The 2018 Millbrook Horse Trials in Millbrook, N.Y. are in full swing with the second day of dressage competition well underway. The first 25 riders in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Advanced division completed their dressage tests yesterday and the remaining 23 riders are taking their turn in the sandbox today. Tomorrow morning all 48 pairs will set out to tackle Tremaine Cooper’s cross-country track, which features some significant changes from last year’s course.
Similar to last year’s cross-country course, Cooper’s 2018 Advanced track will cover 3,620 meters and include 25 obstacles and 35 jumping efforts to be completed in six minutes and 21 seconds. However, the start of the Advanced cross-country is now on the other side of the property and riders follow a path that loops around stabling and up into the front field before galloping down to the south side of the property and then heading back up the hill to finish where it started. “Every once in a while you have to take a step back and say, ‘Well, pretend nothing was here. What would you do?’” said Cooper. “I like the way it works now. It’s nice that it’s fairly open in the beginning.”
“It’s a hard piece of property because it’s quite long and quite narrow,” described Cooper, who has been designing at Millbrook for more than 15 years. “Probably the best piece of ground is where the stabling is, so you’re skirting around the edge [of the property.] If you design in Florida you try to find every little bump and use it but here you almost try to negate it, but you try to use the cool features of the ground because that’s what makes it cross-country, not show jumping.”
Riders know that when they come to Millbrook, no matter what level they ride, the terrain is going to play a significant role on cross-country. Cooper pointed out that while the tracks may not look technical as far as the difficulty of the questions, the terrain can make even a simple question much more challenging. “That’s one thing I always have to be really conscious of. You need the tracks to be big and imposing but you don’t need to give it 110 percent because the terrain is a major factor here.”
“That’s what I love about course design - there’s no set way to do it,” shared Cooper. “You look at how it works and you try to improve it. We’re making a big step this year and we’ll see how it goes.”
Riders will leave the start box from where they crossed the finish flags last year, navigating an upright log at fence 1 and a large table at fence 2 before taking a long gallop down the hill past stabling. A righthand turn up the rise to fence 3, the Bar Top, and over the road to fence 4, another large table, will bring riders to the first combination on course.
The view of fence 5A on the approach up the rise. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Last year riders navigated the up the bank, over the jump on the top of the knoll, and down the knoll to a skinny. This year, riders approach that same knoll from the opposite direction and will jump the rails on top before proceeding one stride downhill to a skinny. If riders run into trouble at the B element, they can loop around and jump up the bank as the black flag option. “It’s not overly tough but the terrain factors in. I like the first combination to not be a holding question. If you hold it’s not going to work.”
Fence 7AB, the Start Box. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Next, riders will gallop over the undulating terrain to the bunker at fence 6 before continuing on to fence 7AB, the Start Box, where the old Advanced start box has been converted into an upright brush. Riders will jump the brush and proceed through the gazebo on a bending line to the B element, a brush chevron. Riders take a tour around the front field, tackling the rails at fence 8 and the Vegetable Stand at fence 9 before they reach fence 10AB.
#TeamLeeLee. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
The brush rail to the corner at fence 10 will bring riders down the hill where they’ll turn left over the trakehner at fence 11 and continue back up the rise to fence 12, the cedar oxer. Riders have a nice gallop past fences 6, 5AB, and 4, before they reach the Feeder at fence 13.
The direct line over the cabins at fence 15AB. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Another bit of a gallop brings riders to fences 14 and 15AB, which are numbered separately but set on a related distance. Riders will jump the 8X Table and proceed on a bending line to the right over the offset cabins at fence 15AB. “You have to line it up and trust your horse,” said Cooper. “It’s saying, ‘Did you do your training?’”
The C element of fence 16 peeking out from behind the bushes. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Riders will then head to the most southern end of the course to fence 16ABC, the upright beam to the cedar tables. While the line from the A element to the B element looks fairly straightforward, the line to C requires that riders gallop up the hill and turn left to jump the final element, which is tucked in behind the bushes.
One of the beautifully carved fences at the Millbrook water complex. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
The gradual pull back up the hill towards the finish begins with the Double Brush at fence 17, the Wagon at fence 18, and the Split Stump at fence 19. While there’s only one water complex at Millbrook, Cooper put it to good use with both fence 20ABC and 21AB looping through the water. Riders jump the rail at 20A, then drop into the water over the brush at B and out on an angle over the C element, a duck in the water.
Fence 21AB brings riders through the water complex for a second time. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Riders then loop to the left around the water complex and jump back into the water over the rails at 21A, galloping through the water and out over the skinny brush chevron at B. While Cooper admits that having two water combinations back-to-back may be a bit unorthodox, it serves as a great accuracy question near to the end of the course and makes for some great spectating.
The final gallop up the hill to the last fence and the finish line. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
The track curves to the left around the back of the Fresh Gourmet WaterView VIP tent bringing riders to fence 22, the Keyhole, and continuing on to the Bounce Steps at 23AB. The track then curves down the hill and to the right quite quickly, leading riders to fence 24, the Bench. After that, riders just have the final pull up the hill to the final fence, the brush over an offset ditch, and through the finish flags.
Want to take a closer look at the new Advanced cross-country track? Check it out on CrossCountryApp! Riders will set out to take on Cooper's track at 10:38 a.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. Click here to learn more about the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series.
This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
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