Ian Stark has been designing the courses at Rebecca Farm since 2011 and each year he has expanded, innovated, and created breathtaking courses. Stark is quick to give credit to course builder, Bert Wood for his fantastic carpentry skills and creativity. Since Wood has recently earned his course design license he is now designing alongside Stark through the one-star level.
Whether it is a snake carved into a CCI* log, a carrot shaped Novice jump or a roast chicken baiting an alligator the duo has a grand time in putting together the masterpiece which is unveiled each summer. “You try to have a theme and have a bit of fun with it, but it is all for us – it doesn’t make any difference to the horses,” Stark explained. For 2017 the western town has been moved to the top of the mound and the rider-frightener of the corner over the water is back alongside tradition tables, brush fences and a big, bold Stark style course.
This year the Training level riders get to tackle the famous ogopogo swamp monster that was on the three-star courses last year and Stark delighted “they will be thinking ‘we will be jumping an Advanced fence!’ but it has been cut down and is quite a bit smaller. It is still exciting for them having seen all of the Advanced riders jumping it last year.”
Training and Preliminary riders get to take on the ogopogo this year.
With so many tracks to design Stark wants to make them all different, but he isn’t afraid of asking the same questions. “When I am designing a one, two and three-star at the same event I try and give different versions of the same question,” he explained. “You introduce them at one-star, they get a bit tougher at two-star and serious at three-star. You can teach the horses that way. William Fox-Pit for example at Tattersalls (in Ireland) with Bay My Hero – he won the one-star, the next year he won the two-star the next year he won the three-star. Fox-Pitt said he didn’t do other three-day events with his horse and he learned progression and he ended up on a team with the horse.”
In addition to designing the courses for the Rebecca Farm divisions, Stark is also in charge of the courses for the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships. “Normally it is a standalone competition, but I think it is great that it is part of something else,” said Stark of this year’s format. “For the Young Riders, they are kids and they are competing alongside their Olympic heroes. So I think that is a great mixture. I think that is one of the most important things about our sport – you can be doing a Novice track and you are stabled next to Phillip Dutton or Boyd Martin. There aren’t many sports where the levels mix like that. It is just brilliant for eventing.”
Curious about the thoughts that go into a course designer’s plan? Stark walked through a few of the key combinations on the course. Watch the videos below: