Relentlessly twisty with a tight optimum time and an early combination likely to destroy several riders’ hopes at fence four.
That is initial feedback from riders about Rudiger Schwarz’s European Eventing Championship cross-country track.
Oliver Townend described the 30-fence course as the “toughest” Europeans track he’s ever seen.
“It’s definitely not going to be a dressage competition,” said the Brit, 12th overnight with Cooley SRS. “It’s mentally tiring with all the ups and downs, going back and forwards, and some horses will wonder where they’re going.”
The first three cross-country fences and the final five are in a field separate from the rest. Two road crossings take horses into the main field where they will gallop up and down the full length of it twice.
Switzerland’s Felix Vogg, currently fourth on Onfire, described it as being “like a go kart course”.
Bettina Hoy added: “Rudiger is very clever with where he places fences. Everything out there requires accurate riding and an obedient horse. There’s no place to have the slightest mishap because then you will have a run out.”
The Longines complex (4abc) is the first combination and it is tough, consisting of three skinnies and the b and c elements, both brushes, on an acute angle. This question comes up immediately after horses cross into the main field.
“Fences one, two and three are across the road where it’s quiet, but having been here before I know there will be a lot of people and music playing [around fence four], because it’s by the water and attracts a crowd,” said Ros Canter, best of the British in sixth with Allstar B.
“Some horses might be a bit shocked to suddenly come into a new, busy field and have a meaty question in front of them. Getting through there will give me confidence for the rest of the course.”
France’s Tom Carlile, lying second on Upsilon, added: “Fence four is there to give riders the shits. It’s got a decent angle on it, but I think horses will read it well. It will catch out the weaker riders.”
He agreed with the majority that the optimum time, which is yet to be confirmed, will be hard to get.
“Fences come quick and fast and you haven’t got much space to get your speed up,” said Tom. “You need a horse with a good turn of foot and not too big a stride.”
Piggy French, in 17th with Quarrycrest Echo, added: “Horses and riders will be under pressure to be quick thinking and quick on their feet all the way. It will be easy to nip past a fence [when you’re chasing the clock].”
Sweden’s Niklas Lindback, just outside the top 10 with Focus Filiocus, agreed.
“Lots of fences will slow down the pace, but you can’t go out too fast because you have to conserve energy for the last combination [Ursus Tractors, 28ab], which is at a serious angle and more difficult on a tiring horse.”
New Zealander Andrew Nicholson is in Strzegom to advise the German squad and they walked it together for the first time this afternoon.
“Andrew has something interesting to say about every single fence, even the ones I wouldn’t think that much about being so much less experienced,” said Julia Krajewski, currently third with Samourai du Thot. “He gives us great confidence.”
More eventing news:
Dressage continues tomorrow at 10.15am (9.15am BST). Cross-country is on Saturday at 11am (10am BST).
Come back to horseandhound.co.uk tomorrow to find out who will be at the business end after dressage. Full Europeans report in next week’s issue (24 August).