‘The terrain makes this a reel five-star'
Horse & Hound|August 26, 2021
Mary King, who has won four times at this level, assesses the cross-country challenge that Mark Phillips has set for the one-offCCI5* at Bicton next month
Mark Phillips

IT’S rather amazing to have a CCI5* in my home county of Devon, after all these years of traveling miles to Burghley and Badminton. When I was a child, the South Western Showjumping Club held fantastic shows in the main arena here at Bicton, and I always dreamt of cantering around there on a lap of honor. I did manage it once – as the winner of the best-turned-out prize, which was a teddy bear!

Of course, many successful horse trials have taken place here over the decades, but it is only this year that Bicton has upgraded to stage first four-star classes, in June, and now a CCI5*. Course-designer Mark Phillips has reversed the track from the June four-star.

It’s definitely a softer five-star course. I wouldn’t say there are many combinations of the difficulty of Burghley or Badminton, and the let-up fences aren’t as gigantic in size, but it is Bicton’s terrain – which is even more demanding than that of Burghley – that makes this track a real five-star track.

A lot of it is on a camber, and due to the restrictive area there are a number of swooping turns, requiring a great deal of balance and skilled riding to negotiate well. I feel it is a course that will suit the more agile, nippy, and “blood” type of horse.

There are six fences visible from the main arena, which will give spectators lots of action to watch in one place. Two of these are the more difficult combinations on the course, so should give this area a real buzz.

Mark has designed a course that tests the horse and rider’s accuracy and their ability to cope with undulating terrain and sharpish turns. The few bigger, copier type of questions are followed by some straightforward let-up fences, which should help to keep the horses confident. Neither of the two water complexes are as difficult as the four-star one in June, but the second water combination will definitely be an influential fence.

FENCES 1 & 2

CHEDINGTON FLOWERBED AND THE CLIPPERSHARP LOG TABLE

After a friendly first fence, horses and riders head on up the first of this course’s eight uphill climbs towards an impressive-looking oxer of logs, approached off a turn. Neither should cause any issues and will encourage competitors into their galloping rhythm.

Difficulty rating 3/10, 4/10

FENCES 3 & 4

EMPIRE PICNIC TABLE AND BLACKBERRY COTTAGES There is then a long downhill stretch and a right-hand turn to the slightly ascending picnic table, before turning right and going back uphill to a choice of two pretty cottages. There’s nothing too difficult here; riders will make their own decision as to which to jump, depending on how tight a turn they wish to make afterwards.

Difficulty rating 4/10, 4/10

FENCE 5ab

EVENT HORSE OWNERS ASSOCIATION DEWPOND This is the first water and the first combination on the track, and consists of two big, angled brushes on three or four strides either side of a pool of water. The angles aren’t particularly acute, and it is a good chance for horses to get their feet wet before tackling more serious water questions later on.

Difficulty rating 5/10

FENCE 6abc

CHEDINGTON OXERS AND TRIPLE BAR After a decent pull uphill and left-hand turn, Mark has given horses some flatter ground on which to catch their breath, before what he rightly says is the first question on the course. We have a white oxer with a two-meter to spread and four strides to a second one, with three strides to a skinny triple bar, which has a black-flag alternative. Here, competitors need power, impulsion and control.

Difficulty rating 6.5/10

FENCES 7, 8, 9ab

VOLTAIRE BRUSH, BERENBERG CABIN, TOPSPEC BRUSH CORNERS

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