‘Like we’ve come out of a washing machine’: top riders’ thoughts on European Eventing Championships cross-country course

  • Some of the world’s top riders have shared their thoughts on this year’s European Eventing Championships cross-country course, which has been designed by Mike Etherington-Smith.

    There are 32 numbered fences and the optimum time is 10min 7sec for the 2021 European Eventing Championships cross-country course in Avenches, Switzerland.

    “It is a real championship course and I’m going to have to walk it a lot of times because there’s great potential for getting lost and going the wrong way up strings,” explained Piggy March. “There’s plenty of places to just run off things and it’s very technical. The single fences are all big enough too with a lot of twists and turns, so we have got to be on our A game. For sure it’s not going to be a dressage competition.”

    Piggy highlighted fence six (pictured above) as a possible early problem for riders.

    “It’s a very big fence on an angle, with a bunch of trees just to the side that can put you off your line if you were to spook – that would be a fence that I will look at quite a lot. I think the time will be tight as it is such a twisty track.”

    Izzy Taylor agreed with Piggy, saying “it’s definitely not all going to be based on the dressage”, and warned that riders might be “lulled into a false sense of security” early on, but said that “by the end I think we’re going to feel like we’ve come out of a washing machine – there’s a lot to do out there, a lot, but it’s a very good track.”

    Sam Watson felt some riders might make the mistake of thinking Mike Etherington-Smith’s track is softer than it is.

    “You might think for the first seven or eight minutes that he’s built a slightly softer championship,” Sam explained. “Then jeez, it turns into a proper championship course in the last two minutes, which I think is so clever. You’ve only got 10 minutes, which is all there is space-wise here, and he’s looped us a good bit which I think will mentally be quite tiring for the horses and will slow us down a little bit.”

    Sam highlighted the end of the course as a place where riders could run into trouble.

    “To put the questions at the end is much more difficult for horses when they’re not so fresh and I think it’s a very clever course. I think the good ones will fly around and will go inside the time, but I think you have to have a very good horse [to do that].”

    Germany’s Christoph Wahler echoed Sam’s sentiments about the layout of the course.

    “It is very twisty, but with some very nice fences in the way they’re designed,” he explained. “It won’t ride very soft and easy with regards to all the turns and the changes of direction. It will be a little bit like driving a golf cart.”

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