‘Boekelo’s course must evolve’

This great CCI3* needs a cross-coun­try shake-up, says Oliver Tow­nend

Horse & Hound - - Eventing - H&H

BOEKELO is unique. No other event has an at­mos­phere like it on cross-coun­try day, and it is fa­mous for its par­ties.

The or­gan­is­ers want to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble for the rid­ers, and the new all­weather arena for dres­sage and showjump­ing is fan­tas­tic.

I was a lit­tle dis­ori­en­tated when I ar­rived, be­cause the whole site has moved and changed around, but it still has a very spe­cial feel.

It is dis­ap­point­ing, there­fore, that de­spite on­go­ing im­prove­ments in so many ar­eas, the cross-coun­try track doesn’t seem to move on in the same way. I know the track runs over a great many small plots of land be­long­ing to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and it must be dif­fi­cult to co­or­di­nate work­ing on it, but more could be done on the foot­ing. This is one of Europe’s lead­ing CCI3*s and, with the money the event must get from the vast Satur­day crowd and the great spon­sors it at­tracts — enough to in­stall that ex­cel­lent main arena this year — they should be able to af­ford to in­vest in the ground.

The sub­ject of how of­ten events should change coursedesign­ers has been dis­cussed a lot this year. I have ab­so­lutely no per­sonal prob­lem with

Sue Ben­son, but she has de­signed Boekelo since 2000 — surely, on a flat track with few nat­u­ral fea­tures to work with and en­cour­age in­spi­ra­tion, that is too long?

Last year there was a tight, turn­ing com­bi­na­tion on an S-bend that didn’t work — this year it was re­peated but made even tougher. Twenty-five horses faulted at it; that’s a quar­ter of the field. For me, you can’t ar­gue with num­bers — is that good course-de­sign?

It’s fine to cre­ate a dif­fi­cult fence, but why not, con­sid­er­ing it was only fence eight, give every­body a get-out-of-jail op­tion as well?

I felt for the track to go into the main arena at fences three and four was much too early. Why, when it is such a fo­cus point for the crowd, not use it later in the course and cre­ate more of a spec­ta­cle?

Rid­ers have been sug­gest­ing to the or­gan­is­ers that it might be time for a change for sev­eral years now. We still come to Boekelo be­cause the cal­en­dar dic­tates that it make sense to com­pete there — but I think if you put an event like Mill­street on a week later, you’d see a big shift.

There is so much that is great about Boekelo. If the horse side of things evolved in the way other as­pects of it have, it could be the best event in the world.

ONES FOR THE FU­TURE

MY Boekelo horse, Ridire Dor­cha, is hugely ex­cit­ing. He now be­longs to good sup­port­ers of mine, Tim Boland and Karyn Shuter, and prob­a­bly has more power than any event horse I have sat on be­fore. Like my Burgh­ley win­ner Bal­lagh­mor Class, who at 10 is a year older than Ridire Dor­cha and who also came to Boekelo to do his first CCI3* last year — and had a run-out at what this time was fence eight — he is very much one for the fu­ture.

Ridire Dor­cha only did his first ad­vanced at Blair five weeks ago; he didn’t start event­ing un­til he was seven and be­cause we think the world of him we’ve been over­cau­tious with him, re­ally. He did the best dres­sage test he could at this stage, and jumped a dou­ble clear. I’m very pleased with him and ex­cited about next year.

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