Jul 25, 2018

Introducing the 2018 AEC Cross-Country Course Designer: Tremaine Cooper

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

One of the most successful cross-country course designers in the country, Tremaine Cooper will be designing every cross-country course for the United States Eventing Association (USEA) 2018 American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC). Cooper is well known for providing top quality cross-country tracks and can be put in the same category with some of the best, most elite designers in the world including Derek Di Grazia, Mike Etherington-Smith, and Capt. Mark Phillips. His courses can be seen at popular events scattered across the country including The Fork CIC in N.C., Poplar Place Horse Trials in Ga., Aspen Farms Horse Trials in Wash., Morven Park Horse Trials in Va., and Millbrook Advanced Horse Trials in N.Y. The USEA had the opportunity to discuss details, visions, and hopes with Cooper for this year’s AEC which will be held on Aug. 30–Sept. 2 at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colo.

“The terrain will be very different than the last two years,” said Cooper. Terrain is one change among many for this year’s AEC. “The Intro and Beginner Novice horses will still have to be fit,” Cooper emphasized.


Colorado Horse Park’s rolling terrain. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Comparing the championship course to the new ‘festival’ or non-championship courses, Cooper explained that “there will be differences, not huge but little differences” between the two courses. For example, “The championship course might have an A-B combination where the non-championship will be numbered separately so riders have the option to circle.”

To maintain pristine footing for cross-country day, Cooper explained that “[The Colorado Horse Park] has tons of water trucks and they will be frequently watering the cross-country course. We all are going to be working hard to have as good footing as possible.”

“Don’t forget about the Intro!” Cooper highlighted. “I’ve never designed an Intro course before so it’s very exciting. It will be small, but competitors will have a ditch option, a water option, and will have to go up and down hills too.”


Course builder Travers Schick at The Fork Horse Trials and CIC. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.

Along with course designers, the course builders can have an effect on the course and Cooper is grateful that Travers Schick, also known as Trav, agreed to help build the course in Colorado. “It’s nice to work with someone who you’ve worked forever with, trust completely, and they understand what you’re trying to accomplish.”

For each course designer, their name is on their product, therefore Cooper will be fully present in Colorado during the AEC. “I will make sure every bit of shrubbery is exactly the way it should be, make sure heights are perfect, and I want [the courses] to be as good as they can possibly be.”


Individual Bronze Olympians, Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice confidently tackling Tremaine Cooper’s cross-country course at The Fork CIC3* leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.

The brains behind the success of each course, the USEA asked Cooper several questions regarding his personal philosophy on course design. “In the perfect world at any level, [a competitor] will come off course knowing more and have a horse that has learned something and is more confident than when they left the start box.”

In cross-country, it’s inevitable that penalties or problems will occur. However, Cooper indicated that, “A course designer never wants one fence to be [considered] the problem fence.”

“It’s the balance of not scaring the riders but getting the riders to pay attention and thinking they have to ride well, but also making the course as friendly to the horse as possible. I would say that’s my main goal,” said Cooper.

With over 26 years of experience, Cooper explained his passion for course design. “I love the job because there isn’t one set way. A course designer should think like a horse and [understand] what a horse will see. It should be about what the horse can do rather than what the horse can’t do.”

As for the number of courses he designs each year, “I can’t put a number on it but it’s more than I can count on my two hands.”


“As a course designer, you never want to trick the horse,” said Cooper. An inviting first fence on Cooper’s Advanced cross-country course at the 2017 Millbrook Horse Trials. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

In his spare time, he enjoys riding and competing himself, or “I try to” Cooper modestly responded. Although his record shows more than just trying, the renowned course designer has competed through the Advanced level of eventing on multiple horses.

Cross-country course designers are artists in their own form with each having a unique style. Meet Cooper and his art at the Colorado Horse Park at the 2018 AEC.

About USEA American Eventing Championships

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of horses and riders from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. This year, the USEA American Eventing Championships will be held August 30-September 2, 2018 at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

The USEA would like to thank the generous AEC sponsors for making the 2018 AEC possible.

Feb 19, 2020 Intercollegiate

Eventing at NC State Treasures Horsemanship and Friendship

Eventing at NC State was founded in 2016 and we currently have 18 undergraduate members as well as a supportive group of alumni riders. We are proud to be the first intercollegiate team in North Carolina located at the heart of the 1862 Land Grant Institution, NC State University. We have riders just beginning their eventing careers as well as those that are seasoned competitors, competing from Maiden through Training level.

Feb 18, 2020 Instructors

Dibowski Wants You to Feel the Rhythm at the 2020 ICP Symposium

Yesterday Andreas Dibowski said that he was ready for the “fun stuff” and today he had the chance to share his knowledge of both show jumping and cross-country to a large audience who attended day two of the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Symposium. The morning started out in the ring at Barnstaple South with three groups of riders – Beginner Novice, Training, and Preliminary, and three groups of the same levels took to the cross-country in the afternoon. While the exercises and jumps got progressively harder throughout the day, the warm-ups and themes stayed the same.

Feb 18, 2020 Education

Top 10 Tips for Introducing Your Horse to Cross-Country with Tim Bourke

A horse’s first steps out in the cross-country field determine the foundation upon which his entire cross-country education will be laid. How can you give your horse the best chance of success? What are some of the ways you can help teach your horse about cross-country jumping?

Feb 17, 2020 Instructors

Andreas Dibowski’s Words of Wisdom From Day 1 of the 2020 ICP Symposium

The USEA Educational Symposium is a unique opportunity each winter for eventers to gather together to soak in knowledge. The first two days of the 2020 Symposium focus on the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) with attendees learning how to be better, more effective instructors. German Olympian and world-renowned rider Andreas Dibowski is this year’s guest instructor and he spent the first day dedicated to dressage with one Advanced show jumping group to wrap-up the day. Dibowski taught the instructors to teach using demo riders and horses from Beginner Novice to Advanced of all ages, breeds, and sizes.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Outerwear of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA