Tomorrow, the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series CIC3* division, the CIC2*, and Advanced through Preliminary divisions will tackle Ian Stark’s intense cross-country courses between the cornfields at the 2012 Richland Park CIC and Horse Trials in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
A Designer’s Vision
This is Ian’s fourth year designing the cross-country at Richland Park, and it will be a crucial phase for competitors at every level this weekend. Becky Holder, the current leader in the CIC3* division with Can’t Fire Me, pointed out yesterday that Ian’s courses reward forward riding, and Richland Park’s varying terrain, with open gallops and trails through the trees, presents an added challenge.
|Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series CIC3* Course|
“My philosophy really about cross-country is I want to slightly intimidate and frighten the riders and make the jumps easy for the horses. I do not like a lot of twisting and turning and pulling them around. I like to see horses and riders riding from A to B across the country, which is what it is meant to be,” Ian said.
Walking around Ian’s course, many of the jumps truly look large, and it is a common discussion amongst the riders and spectators. However, Ian insists that the horses enjoy it and gain confidence as they go. Substantial courses might also be good for the riders: “If you have got a little bit of respect from the riders and they are a little intimidated by and respect the course they tend to ride it better,” Ian said. “It is human nature to sort of think ‘this is easy and we will just gallop for the time a bit more.’ As soon as there are fences there that they think ‘this takes a bit of riding’ then they sit up and pay attention.”
Best Foot Forward
A big, bold course is nothing without good footing, and the Park’s owners Bob and Kay Willmarth insist that the horses have good footing. They do not allow motorized vehicles on the course and riders have navigated around sprinklers as they walked their courses. “We have thrown hundreds of gallons of water on the course, and I think the horses will appreciate it and certainly I know the riders appreciate it,” Ian said.
Although Ian is becoming a popular course designer in the States, designing at venues such as Galway Downs and The Event at Rebecca Farm in addition to Richland Park, he claims to have limited experience with the firm ground typical on this side of the pond. However, he feels that “if there is a sting in the ground” horses are more conservative in their jumping. “When the ground is good as it is here at Richland, they relish it and they just open up and gallop and jump better.”
Walking through the fields, one would not guess that the grass was cut the Tuesday of the event, but Ian says it is not “tufty and thick” and will not make it hard work for the horses but will instead provide a nice cushion.
Changes and Influential Fences on the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series CIC3* Course
“There are some fences that we have used a few times, but each year we try to tweak it and alter them a little bit, just so the riders do not get complacent,” Ian remarked with a grin.
|Advanced, CIC2*, and Intermediate Courses|
Number 5AB, the Drop Brush and Brush Skinny is the same as last year. “It looks scarier than it is. It does not usually cause much trouble. That is what I was meaning by frighten the riders, but the horses actually cope with that type fence really very well.”
The first water complex once had a Normandy bank, which was removed in addition to the steps in and out and replaced with ramps. The three-star jumps a big log spread drop in, and then has a corner in the water and another big corner on land, which Ian thinks will be a significant challenge.
At the Sunken Road the new Angled Brush at the C element is at set on a sharp angle. “Holding a line is going to be imperative.” Ian expects to see several competitors take the long route.
At the top of the course at 18AB, the new Double of Uprights are two post and rail fences set on a bending line, and each element has a very wide ditch in front of it. Riders will need to be very bold and have a plan to either ride the bending line or angle across to go straight. “It is right at the highest point of the course and towards the end so stamina is going to be quite influential there. Anyone that over gallops their horses in the heat at the beginning might suffer a little bit there.”
Just before the Uprights is a new open corner. “It is quite cleverly positioned where the corner points left. It does not look that big on approach, but it is quite a big wide fence so it is going to take a bit of respect.”
Just as the horses have made the turn towards home, Ian presents another unique challenge for the riders. “Although it looks very innocent, just after those upright rails you come through the trees and there is a big table and four strides to a skinny triple brush. The riders and horses are not going to see the triple brush until they are jumping the table, and anyone that jumps the table too bold and fast are never going to get around to the brush. I put it there just to make riders think a little bit more. They need to show jump the table rather than cross-country it, and if they are a bit gung-ho and wild they are going to pay the penalty.”
Competitors in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series CIC3* division will have some significant questions on course, as will competitors at all levels, but they will need to be on their toes for the duration. “To be honest, the first fence can cause its problems, so they all need respect.”
Novice and Training
The course builder, Bert Wood, has taken over designing the Novice and Training courses, which are no less formidable for the level than the three-star. “It is straightforward. There is enough to jump, but again it is tempting for the lower levels to be just out for a jolly and just canter around,” Ian said. “We try to give them a little bit of a taste over the smaller fences for the technicality of the upper levels. They have to ride it rather than just kick and go out for a Sunday ride.”
So the Novice and Training levels will be looking at a significant challenge when they ride cross-country on Sunday, which would be a great lead up to the Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by Bit of Britain, in September. If the AEC is not their goal, tackling such challenging courses in a busy atmosphere such as Richland is something to be proud of. “That is what is great about our sport. You have got people who are a real weekend rider and they are competing in the same arena and the same day and probably the same competition as some of the world’s best riders. I think that is very special and we want to keep that.”
“I love being here,” Ian said. “I am very privileged to be here and be designing these tracks, and I hope everyone enjoys it.”
Keep an eye on the live scoring tomorrow here.
About The Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series
Now in its ninth year, the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series is an exciting format of competition and entertainment for U.S. Eventing, encompassing seven of the top eventing competitions from around the U.S. where the best of the best vie for prize money, trophies, and the title of Gold Cup Champion.
Winners of each of the seven Gold Cup events across the country take home a trailer-load of prizes for their achievements. Winners receive an Adequan USEA Gold Cup Trophy, $500 in prize money, 7-dose box of Adequan, $200 Point Two Gift Certificate, and $500 worth of Nunn Finer Products. Second place finishers also take home a 7-dose box of Adequan and a $100 Point Two Gift Certificate.
The overall Adequan USEA Gold Cup winner will receive a hefty check for $20,000, an official Gold Cup Champion Jacket, and a huge trophy at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. The Reserve Champion receives $1,500 worth of Nunn Finer Products and a Gold Cup Reserve Champion Jacket.
Interesting in sponsoring the Gold Cup? Contact Leslie Mintz.