Badminton for me started with David (my son) riding the Guinea Pig Test on Thursday morning. Despite wayward changes, we were very pleased with the test – and what a fantastic experience to be able to trot down THAT center line…! I was therefore already “in Badminton mode” so it was fantastic for me to have the opportunity to walk this years course with Nick Turner – already thinking ahead to next year!
Nick started off stating that he likes to walk “quickly” – but only later on, as we tried to get back to the finish by a certain time, did some of the large party of members and friends realise just how fast “quickly” can be!
Nick explained that although the course had technical questions – it is not always about walking “strides” as the inevitable always happens – but it is all about staying on a line in the right gear. Nick’s positive approach really came across and as he talked about the fences – you could feel him riding them in his head – so taking a realistic view of both what a rider would think – and what the horse could do.
As we approached one of the first difficult combinations – the little “gems” of info started. “Ride 2 strides with your legs and 3 strides with your body” was the answer for the “long 2” from log to skinny down the bank. Perfect sense. As we “galloped on” “commit and engage rather than commit and leave open” to a difficult fence certainly kept the feeling of keeping the horse together and between the leg and rein. Getting to the later part of the course “Do not let your mind take over from the feeling” certainly brought home the difficulty of the horses reactions becoming “numbed” towards the latter part of the course.
“Agricultural aids” were discussed – as sometimes necessary to find the appropriate changes of gear required as the horse tires. Even riding towards the finish – making sure you do not “slow up” and start “patting” too early, when extra “seconds” taken can cost prize money when results are so close at this higher level.
As we all“trotted” towards the end of the course I really felt I had gained an insight into the benefits the Irish Teams must have from a knowledgeable Trainer with a positive approach – but also with a “keep it simple” strategy.
The general feeling was that the course was definitely not as stiff as last year – with both technical demands and size of fences being slightly lessened. This was confirmed to me when I was lucky enough to listen to Giuseppe della Chese, (course designer) talking about last years course being a bit “too tasty” and therefore this years was a little less so. He also gave reasons for not using some of the classics this year – i.e. no Vicarage Vee or Irish Bank – but said that when the course changes direction again they will probably return. He also reminded us that if we wish to have new fences – some of the old ones have to be left out.
A great Badminton – with a great course walk. I hope that Nick will be back to walk it all again with us in 2016 e walk – even if we do all have to “trot”!
Report by Maggie Doel BHSI