For anyone who has not been to Richland Park Horse Trials, (which is about 10 miles north of Kalamazoo, Michigan) the 260-acre farm has green, rolling terrain with several significant uphill climbs on the cross-country, at least by Midwest standards. Part of the farm is in row crops (corn and soybeans) and the center part of the farm, where the cross-country runs, has several wooded areas dotting the landscape. There is also a lake roughly in the center of the property called “Turtle Bay” which the Willmarths’ (the event hosts and property owners) home overlooks on one side and the cross-country ambles by on the other. The soil on the farm is a sandy loam that drains pretty well, yet the area is quite green with mostly deciduous trees, but also a few evergreens mixed in here and there. With today's weather cool and breezy, the ground looks to be quite good – springy, but not muddy or dusty.
Start the course out with some love from Bob and Kay Willmarth. Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography Photo.
The big news at Richland this year is that a new track has been opened up on cross-country. The Adequan USEA Gold Cup CIC3*, Advanced and CIC2* horses and riders make a new loop out to the west after clearing the first water (which is part of the older course; fence number 6ab for the Advanced and CIC3* and 6abc for the CIC3*) and turning left toward the new section. They gallop on going through a tree line which wasn’t crossed before this year and go over fences 7 and 8 still going west. Next, they turn briefly south to go over fences 9abc and 10 for the CIC2* and 9abc, 10 and 11abc for the Advanced and CIC3* divisions. Finally they finish the new loop by going back to the east and jumping fences 11abc for the CIC2* and 11abc, 12 and 13abc for the Advanced and CIC3* divisions.
Youse's Oak - part of the new loop on the course. Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography.
An interesting part of the new course is a massive tree donated by Lawrence and Phyllis Youse from which fence 11b was fashioned. The base of the tree was almost five feet in diameter, and though they’ve been trimmed off, you can see that it had many branches coming from the base. Yesterday the Youses were treated to a golf cart ride around the course, as a thank you for the donation, so that they could see their big tree in place on the cross-country.
Buck Davidson took a few minutes to comment on the new part of the upper-level courses. “I think it is much, much better. You actually feel like you are going out and going someplace. Your horses are going to be able to get into a rhythm and get galloping. It’s a nice course; the shapes of the fences are nice. There are some big jumps; there are some skinny jumps. It sort of has everything, but it gives you a nice feel,” he said.
Ian Stark of Scotland took over cross-country course design at Richland Park from Michael Etherington-Smith beginning in 2009. He is quickly earning a reputation as a world-class designer and has been responsible for the CIC3* at Chatsworth, the CCI3* at Galway Downs, and Central Scotland CIC2*. In addition to his course design prowess, Stark is a top competitor with four Olympic silver medals, three wins at the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials and multiple European and World Championship medals.
There are some wonderful details, such as ants on the picnic table, on the course! Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography.
Kudos to the Stark and Course Builders Jay Hambly, Bert Wood, Tommy Neneman and David Koss on the beautiful cross-country courses!
A Walk Around the CIC3* and Advanced Cross-Country Course
The Adequan USEA Gold Cup CIC3* course is 3,988 meters at 570 meters per minute with an optimum time of seven minutes and a time limit of 14 minutes. There are 21 numbered obstacles and 34 jumping efforts (33 on the Advanced). Take a virtual walk around the course here.