A star-studded line-up of horses and riders will face a host of fresh and exciting challenges at the new-look NAF Five Star Hartpury International Horse Trials.
Entries for the CIC*** include a number of four-star combinations in the form of Ros Canter and Allstar B, Harry Meade and Away Cruising, Tina Cook and Billy The Red, Kitty King and Ceylor Lan, Piggy French and Vanir Kamira and Alex Bragg and Zagreb.
This year’s courses, set among Hartpury’s 360-hectare campus, are set to be better than ever, with exciting changes across all three tracks for the showpiece event on 8-12 August.
Three-star course designer Eric Winter said: “This year we’ve decided to improve the public’s interaction with the course.
“We’ve removed the section that runs through the woods to bring the course more out into the open and utilise some of the other areas of the venue, including a brand new combination in front of the historic Hartpury House.
“We’ve also created flat spots to build fences and keep the course inside the main park meaning spectators can sit on the hill and watch 90 per cent of the course.
“In 2020 we have the Junior and Young Rider European Championships in dressage and eventing, so much of what we are doing now has a championship feel to it with that event in mind.”
He added: “The Hartpury House Garden combination set right in front of the house is going to be an eye-catcher, as will the Hartpury University Centre Combination incorporating a log down a steep bank to a couple of skinnies.”
Another exciting addition to this year’s event is a bus route running through the site with drop-off points and refreshment areas where spectactors can buy strawberries and cream and a coffee right by the side of the fences.
“Running the event alongside the Hartpury Summer Fair, which will take place on the Saturday, will make the event more family-friendly and showcase all that Hartpury has to offer to both horsey and non-horsey visitors,” added Eric.
Much effort has gone into preparing the ground for this year’s course after the exceptionally dry spell.
“We are aggravating the ground and watering afterwards to ensure the going is as good as can be,” said Eric.
“Hartpury has its own irrigation system in place, but we are also hiring ijn two water bowsers so we’re hitting it as hard as we can.
“Our park manager has been massively proactive in making the course smooth like a golf course, filling in holes and raking over it with sand and soil, and thankfully we’ve had some rain to help with proceedings.”
Competitors of the CCI* and CCI** events will also see major changes this year.
“The back end of the track is completely different,” says one-star and two-star designer Angus Smales.
“We hit the rail, ditch, rail in the opposite direction this year and the second half of the track is very different.
“My philosophy as a rider is that I don’t enjoy courses that are there to deliberately try and trick horse and rider, so as a designer, my courses test the range of gears and skills that you need to progress.
“These courses test the rider’s ability to create the correct canter for the obstacle.
“Everything is very fair and consistent all the way through.
“There’s a new fence located in the old golf bunker this year – an upright with two options jumping down into the bunker with a similar fence the other side of the bunker to jump out. Again, it’s an exercise rather than a trap.
“Not incorporating the woods will be better in respect of the spectator’s point of view because it is more accessible.
From a rider’s point of view it makes it easier for us to maintain the ground. This year is sure to be better than ever.”