‘We’ve got to get stuck in and be brave’ – Pippa Funnell and other riders’ first reactions to the Kentucky cross-country course

  • The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event cross-country course is dimensionally big and riders will need to be brave on Saturday, said British rider Pippa Funnell.

    “After not jumping a big track since 2019, it looks jolly big,” she said. “The one-off five-star at Bicton Horse Trials last year was a stamina test but not in the same league dimensionally – this is a proper five-star with lots of big wide tables and oxers – or in terms of the questions. It’ll be interesting to ride around, we’ve got to get stuck in and be brave.

    “It’s beautifully built and designer Derek di Grazia has done a fabulous job – the fences are there in front of the horses. The lines are difficult but there are no tricks for the horses. We’ve got to be on our game and so have they, but hopefully if they are going well, it will ride well and not punish the horses.”

    Pippa picked out Pete’s Hollow at fence 13abc, where horses head down a steep bank to a corner, as a fence which could cause problems.

    Kentucky Three-Day Event cross-country course: fence 13abc

    Looking down the steep bank at Pete’s Hollow, fence 13abc on the 2022 Kentucky course.

    US rider Will Coleman described the course as “typical Derek”.

    “It’s not too terrifying but you’ve got to be sharp the whole way,” he said. “It’s very different to the 2021 track so there’s not a lot you can glean from last year.

    “I think the Hollow is interesting and at the Land Rover Head of the Lake horses will have to be really with you. That’s sort of the theme of the course – you can’t set up and then bang through the combinations, you’ve got to ride each element.”

    Kentucky Three-Day Event cross-country course: fence 18

    The fence into the Land Rover Head of the Lake on the 2022 Kentucky course, with the following elements visible on the opposite bank.

    Will said competitors will need to ride off their instincts round the Kentucky Three-Day Event cross-country course, a view that was echoed by his compatriot Doug Payne.

    “A lot of unpredictable things will happen and we’ll have to be super reactive,” said Doug. “We’ll see a lot of different solutions to the same problem and it’s more of an instinctive test than a mathematical one.”

    Hannah Sue Burnett said she prefers the course to last year’s track as she feels it is more flowing and there is also less use of multiple letters in combinations, something she fell foul of in 2021.

    “Derek does a good job of setting the tone with softer questions and then building on that,” she commented.

    Former Kentucky winner Phillip Dutton said: “It’s not the biggest course since I’ve seen here, but there are three or four areas that are quite technical, which require horses to be on their line and in front of your leg.”

    As well as the Hollow and the Head of the Lake, Phillip picked out the first serious combination at fence 7abc, the Park Question, and the last water, the Cosequin Cove (fence 23abc), as potential problem areas.

    The Park Question (fence 7abc) on the 2022 Kentucky course.

    The view over the first element of the Cosequin Cove (fence 23abc) on the 2022 Kentucky course, looking at the angled hedges which form elements b and c.

    Overnight leader Tamie Smith commented: “You don’t know how the horses are going to react to the terrain questions, you’ve got to have feel and that’s what makes a good cross-country horse and rider.

    “Derek’s a genius and I love riding round his tracks.”

    Collen Rutledge, who sits second, added: “Derek is a genius but a bit of a Machiavellian genius. This will separate those that wannabe from those that are. You’ve got to be able to ride not just off your eye, but off your leg and your butt.

    “Every questions asks something different, but every question is clear and there isn’t a gimme [giveaway] fence on the course.”

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