The 2018 Chattahoochee Hills International Horse Trials kicked off this morning at 8:00 a.m. with dressage running in five arenas. Chattahoochee Hills is hosting Adequan USEA Gold Cup qualifiers with both the CIC3* and Advanced divisions this weekend, both of which start at 10:45 a.m. and run concurrently in rings 2 and 3. First up in the CIC3* is Buck Davidson and Carlevo (Eurocommerce Caresino x Ramatuelle), Carlevo LLC’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, while Jon Holling and the Two Doors Down Group LLC’s 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Sportsfield Two Doors Down (Inocent x Hillcrest Bay Wonder) will lead off in the Advanced division. Both divisions will show jump this evening starting with the CIC3* at 5:35 p.m. with the Advanced division following directly after at 6:35 p.m.
The CIC3* and Advanced divisions will tackle nearly identical tracks this weekend. Riders in both divisions will have 6 minutes, 6 seconds to complete the 3,470 meter course, which comprises 24 obstacles and a total of 34 jumping efforts. However, the CIC3* and Advanced tracks do not share the same obstacle at fences 3, 4AB, and the first element of fence 10.
The Advanced jumps in on the left and goes straight across to a boat out while the CIC3* jumps in on the right and jumps out over a boat on an angle. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Hugh Lochore is not only the organizer at Chattahoochee Hills; he is also the course designer for Preliminary through Advanced levels and the FEI divisions. Lochore has been the course designer at Chattahoochee Hills since 2012, coming onboard prior to the final USEA American Eventing Championships held at the venue. When describing his course designing style, Lochore compared the cross-country course to a book. “You’ve got the introduction, you’ve got the meat of the book, and you’ve got a conclusion,” he explained.
“My introduction is always the first five or six fences in a relatively short pattern, and the first combination comes very quickly,” continued Lochore. “So, you’ve got fences 1, 2, 3, and then 4AB, 5. Those first six jumping efforts come very quickly, usually in the first 500 meters. You get the horses jumping and you get them focused, you get them concentrating. Some course designers want to go out of the start box and go, ‘Right, let them have it, let them really open up and gallop and that really puts them in a good frame of mind.’ I think they’re already in a good frame of mind, they’re going cross-country, they love it. The first five fences get them massively focused early on and gets them jumping in a good shape and then you open them up into a stronger rhythm and let them gallop a bit. I think you’ve got to get them jumping first.”
A riders-eye view of the Advanced combination at the second water. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“The big water [at fence 10], that’s quite a big test [for the CIC3*],” said Lochore. “It’s not a massive test in, but you never quite know what level of three-star horses you’re going to get here. It’s decent enough for the horses that we typically get here, or those that are just wanting a final run and don’t want a huge amount of test.” Lochore explained that riders in the CIC3* will have to land off the A element and really go for the distance on the turning line to the angled brushes at B and C. “It’s getting that line, versus the Advanced, which drops in over a standard Advanced level drop and the fence is right in front of you.”
“On the tail end of the course, you might have more brush, you might have a little bit more forgiving [fences], always using turns into combinations or using setup fences to turn into combinations so you get them balanced off the turn,” concluded Lochore.
The final combination on course is two angled upright brush fences off a turn. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Riders will have a new question to tackle this year at fence 19ABC, two large tree trunks two strides apart followed by a bending line to a wedge brush in three strides. “It’s a big, bold question,” said Lochore. “[Riders] will want to get the B element right. It’s quite a strong two strides from the first log to the second log and you don’t tend to bend lines on two strides but at the three-star or Advanced level you can be expected to bend them in the air slightly. I do think they need to be slightly coming across the second element to get the three strides down the slope to the wedge. You’re not wanting them to bend too much on a three-stride line so they’re going to have to find their bend in the air over the second element.”
Riders will have two stides from the first log to the second log followed by a bending three strides to the wedge brush. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
As the final run for some horses and riders before heading to a spring CCI3* or CCI4*, Lochore commented that, “We are definitely aware of the fact that we are not a considered a destination three-star. Carolina International does a fantastic job of that, Red Hills does a great job of that. We are the event that people [come to] who want a nice, galloping, possibly big cross-country track. I think we’re a good service for those people going to Kentucky or Jersey Fresh who’ve had a couple of good tests already.”
Lochore explained that, rather than making drastic changes to the obstacles on course when he first came on board, his focus has been on improving the footing. Because Chattahoochee Hill hosts other non-equestrian events, keeping the footing consistent has been a challenge. “I really think this is the best time of year for us,” noted Lochore. “Our winter grasses are great and the summer grasses haven’t even started growing yet so it’s a bit patchy looking but we’ve got a lot of moisture in the ground and the winter grasses hold it all together really well. April is a great time to be running a horse trials.”
Cross-country will take place tomorrow morning starting at 11:35 a.m. for the CIC3* with the Advanced division following directly after beginning at 1:00 p.m.
About the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series
The 2018 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series features 11 qualifying competitions throughout the United States at the Advanced horse trials and CIC3* levels. The qualifying period begins August 2017 and continues through August 2018 with the final taking place at the 2018 USEA American Eventing Championships at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado, August 29 – September 2, 2018. Riders who complete a qualifier earn the chance to vie for $40,000 in prize money and thousands of dollars in prizes and the title of Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champion in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Final Advanced Division.