is basically a ditch and brush fence. Sounds simple until you take into account the lie of the land and the shape and position of the fence, all cleverly crafted to give the uncommitted  horse plenty of options to duck out if not held steady on their line with plenty of impulsion.

The infamous vicarage vee is just a short canter away and probably as tough as its ever been. In order to get through quickly you have 2 narrow brush fences on an angle in the ditch (they almost hang in mid air above the ditch, there'll definitely be a few duck outs here. A softer but much slower option is also provided here.

The lake again shows how the course designer (and possibly his advisors) have carefully thought out how to provide a tough task rewarded by speed, and provide a softer option penalised by slowing up the riders. Whichever route you end up taking you can't avoid the toughest part of this complex which is once you have entered the water, there is no time to gather yourself together before tackling a brush fence in the water swiftly followed by a step and a  skinny.  I predict a few duckings!

My only minor criticism would be there is a little too much brush fence used on the course this year. 

I can't wait.........
ps. If you hear someone shout "FOUR" duck quickly.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

April: Green Grass & Badminton countdown

So April has arrived and with it good weather and greener grass. My poor horse seems to suffer more than most from swollen glands as the new grass growth comes through to signal the real start of spring. 

There are however two very good reasons to celebrate the arrival of April, the clocks have gone forward (more opportunity to ride in the evenings) and just as importantly the countdown to Badminton Horse Trials starts in earnest. 

The line up for this year is as good as any, in spite of slightly fewer entries. Go take a look: 2009 Entries . From looking at the Badminton Website the grass is coming through there too and the course looks in great shape. The usual rustic look to the course will no doubt disappoint many, but one of the aspects I really enjoy about Badminton is it's respect for eventing's true roots and it really is the best galloping track on the circuit, something that lifts the spirits of horse, rider and spectator.

Last year was an excellent example of how clever the course is at deceiving the riders and lulling them into a false sense of security. Not much is made public yet about this year's course but I predict the number of fences requiring a frangible pin will be kept to a minimum, and the fence most likely to give rise to penalties under this ridiculous new FEI rule is the gate at Huntsman's Close. 

The Event is also a week later this year which, given recent history, should mean better weather and good conditions under foot - a canny move!

I'm really looking forward to seeing Mark Todd ride Badminton again!

Put the Date in your diary (7th -10th May) and book your tickets online if you haven't already.