WEG blog: walking the cross-country course and eating marshmallows

  • Having been to the eventing trot-up for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this morning, my brain has kicked into three-day mode. After the trot-up, I headed out to walk the cross-country course. So, what’s it like?

    The course runs lengthwise behind the horse park’s permanent buildings. It’s basically a clockwise loop in a long thin strip, with a deviation like the bottom bar of a T down into the Land Between The Lakes water complex — the second of three — at fences 17 and 18.

    The Kentucky Horse Park doesn’t have major hills, but there are plenty of undulations which will test horse fitness. It has a park-like feel — no woods, but plenty of old trees. They must work seriously hard on their ground here and the course is a winding green strip through burnt yellow grass (left). The watering machines were going during our walk, occasionally soaking the unwary.

    The track is bending, but not twisty. In terms of the fences, I’d say it’s typical of Mike Etherington-Smith, in that it’s so attractively presented and inviting, you could be deceived into thinking it’s easy. Yes, there are probably more let-up fences than you get at Badminton or Burghley, but the complexes between them are serious enough.

    What will be the most tricky fences? I’m inclined to agree with Leslie Law’s assessment in this week’s H&H — he’s more qualified than me to comment, after all — that the stone corner at the Welcoming Waters Wishing Well at fence 8 (right) is serious, although banking it is a possibility. That might scare your horse though and take capital out of the “trust bank” so that he won’t forgive you a mistake later on.

    The first water, the Salato Wildlife Centre at fence five, is a decent test early on. If you get a bit of a hairy jump over the straight route log in, there isn’t much space to gather your reins before the incredibly narrow flags on the fish in the middle.

    The Scalloped Brushes at fence 26 will catch tired horses. They consist of two narrow brushes set at angles in ditches (I’m pictured in the first one above) and it would be so easy for a horse to just hop off the step across the ditch and miss the fence.

    I’m back in the stands now watching the end of the pure dressage special, ready to cheer on Laura Bechtolsheimer. Tomorrow the eventers will be in here. We saw them doing their arena familiarisation yesterday so let’s hope they’ve had a good look around and aren’t spooked by the high grandstands.

    In other news, it’s hot here today, I’m mildly sunburnt and I ate marshmallows with my steak last night. Yes, honestly. The restaurant offered the opportunity to load your baked sweet potato with caramel and marshmallows for 99c (about 75p). That’s not an experience you get to have in your average English steakhouse, so I thought I’d better try it (left). The verdict? Actually, it was surprisingly tasty…

    Pictures of all the cross-country fences

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