Friday morning was bright and clear with a chilly wind as 14 members and their guests set off for an insight to Eric Winters’ imposing XC course, running in a clockwise direction, with Nick Turner FBHS.

This year Nick promised us that it wouldn’t be a “route march”, but our fit group managed to overtake two other groups on the way!!

The first four fences set the horses and riders up for what was to come later, and it was at fence 10 that the first real question came. Most horses are used to going under roofs at this level, but the bank was fairly steep and short to a “coffin” ditch and then either the left or right uphill options of logs – although straight on through the gap looked easily the most inviting. 

Then it was on to the middle section of the course where questions came thick and fast and you had to be able to adjust the canter without losing the power.

Nick described the direct routes, and also where the softer routes were, if horse and or riders had lost a bit of confidence. Once the lake was behind you Nick said that Eric had really then tried to get riders home safely, providing they were sensible and didn’t try to make up time if the horse was tired. 

On Saturday the top combinations made it look like a Pony Club course and even those that had a problem or mishap didn’t look as though they had been over-faced, just a lack of control and/or communication, or simply mis-understanding the question.

As always Nick’s experience of riding and training at the level shines through, answering all of our queries and concerns and making us truly understand how much of a partnership there is at this level for horses to trust us to keep galloping and jumping for 12 minutes over 33 fences and a minimum of 48 jumping efforts.
Many thanks to Nick for a wonderful course-walk and a great insight into the minds of the course-builder, rider and horse.

Report by Ann Bostock