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championships & five-stars can complement one another

  • Legendary event rider and successful cross-country coach to the Swiss eventing team, Andrew Nicholson, shares his thoughts on the future of the sport and how five-stars and championships can run in parallel to each other

    The discussions around the difficulty and length of cross-country tracks at the top level have again been brought into focus this autumn by the differences between what we saw at Burghley, the World Eventing Championships and then Maryland 5 Star.

    The cross-country course for the World Championships at Pratoni wasn’t what I had expected at that venue – I knew it would be a shorter track than normal, but I thought the jumps would be bigger. When I walked it, though, I was impressed with designer Giuseppe della Chiesa’s ideas and could see what he was trying to do, and it was exciting to watch.

    When you have experienced riders such as Michael Jung, Andrew Hoy and Tom McEwen having to work hard and making it look difficult, it obviously works as a test.

    There were a lot of frangible fences, but not many pins or clips broken, which showed that if you put fences like those in the right places, then if a device is triggered then the majority of the time you are lucky that it was frangible. It did, however, make riders have to ride a bit cautiously in places where they’d normally gallop.

    Courses like that are probably the future for championships, and I fully understand why – it does look more and more likely that Badminton and Burghley will end up standing alone, however. I don’t think this needs to be a problem – the major CCI5*s should remain the ultimate proving ground and can run on something of a parallel path to the championships.

    Julia Krajewski’s Olympic form stood up well; I thought she did a lovely job in both jumping phases. I’d think her horse, Amande De B’Neville, would be as impressive at a five-star – class is class – but she may not need to demonstrate that, given how important championship medals are to countries’ funding of the sport.

    It also shows that nations don’t really need to use the likes of Badminton and Burghley as the main selection trial for a worlds or Olympics – although Ros Canter’s young Lordships Graffalo shone at Badminton and looked beautiful again in Pratoni.

    The number one

    It will be hard to shift Tim Price from his world number one spot, I think. He looks like he is really enjoying it, and his rounds when winning Boekelo and Maryland were very classy.

    He has got himself into a good place with a good bunch of horses. That hasn’t happened overnight; he and Jonelle have had to work very hard to build themselves up into the situation they are in. Tim looks very secure, is riding confidently and with a lot of feel on different sorts of horses – to be doing well on a variety of horses is what will keep him in the top spot.

    Simple lines

    It is hard to tell just from watching it on TV, but the CCI5* course in Maryland looked like far too much of it was in straight lines. But Ian Stark, who designed it, has slightly got himself between a rock and a hard place. He got some criticism over Bramham – I wasn’t there, but I always like his tracks there and I don’t think the criticism was justified.

    To then go to America and design for a five-star with a small field isn’t an easy thing to do. I was told the fences at Maryland were very big, but
    the lines looked too simple.

    I was pleased that my former ride, As Is, went so well for Oliver Townend. It’s impressive for his breeder, Ramón Beca – a lot of people find it difficult to breed a five-star horse, but he keeps churning them out! And from different bloodlines, too. Or maybe it’s the man producing them…?

    ● Does it matter if Badminton and Burghley are quite different courses to championships? Share your views by writing to

    • This exclusive column will also be available in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 27 October

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