‘Walk it like a Formula One track’: Tom McEwen, Tim Price and other top riders’ thoughts on Luhmühlen five-star cross-country course

  • Competitors have shared their early thoughts on the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials cross-country course. Mike Etherington-Smith’s five-star track loops through Luhmühlen’s woodland, with 30 questions over a distance of 6,270m awaiting competitors on Saturday. The optimum time is 11 minutes exactly.

    “Weirdly enough, I’m delighted to be pathfinder,” said Britain’s Tom McEwen, who will be the first rider out of the start box with Barbara Cooper’s Braveheart B.

    “I much prefer it to going third or fourth, because then you feel like you should get some feedback from the course and sometimes it’s not really that useful. It’s better to just crack on and anything you hear on the tannoy is pretty useless because you’ve already been over it.”

    Tom, who has two rides here this week, added he thinks the course is “quite intense”.

    “I think it’s going to feel quite non-stop because for me the only bits of real galloping is coming away from the first water and coming out of the main arena,” he said.

    “All the questions are more than jumpable. It’s just making sure when you come out of the whirlwind, when you’re going with a bit of pace, to actually take your time, take your breath and pop through [each question].”

    He added: “There will be plenty to look at. For example, it’s not just the fences, it’s your lines and trying to find the quickest and smoothest line. You’ve got to walk it like a Formula One track, in terms of finding your lines.”

    Two-time Luhmühlen five-star winner Tim Price, who also has two horses making their CCI5* debut this week, said: “The questions are obvious, and I think if you can just present them well, then I think you’ll be fine.”

    He cited the final corner at Fence 29a – the combination “Close to Home” – as among the fences to take particular note of.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s terribly Mike ES-esque, because it’s quite a tough question – they often come around to that last question quite floppy and that one requires quite a deliberate jump,” said the New Zealand rider.

    “Hopefully we have some good riding there, to make that look like a piece of cake. The waters always require a bit of good, intuitive, reactive riding.

    “It’s a five-star, so you’ve got to be thinking all the way around, but first and foremost, you need to be really looking after your horse and making sure that they are with you all the way.”

    Luhmühlen Horse Trials cross-country course: ‘a true five-star’

    Ireland’s Cathal Daniels, who won individual European bronze with his ride here Rioghan Rua when the championships were held at Luhmühlen in 2019, also mentioned Fence 29 as a potentially influential question.

    “The course is very nice, it’s similar to last year,” he said. “She [Rioghan Rua] wasn’t here last year, I was here with my other horse [LEB Lias Jewel], but I think there’s plenty to do.

    “I think it’s going to be very hot. [Fence 29a] is a decent fence when horses are going to be feeling a little bit tired.

    “I think there’ll be plenty of problems, there always are here. Even fences you would maybe not concentrate too much on on the course-walk seem to cause trouble here.”

    Bubby Upton, who holds the overnight lead with her mother Rachel’s Cannavaro (“Joey”), shared her first impression of the course.

    “It looks like a really good track, I’ve never been here before and it’s so pretty. I think the big water early [the Longines Wasser at fences 4 and 5abc] on is a similar question to Pau, where I had my issue with “Joey”, where if you focus too much on the ‘b’, you will miss the ‘c’,” she said, adding she has learnt from what happened at Pau and “won’t be doing that again”.

    “It’s very twisty, so I hope that I can keep his energy up enough through the twists and turns. They’ve done a fantastic job, so I’m just excited to give it a go.”

    Chris Bartle described the track as a “true five-star”, and said: “The course is beautifully built and presented with classic cross-country lines and questions.”

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