In his second year as Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials course designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa has refined his concept for this ultimate track.
Traditionally setting off the reverse way round the park, he has set out to produce a flowing route which gives the feel of a real journey across the countryside, over rustic looking obstacles that blend into the terrain.
At this level of the sport serious technical questions must be asked of horse and rider, but Giuseppe has endeavoured to make them look natural not artificial.
The first fence in the Main Arena is the usual ASX Starter, then it is a left turn towards the two inviting Countryside Hedges at an angle on a related distance, before a long settling gallop to the HorseQuest Quarry complex, the first real test on the course.
In over a traditional Cotswold dry stone wall, right up a slope to Mike Weaver’s Haycart, back down into the pit and up a steep slope to a wall out.
There is a large, airy, Oxer Chicane before riders enter the Irish Sport Horse Huntsmans Close to confront two enormous brush topped box corners a few strides apart. There is a very time consuming alternative route. Next is one of the portable little houses, Kennels House, previously seen at the top end of the park before a first splash into the south end of the lake over the hanging log at Outlander Lower Lake.
It is now along the water’s edge to the main Lake complex which starts with the Mitsubishi Pickups L200s before a left turn to the willow wave drop, when the serious contenders will head right up the bank to a willow ‘skinny’. They then loop left back into the water and jump the upturned boat from last year. Alternative routes are offered.
Doubling back along the water and then a left turn in front of the House there is an uncompromising KBIS Garden Table as part of the decorative Garden complex which riders will revisit on their way home.
Next is a combination going out of the deer park involving some of Giuseppe’s earthworks from 2014. A large broad log, then down into the sunken road, up the steep Swindon Designer Outlet Mound to a massive but narrow log root and down and out over another.
There is a bit of a let up over the full size but inviting FEI Classics Stick Pile before the only obstacle to cross the Vicarage ditch this year – the Mirage Pond. A birch and brush drop into the pond and an angled double of the same on the exit. Longer journeys are available here.
Giuseppe has this year taken a bit of the sting out of the relentless crossings of the ditch with a nice inviting PHEV Oxer over a dip in the ground, but the imposing Vicarage V is still on site as a reminder that it will return!
It is then up what is probably the only noticeable gradient in Badminton Park to the ‘new found’ Gatehouse New Pond complex from last year. This time the direct route is over a birch rail, down into the water, over a brush skinny, out of the pond and left to another single birch rail. Up at the farthest end of the course, this is one of the most attractive enclaves.
The course then comes back down the hill over the inviting Rolex Grand Slam Hedge and on to the Shogun Hollow which takes riders back into the deer park. This involves a choice of roll tops on both sides of the contoured ditch.
Back now to the Garden, in and out over upright World Horse Welfare Garden Gates and a chance to make up some ground on a fit horse to the Wadworth Barrels and beyond to the Sense Silver Birch Treble, when riders will need to slow down and high tune their steering over three large birch parallels on a very tight right curve. This is one of the few obstacles on the course where arena jumping skills will pay off.
Mindful that too many big questions at the end of a long course can catch out the tiring horse, this time Giuseppe gives competitors a bit of an ease down now. The John Whitaker Fallen Tree is followed, after omitting the staircase, by a big brush on a downward slope, south of the broken ground, to two skinny brushes, neatly nestled in a recently planted copse. Accuracy will still be needed to avoid annoying penalties at this Savills Escalator.
The Keepers Brush is a pleasure, but there is one last serious test of steering at the steeply angled Rolex Presentation Boxes before riders come back into the Arena to take on the Mitsubishi Finish.
Statistics could probably show whether a clockwise or anti clockwise course proves the most challenging, but any horse and rider who comes out on top after Giuseppe’s second ‘first’ Badminton design will have certainly earned the Mitsubishi Trophy.