Sep 14, 2018

Heat, Humidity, the Hurricane, and the Hill – Riders Talk WEG Cross-Country

By Leslie Mintz - USEA Staff , Jessica Duffy
Heartbreak hill. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

There is still a full day of dressage to go, but the riders are already focused on Captain Mark Phillips’ cross-country course. On Saturday 83 pairs will head out of the start box to tackle 42 jumping efforts across 5,700 meters over 10 minutes – with a huge hill to top it all off. (Check out the USEA's course preview) The riders that did their dressage tests on Thursday shared their thoughts on the course.

“I like [the course] a lot. It’s a great course and I think it suits my horse. I kind of really hope they leave that hill on it because I’m riding an Arabian so it suits me. I think it’s a fair course and Mark [Phillips has provided] plenty of options for people to get around safely if they feel over-faced but I think it’s all very fair. There’s plenty of places to have a runout but I think it’s all very fair to the horses.” – Lauren Kieffer (USA)

“I think Mark nailed it. He did an unbelievable job. If you want to win a medal you gotta go straight and if you want to get around he’s given you really good options that aren’t going to take 45 seconds, it’s going to take 10-15 seconds. I think they’re very fair but I think the weather is obviously going to play a big part and the hill at the end of the course is no joke. Thank God mine’s been galloping up hills. You walk up it and it kind of plateaus and then it goes up again so I think it’s going to be a great test. We’re ready and we’re going to give it our best!” - Hawley Bennett-Awad (CAN)

The CSX Junction throws it back to previous WEGs. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

“He [Billy the Red] has a fantastic record at cross-country and show jumping, it’s a really tough track, probably not the biggest but very tough and the heat, it’s so hot and the rain, you don’t know what is going to get thrown at you on Saturday. There will be some good tests still to come, it’ll all be on the cross country, just depends what the heavens throw at us.” – Kristina Cook (GBR)

“The cross-country course looks really nice. It’s not huge, but there are a few questions, and it really depends on the heat and the state of the ground. There are some combinations that could take a good horse and a lot of concentration.” – Cathal Daniels (IRL)

“I think it’s another fabulous course from Mark Phillips. It starts off kind of cruising and then the middle bit is just extremely intense, you gotta be really on your feet and in the moment and ready to react because everything comes up really fast and that will be particularly difficult to stay on your minutes and not get too far down on the clock because you certainly don’t want to be too far down when you hit this monster here at the end, this hill coming home. I think it’s a really clever course and I think there’s plenty to do. We’ll put our attention on that now and see how we can tackle that.” - William Coleman (USA)

“It’s always scary (the cross-country course), I'm always nervous at these Championships but Mark Phillips is amazing and I think that’s beautiful, I hope I can do it justice.” – Christopher Burton (AUS)

Don't get distracted by the cuteness! USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

“I think it (cross-country course) looks awesome, it looks absolutely awesome. They’ve done an amazing job, there are lots of interesting options out there, there are a few fences that have us riders scratching our heads over what we are going to do but that is how a championship course should be. It has options for the lesser nations and the lesser horses and riders to complete and get round so I think Mark Phillips has given us exactly what we needed. – Alex Hua Tin (China)

“It (cross-country course) is all very jumpable, but there are a lot of combinations. It is a test of concentration, and it could well turn into a test of stamina as well. There are a couple of meaty complexes in the middle of the course where I think line will be very important.” – Sam Watson (IRL)

“It’s very impressive and the going is amazing, so no complaints there. There’s a couple of very difficult combinations, a couple of complicated combinations but we were potentially expecting to be really frightened and on a very quick look, we feel that ridden well it should ride well. Obviously we’ve got the hill at the end and who knows what factor the weather will play.” – Blyth Tait (NZL)

Over the bridge and through the water they will go! USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

“[The course] is really good: the ground is fantastic, [the course is] beautifully built. It’s tricky, twisty-turny, skinnies, corners, and then Mount Everest at the end. It’s going to be a really exciting day. If you go too hard and too quick in the beginning you won’t get up the hill, and if you’re too much of a wimp in the beginning you won’t be able to catch anything up at the end. It’s going to take some really good horsemanship to know how hard and fast to ride your horse. I’ve got my bloke really fit but he’s green so I’ve just got to keep remembering that, especially at the corners and the squirrels, and then it will be all heart at the end. He’s fit, strong, and he’s going to roar up that hill.” - Boyd Martin (USA)

“We walked [the course] in a thunderstorm yesterday. We’re just about to go out again shortly and have another look and take a much more serious view of the whole course. On first inspection maybe some of the fences didn’t look as difficult as they can do but you’ve got to remember this is the first year that it’s a three-star and not a four-star but I think it would be very wrong to underestimate the course. Some of those combinations are quite difficult and require a lot of accuracy and boldness. We certainly won’t be taking it too cheaply.” - Sir Mark Todd (NZL)

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