Beefy water questions, chunky narrow corners and offset doubles to skinnies — Pierre Michelet has designed a typically tough and technical CCI4* track on forward distances for tomorrow’s cross-country phase at Pau, France.
Scroll down to see what the main questions look like and find out what the top placed riders have to say about the 32-fence track.
Fences 3 & 4 — ‘Trone panoramic’
Horses run uphill to a log brush (top), before running down to a narrow brush corner (above). It is the first accuracy test on course and it comes up quickly. The image below shows the line down to the corner.
Fence 6abc — ‘Canard/Contrebas/Canard’
Horses negotiate water four times in total and the first time they see it is at fence six. First there is a swan (above), from which horses land running downhill to a log drop (below), which comes up quickly on a right-hand turn and takes them into the water.
You can see the third element in the picture below, a skinny fish on a left-hand bend. This is the fish that proved influential at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Haras du Pin.
Fence 10abc — ‘Abri/Trapeze de haie/Trapeze de haie’
Horses have ventured out on to the racecourse — Domaine de Sers — for the second half of the course when they meet this, the second water complex. After a white gate with ditch at nine, horses meet the wide box above.
Riders must be on their line at the point of take off, as two triple brushes await in the water behind it (below). Both are angled in different directions and they are very skinny, as you can see in the following picture.
Fence 17abc — ‘Pointe/Haie/Haie’
This is one of Pierre’s new designs for 2016. A birdhouse sits on the left side of the corner at a (above). In this picture you can just see the b element to the left of the corner.
After landing from the corner (a), riders must steer their horses around to jump part b (below) from right to left, before swinging right to a third skinny in the opposite direction (bottom).
Fence 20abc — ‘Haie sur fosse/Haie sur fosse/Haie sue la butte’
These three brushes, the first two angled over a ditch, are also new. After landing from the first, there is a right-hand curve to the second before running uphill to the final brush on top of a mound.
Fence 22ab — ‘Gue — Pointe de haie/Pointe de haie’
This is the final water complex, and it is the one that most riders are talking about. Horses pass through it twice.
The first obstacle is a brush corner (above). On the other side of the lake is a matching corner, and horses have to bypass the brushes at 25 (see below) to get from 22a to 22b.
The image below gives you an idea of the line to the second element.
Fence 23 — ‘Vertical obstacle attelage’
As horses loop around to the water again, there is this rustic fence to negotiate. It isn’t up to height but it is very upright and won’t forgive any mistakes made by tiring horses.
Fences 24 & 25 — ‘Contrebas/Haies en V’
After jumping into the water over the log drop (24), there is a choice of two angled brushes (25) — the left-hand side being slightly shorter. As they are separately numbered, riders won’t be penalised for circling, providing they haven’t presented at the brush first.
Fence 27abc — ‘Chateau/Bouclier/Bouclier’
There is a sharp uphill pull to the chateau (above), followed by a run down to two offset shields (below). It shouldn’t be a big ask at this level, but some horses may be feeling tired.
Fence 28 — ‘Vertical’
It’s a single fence and should be straightforward, but this artist’s palette is beautiful to look at.
Fences 29 & 30 — ‘Maison/Maison’
The last accuracy test comes three from home, two large offset houses on a forward distance that might appear simple, but could prove a question too far for tiring horses.
The riders’ views
“I’ve never ridden around a Pierre Michelet course — should I be worried?” asked Alexander Bragg at today’s press conference following the conclusion of dressage.
The 35-year-old is best of the British in second overnight riding Zagreb, ahead of Nicola Wilson (One Two Many) and behind Germany’s Michael Jung (FischerTakinou).
“There’s always a lot to jump here and it will take some jumping — you really have to concentrate all the way to the finish,” said Nicola.
Michael added that he is happy to have an experienced first ride in FischerRocana FST, lying fourth, before setting out on his dressage leader.
“It looks like a normal Michelet course; he’s had some interesting ideas,” said Michael. “On Rocana I will be trying to feel what is possible with the ground, the distances and the time.”
It has been raining, heavily at times, in Pau for the past two days. Nicola Wilson added that this will help the ground as it was on the firm side.
Australia’s Christopher Burton is the first rider out on course tomorrow at 1.15pm local time (12.15pm in the UK).
Come back to horseandhound.co.uk on Saturday evening to see who successfully tackles the 32 fences, and who doesn’t.
Don’t miss the full Pau CCI4* report in next week’s Horse & Hound, on sale 20 October.