The 20th annual Red Hills International Horse Trials will begin with dressage for all levels tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. sharp. Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum's Martini (Magnum x Momo’s Girl), his own and L&N Equestrian’s 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding, will start things off in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup CIC3* and Matt Flynn will be the first to go in the Advanced division at 3:21 p.m. aboard Wizzerd (Wizzerd x Amai), Flynn Sport Horse’s 9-year-old KWPN gelding.
In his fourth year designing courses at Red Hills International, Mike Etherington-Smith’s CIC3* and Advanced tracks for the Adequan USEA Gold Cup share identical jumping efforts except for final combination on course, which is numbered as an “A-B” combination for the CIC3* and separately for the Advanced division. This year’s course will run in the opposite direction that it has in years past, and Etherington-Smith said that both provides interest for the spectators and keeps things fresh for the riders. “[The course has] a different feel going this way ‘round, and it’s good to change it up and give it some variety. It takes a couple of years to get to a place where the opportunity is there to turn it around, and we worked with the new tracks and new lines to get it there.”
The final combination on course is numbered separately for the Advanced division. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
There are limitations to what can be done with the courses at Red Hills, but Etherington-Smith said that both the Northwest Florida Water Management District and the City of Tallahassee have been great to work with when it comes to making changes to the courses. “We had to clear a lot of trees for safety reasons, and they’ve been really good in that regard. It’s a good team.” One of the biggest changes made to the course this year was the addition of a new coffin complex on the southeast side of the course. Etherington-Smith also noted that he’s switched up some of the combinations this year, including the water on the northeast side of the course. “The riders are going to have to ride.”
Etherington-Smith also explained that there has been a great effort put into improving the footing at Red Hills over the last few years. “[The footing] needs to be as good as it possibly can be . . . for me, it’s all about looking after the horses.”
The new offset house combination in the second water on course. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Etherington-Smith has made use of MIM clips where appropriate throughout the course. “I’m a fan of the MIMs system, or reverse pinning, but MIMs is easier and quicker to put back together,” he commented. “I think there’s a moral obligation to use them . . . for me, [safety] is the number one priority. There’s no ifs or buts about that.”
One of several MIM clips installed on the courses at Red Hills. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“I’m just very mindful that you’ve still got to give the opportunity to the horses to get into a rhythm and get into a flow which is one of the things you have to be really mindful of,” said Etherington-Smith. “For me, [course designing] is all about producing the horses and riders. That’s the name of the game. I want horses to come off course feeling good and feeling like they’ve learned something. It’s a positive experience, not an examination, and it’s really important that they come off course feeling good. They might not have gone perfectly well, but that’s not the point. The point is, have they learned something? Have they benefitted from it? There’s a story to a course, it’s not just a set of random jumps. There’s a relationship between all the fences and there’s a reason for all the fences being on course where they are.”
Riders in both the CIC3* and Advanced division will tackle Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross-country course on Saturday starting at 10:47 a.m.
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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.