Derek di Grazia

Derek di Grazia is an American cross-country course-designer who has been responsible for the five-star course at the Kentucky Three-Day Event since 2011.

He is also taking over designing the course at Burghley Horse Trials from 2021 and is the designer for the track at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Like many course-designers, Derek has ridden at the top level — he won Kentucky in 1985, on Sasquatch, in the days before star classification when it was simply an international advanced three-day event.

He was “very curious” about design and helped out at various venues, including at the event run by his wife Bea’s family in Vermont. His first FEI design job was at Essex Horse Trials in New Jersey in the early 1990s.

Derek di Grazia continues to compete up to four-star level.

“For me it’s a good thing — you’re seeing how horses gallop up and down hills and the relationship of one jump to another. To me, it makes a difference that you have that understanding and feeling fresh,” he says. “And I enjoy doing it, I hope I can do it for a long time.

“Course-design is interesting because having trained horses myself for years, you understand the development of horses and the exercises you use. That spills over into the course-design — there’s a lot of levels to the top, we’re always training our horses and so through the courses we produce, we need to give the horses a positive experience.

“It’s a big buzz as well, because you’re given a piece of ground and you have to figure out how you’re going to use it, how you’re going to make it right for the level and produce something that flows well and is educational for horses.”