Pau horse trials: riders react to ‘intense’ cross-country course

  • Pierre Michelet has designed a typically strong Pau CCI4* cross-country course. The 6,365, course is filled with some serious technical questions, plenty of skinnies and mounds, plus combinations on difficult angles. Riders will negotiate 32 fences in total, with an optimum time of 11mins 10secs.

    Britain’s Ros Canter, lying second overnight with Zenshera, is competing at Pau for the first time.

    “It’s intense,” she said. “There’s lots of questions that come at you fast. You have to be thinking quickly everywhere.”

    Here are a selection of the testing questions riders will tackle tomorrow (Saturday 2 November). Images courtesy of Natalie Clark.

    Fence 5ab — Chateau – Bouclier Bearnais

    After a good galloping start, horses run uphill to this castle (above) and land on a downhill slope to a skinny shield (below) at the bottom.

    Fence 9abc — Tronc – Triplebrush

    The water complexes — there are three in total — are notoriously difficult at Pau and this year is no different. Pictured (above) is the hanging brush log with steep drop into the first water, with a curving right line to a triple brush followed by another one on the bank (below).

    Mark Todd, lying equal third and equal fourth overnight with NZB Campino and Kiltubrid Rhapsody respectively, said this question is “particularly strong. There is plenty to do in the first section; riders will have a busy time out there”.

    Fence 11abc — Haie

    Australia’s Sam Griffiths took to Facebook to declare this complex “horrid”. The three-part question involves running uphill to a curved brush (above) and then downhill to a brush angled over a substantial ditch. As soon as they land, riders need to be quick to turn back to a third brush, also angled over the ditch. The b and c elements are pictured below.

    Fence 13ab — Bac a Laurier

    This combination of skinnies is similar to last year. Both are skinny (above) and require precision, while the line between them will cost precious seconds (below).

    Fence 15ab — Coffin

    This combination consists of two logs (above), both on top of separate mounds. Horses will run up to the first, downhill and then immediately uphill again to the second, as shown in the picture below.

    Fence 18ab — Tronc Suspendu

    After clearing the suspended log (above), riders must steer left to the wide box (below) behind it — navigating a steep downhill slope in order to get to it.

    Fence 20/21/22 — Pointe, Haie Barree & Pointe

    This is the second water question (above) and all three elements are separately numbered, meaning circling in between them will not be penalised — but it will be expensive for those chasing the clock. A brush corner (a) takes horses to the water side, followed by a skinny brush in the water (b) and another brush corner on the way out (c) — all on a forward, exacting line. You can also see fence 23 (Barriere blanche) — a white gate — in the distance.

    Fence 25 — Triple brush

    Another mound takes horses up to this skinny (above), but the ground runs away steeply on the other side.

    Fence 26ab — Dome

    The third and final water complex involves another wide fence with a drop into the lake (above), followed by an angled duck. Alex Bragg, who has two rides tomorrow (Redpath Ransom, lying 48th, and then Zagreb, 14th), said he preferred a slightly wider outside line which allows three strides to the duck. A tighter line will get horses there in two strides.

    “The three waters are tough — especially the last one,” said Australia’s Shane Rose, leader after dressage with CP Qualified. “This is the first time I’ve been here and there’s a lot to do out there; I’ll give it a good go.”

    Fence 29abc — Maisons Bearnaises

    Another mound, this time with three houses to contest. The first (a) is at the top of the mound (furthest away in the picture above), followed by a steep downhill run to two offset houses (below).

    Comeback to horseandhound.co.uk to find out who successfully negotiates the course — and who fails — tomorrow (Saturday 28 October).

    Don’t miss the full Pau report in next week’s H&H, on sale Thursday 2 November.

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