Riders have given their first reactions to Mark Phillips’ cross-country course at the World Equestrian Games (WEG).
The track includes a long uphill pull in the final two minutes, which will be a big ask for horses.
British pathfinder Gemma Tattersall said: “I’m very glad to be sat on a thoroughbred with the hill at the end, especially in this heat. Dimensionally it’s not huge, but I need to make sure Arctic Soul is looking where he’s going. There are lots of options and tricky combinations.”
US rider Boyd Martin said: “It’s a twisty, technical track at the beginning and you’ve got to leave a bit in the tank for the last two minutes. A lot will come down to heart and desire and my guy [Tserterleg] is a real trier.”
Gemma’s team-mate Piggy French added: “We are riding with team pressure, which is different to normal. The course needs respecting and there are plenty of places you can have sillies [a silly mistake].”
Australia’s Chris Burton echoed her, saying: “It’s a real championship question and I think it’s perfect. The team environment puts on so much pressure and I think it’ll ride tough. I’m on a green horse, so I’m as nervous as can be.”
Sam Watson, Ireland’s trailblazer, said that riders need to concentrate: “You can tell the difference between a three-star [as here] and four-star championship track and lots of people will be kicking themselves with hindsight. It’s a clever course with lots of combinations.”
Riders are agreed that the conditions and ground will be a major factor. While Hurricane Florence is not expected in this area of North Carolina until after cross-country day, the going is currently on the soft side after some heavy downpours.
“It’s anybody’s guess how the ground will ride and as we’ve seen, it can change within an hour. Hopefully there will be no more downpours, hopefully it will dry out a bit, hopefully it’s not too hot — there’s a lot of hoping going on,” said Mark Todd.
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The cross-country takes places on Saturday (15 September).
Horse & Hound has two journalists and a photographer in Tryon for WEG. Keep up to date with all the news onand in the magazine issues dated 20 and 27 September.