Five star – is five-star! Riders will be tested in the Saturday Night Lights’ grand prix

  • Alan Wade’s courses begin with the use of a simple pencil and paper. But by the time the arena is lit and the course is ready for tonight’s Saturday Night Lights and the FEI CSI5* $406,000 grand prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival, the riders will walk the course to find a track that merits the occasion.

    “Five star – is five star,” stated Alan, who has been the international arena course designer for the entire week 9. “People know what to expect.”

    Alan was taught the craft of course design by his father, pioneering showjumper and former chef d’equipe of the Irish national team, Tommy Wade. “You have to be confident with what you do,” said Alan. “Course designers are all different – they have different things that they like and what they don’t like. I normally stick to what I was taught. My father was a good teacher.”

    Alan designed the course yesterday that produced a victory for McLain Ward and Catoki in the $37,000 1.45m CSI5*.

    “I’m a huge fan of Alan’s,” said McLain. “For me, he’s the best in the world but we have a situation here in Wellington where it’s not just five-star jumping, it’s kind of on the max of five-star jumping. Particularly this year, because America’s open and you can compete so you’ve had this funneling of the best riders in the world coming here, which has raised the standard and the level considerably. So you’re seeing the courses at the max and you’re also seeing people have fast rounds and going into 25th place.”

    Saturday Night Lights brings a whole new atmosphere to the international ring. “It’s a well-lit ring,” said Alan. “It’s quite a special occasion at night time. Sometimes horses actually jump a lot better when they get used to the lights, it actually improves them and they brighten up and other horses, especially younger horses, sometimes get a little nervous the first time. But that is why they have the smaller grands prix.”

    Alan began designing tonight’s course two weeks ago and it was almost finished by yesterday afternoon. “The material I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to use where,” he said. “But the course is set in stone.”

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