Badminton Horse Trials has a new cross-country course designer for 2014. Giuseppe della Chiesa, a stylish, multi-lingual doctor of agriculture from Rome, will be only the third person to be course-designer at this most British of events in some 50 years. He takes over from Hugh Thomas, who will continue in his role as event director.
The announcement, made today by the Duke of Beaufort, Badminton’s host, and Mr Thomas, pre-empts further criticism by riders of this year’s Badminton track.
Senior riders Lucinda Green and Sir Mark Todd, who have 10 victories between them, plus 2009 winner Oliver Townend, said it lacked drama and difficulty. The 2013 field was one of the strongest in history, so they should have made it look easy but, even so, a disproportionate number achieved the optimum time.
However, riders probably didn’t anticipate the job, the most coveted among course-designers, passing to a foreigner, although Snr della Chiesa is a senior figure in the sport. His appointment is timely, as he steps down this year as chairman of the FEI Eventing Committee.
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A former international rider who still competes in showjumping and designs for that discipline, he acted as technical delegate at the 2008 Olympics and at Badminton and Burghley, and he created a thrilling track at the 2007 European Championships on the 1960 Olympic site at Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy.
Snr della Chiesa, who said he was ‘honoured’ by the appointment, hints that he is not planning to make dramatic changes at Badminton: ‘It will be evolution, not revolution.’
The first Badminton course, in 1949, was designed by Lt Col Trevor Horn on the top of his grand piano. However, the ‘rider-frighteners’ that made the event famous – great yawning ditches and leaps into space – were mostly created by Col Frank Weldon between 1965 and 1988.
Mr Thomas’s 24-year tenure has produced some epic sport, but rotating designers is now accepted practice at top level. ‘I am hugely looking forward to supporting Giuseppe in this new chapter of Badminton,’ he says.
‘2013 was one of the most successful events ever, with a record crowd and another competition that was resolved at the very last fence on the final day. We have never had such a high-class field and the event will be difficult to match next year!’
The 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials takes place on May 8-11.
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