Not only is this the first year of the Fork Horse Trials at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, but it is also the first event to use the new cross-country course on the White Oak property adjacent to the horse park. Both the Adequan USEA Gold Cup CIC3* and Advanced divisions will be leaving the first hoof prints on the future 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) gallop paths.
While a connecting road and bridges have been constructed, the recent storms have made them impassible so horses will be trailered to the property to tackle Tremaine Cooper and Capt. Mark Phillips’ course on Sunday. The land features a large pond, multiple streams, wide galloping lanes and old established turf that gives course a bucolic feel of “over the river and through the woods.”
“We were given an old golf course which is kind of fun as it is everyone’s dream to ride on a golf course,” said Cooper. “It was joint effort between Mark [Phillips] and me. The idea being the last before Rolex [Kentucky CCI4*] to have an open galloping track. We were stuck with the fairways, but there is beautiful turf there. We had to get rid of the tee boxes and sand traps, but it should be a nice forward galloping track.”
One of the many bridges built across the track. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
While some course designers find it a challenge to start with a blank piece of property, Cooper prefers it that way. “I love it – its almost easier – because you can look at it as what belongs there versus what is already there and how to make it work. It’s a challenge, but it is great fun.”
While the Fork course will give riders and spectators a preview of the land for the WEG, a lot will be different next year. “It is obviously a different track than what Mark has come up with for the World Equestrian Games,” explained Cooper. “It is using a lot of the same gallops, start/finish area, but the water will be in a different spot and there will also be another water complex for the WEG.”
Due to constraints the only water complex on course is pretty early on. “Right now it is fence six, and is the first combination which isn’t ideal, but I think it works well and in the future there is a whole lot of different things we can do with that,” said Cooper.
So what kind of horses will the Fork cross-country course suit? “The course suits everyone,” said Cooper. “We have tried to keep it open and galloping. It will be interested to see how the time is with all of the bridge crossings. We have to cross over the water quite a few times, and I think you definitely aren’t going to be able to do 600 meters per minute across the bridges. It should be interesting to see how that turns out, but we tried to keep open galloping stretches between the bridges so you can get a good rhythm and have a positive experience which will lead to a good Rolex [Kentucky].”
The first horse to gallop across the course on Sunday will be at 10:30 a.m. at the Advanced level. Keep up with the USEA on social media and follow the scores here.