Eventing Worldwide previews the cross country course awaiting riders at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
In 2015, course designer Captain Mark Philips has reversed the course in a move that could have a significant impact, particularly on achieving the optimum time as the hills and undulating terrain come earlier on in the course. The change in direction will mean riders will have to employ different tactics to ensure the navigate the course.
The course sets off in familiar fashion over the Olympic Horse Shoe at Fence 1, and this is followed by Lambert’s Sofa at Fence 2. As riders turn away from the backdrop of Burghley House and get into their stride they they come up to the Picnic Table at Fence 3 – the last of the let up fences before the questions start coming up.
The course then changes direction and riders face a new question at Fence 4, the Boat House at the Lion Bridge. There is quite short approach to the fence and the ground slopes steeply away behind it with the water beyond. Riders will have to be quite positive to this fence as fresh horses could start to back off. The fence has two elements with the second jumping effort coming as a boat under the famous Lion Bridge.
The Anniversary Splash “In” makes up fence 5.The first element of the double is a wide brush fence which will need to be jumped with balance for the second element which is down hill to a brush into the water. The key then will be to maintain a rhythm across the long stretch of water if riders are to make the Anniversary Splash Out at Fences 6 and 7. Riders will have two options here – on the left hand side is a bounce of hedges, on a slight slope out of the water, or on the right is a step, which would be easy to trip up followed by a bounce over a hedge before a second hedge which will take riders a little longer to navigate. Horses with power and scope should not find the bounce on the left too much of of a problem, whilst those with less experienced horses may opt for the longer route.
Fence 8, the Slate Mine, is a true four star fence, measuring up to the maximum dimensions allowed – 1.20m high and 2.0m wide.
At Fences 9 and 10, riders have another choice to make on how they approach Capability’s Cutting. On the left the Cabin going in is smaller but perilously close to the edge while on the right the Cabin is bigger but there is more to land on. Coming out into the daylight on the left riders have more time set their horse up for the left handed corner, which will be handy if the horse has pecked on landing going down the slope. The corner however still needs riding as it could be easy to have a run out here. For those riders who take the right handed option the corner will come up very quickly – one stride – as they navigate their way out of the dip.
Riders can take a breather over the over the Rolex Grand Slam Viaduct at Fence 11 and the Chinese House at Fence 12 on the path up Winners’ Avenue. This is where the course change will be most felt. In previous years, riders have come down the avenue and could pick up time they had lost earlier on in the course. However, now they will be heading up the hill. Riders will have to be careful not to go too fast so they hit a wall later in the course and run out of energy, but not so slow they cant make up the time later.
Cottesmore Leap is probably Burghley’s most iconic fence and this year it comes at Fence 13. The rider frightener measures 1.45m high and is three metres wide at the base. This year there is a ‘B’ element – a triple brush on five strides – which could be quite missable. There is an alternative – a simple brush fence before a long turn back to a smaller but wider triple brush. Taking this route could add as much as 15 seconds to the time.
The gallop down to the Land Rover Dairy Farm at Fence 14 will give horses and riders the chance to catch their breath. The gate on top of the mound measures 1.20m, however the climb up the slope will help the horses as it puts them in the right place to jump. Riders will need to balance their horses on the slope down to the second element which is big and wide – a feeder which looks like the horse will be jumping into space. The alternative at this fence will include an additional jumping effort and add about eight seconds to the time, but doesn’t have any of the risk associated with the straight route.
The course then heads back across Capability’s Cutting towards the Rolex Combination at Fence 15. Accuracy will be the key at this fence in order to jump the angled rail across the ditch and then a bending four strides to a big open corner. For the less experienced there is a time consuming alternative. The great advantage of taking the alternative route is the additional strides it allows riders to set up for the corner. A smaller corner is available but will probably only be jumped by those who have had a problem.
The Maltings – Fences 16, 17 and 18 – is at the heart of Burghley’s cross country course making it a popular spot for spectators, Riders may well want to steady up at the first oxer so they can make the turn inside the farm building. If riders approach the Triple Brush on the mound straight they have a nice three strides to the brush corner. On the way out of the Maltings, there is the traditional maximum white oxer.
The Captain’s Log at Fence 19 will offer another let up before the Land Rover Trout Hatchery at Fences 20 and 21, a candidate for one of the most influential complexes on the course. Here there are five efforts which come up very quickly. The most difficult part is the four strides between the brush and the log into the water. How horses jump this will determine whether they can make the bending four strides to the step and bounce into the Pagoda. On a bending line there is always the risk horses will trip up the step out of the water so riders will need to have them balanced. Fence 21 comes up very quickly with two strides on land and one in the water to a brush fence.
There is a slight climb as riders approach the inviting Herbert’s Hollow at Fence 22, The B element has been sighted differently which should be taken on a perfect six strides. Thomson’s Wall at Fence 23 brings riders into Discovery Valley for the first time at Fence 24. Whilst there is no ditch to be jumped this year riders will need to be committed if they are to get the right line through the double of hedges.
The Elephant Trap at Fence 25 is one of the oldest fences on the course and comes just before the Leaf Pit at Fences 26 and 27. Riders have to jump the Moon before launching off the big drop, which was absent from last year’s course, and over the Sun at the bottom of the slope.
It’s then back to Discovery Valley for Fence 28, a fence which will slow the riders down on the way back home.
The fence in the Arena has a completely new look with the “Up and Under” at Fence 29, a Rugby theme in deference to Land Rover’s involvement with the Rugby World Cup. The first grandstand is inviting, there is a nice distance to the Rugby Ball and similarly the second grandstand won’t pose to many problems.
As riders head for the finish they come home over the Flower Frame at Fence 30 and the Land Rover Finale at Fence 31.
So there you have it – 31 numbered fences and 45 jumping efforts over the 11 minute course. It is a true Burghley course that will make riders think. Who will come out on top? We’ll find out on Saturday.
To keep up to date with the latest news from Burghley stayed tuned to Eventing Worldwide. We’ll be bringing you the latest news – from the first horse inspection to the last round of show jumping.
Photography Courtesy of Hoofprints Photography