The World Equestrian Games cross-country course for the World Equestrian Games eventing championship at Tryon, USA, will be between 5700 and 6270m long. The optimum time — within which horses and riders must compete the course if they are to finish without penalty — will be between 10 and 11 minutes.

The cross-country course is being designed by Captain Mark Phillips. Mark is a Horse & Hound columnist and a former top rider — he collected Olympic team gold in 1972 and won the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials four times in 1971, 1972, 1974 and 1981. Mark is now one of the leading course-designers in the world. He also designs the track at Burghley in September, which is renowned as one of the toughest cross-country challenges in the world each year.

The track will involve between 35 and 40 jumping efforts. Horses and riders will have to tackle all sorts of jumps, including obstacles in and out of water, steps up and down and ditches. There will also be a number of narrow fences, which are particularly challenging as horses are more likely to run-out at them than at wider jumps, and fences which have to be jumped at an angle. Many of the fences will be set in combinations, where several jumps are close together, so how the competitors tackle the first fence affects their success at the subsequent efforts.

The aim for horses and riders is to jump all the fences clear at first attempt. If the horse runs out or refuses, the pair receive 20 penalties. A second refusal at the same fence incurs 40 penalties. A third refusal or run-out anywhere on the course means elimination. Any fall of horse or rider also leads to elimination.

The fences on a cross-country course are solid, although “frangible” technology will be used on some jumps. These fences will fall or collapse if a horse hits them with a certain amount of force, a safety measure put in place to try to reduce horse falls. If a horse activates a frangible device, he will receive 11 penalties, although these can be removed if the ground jury — who judge the competition — rule that this was an unexpected activation from insignificant contact.

The course will offer different options at the more difficult fences. The toughest route will be the quickest, while there will be easier options which can be taken without penalty, but which will take longer. Riders will have to assess whether they can afford to take some of the slower routes and still come home without time-penalties — awarded at a rate of 0.4 of a penalty per second over the optimum time — or if they need to risk all the straight routes. Team tactics will also come into play.

Cross-country course photos

Photos of the World Equestrian Games cross-country course will be added to this page shortly before the competition gets underway.

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