Ian Stark’s cross-country courses encourage big, bold riding at all levels from three-star down to novice. Last weekend, Galway Downs CIC* riders found themselves staring a trakehner combination (6ab) in the face early in the course. Tamie Smith, who won this division with Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn and Eric Markell's Mai Baum at his return to competition, shares a course walk with us.
The A element is no simple trakehner, it’s build into a mound. “The terrain is very deciving,” Smith says. “There’s a long, gradual, downhill approach to that trakehner before you go up the mound.” This means, riders must work even harder to regain the attention of their adrenaline-pumped equine partners after the long gallop.
A view over A to B. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
A change in pace is necessary to navigate these elements, she continues. “I think what’s hard is people envision galloping trakehners, and courses now have taken us back to needing to canter them. Horses need to understand what’s being asked of them, but riders can’t override either,” she warns. “You don’t want to underride it, but you don’t want to override it either. What that fence did was test bravery, but also accuracy. You had to be able to get the horses back, ride strong, but not override so you didn’t have a huge jump over the trakehner, so that you could navigate the angled brush going out.”
The B element. USEA'Shelby Allen Photo.
Once successfully over the trakehner, riders had to be quick to react to whatever jump they had as a four-stride bending line quickly took them to element B, an angled brush. “You have to keep your eye on that skinny brush. You’ve got to clear the trakehner first, but you have to really keep your shoulders back over it and really hold your line. It was a slight bending line and the horses have been galloping a very long time downhill, and they’re not thinking bending line or anything like that. It’s the first step of teaching these horses to look for the next jump,” Smith determined.
Those familiar with Ian Stark courses may recognize this type of combination, as it mimic, on a smaller scale, a mound trakehner question featured on the three-star course. “It’s a stepping stone,” Smith explained. “It’s a stepping stone to creating a bold, brave horse that can still be careful. One that doesn’t have to use speed to jump the jumps.” This, Smith assured, is a fundamental element of cross-country riding, and one that Ian Stark enforces on his courses.
The one-star combination's "big brother" on the three-star course. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
“[Ian Stark] has created questions that create a huge amount of bravery where you don’t use speed to jump the jumps. I think it takes a special course designer to be able to navigate that successfully, and I think he’s one of the best that does it. People have to learn that they don’t need speed to jump, and if you do it catches up with you, and you’ll have to go back and do your homework,” she concluded.
About Tamie Smith
About Tamie Smith
Tamie Smith is an accomplished equestrian and ICP Level 4 Certified Instructor with over 25 years of industry experience. Specializing in Dressage, Show Jumping, and Three-Day Eventing, Tamie offers a well-rounded skill set with proven results.
In addition to having ridden Dressage at the Grand Prix level and having earned multiple Show Jumping accolades, Tamie has made a name for herself in the Eventing spotlight. With career highlights that include being named to the United States Developing Rider List multiple times (a proven training ground of the United States Olympic Team), competing at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI4*, developing a two-time West Coast Young Event Horse Champion, and being named the 2015 USEF CCI3* National Champion, Tamie takes great pride in each horse she works with.
To learn more about Tamie, please visit her website www.nextleveleventing.com