Ever wonder what the pros see when they're out walking cross-country? In the Ride Between the Flags series, riders walk us through their approach to tackling different cross-country questions. Five-star eventer Jennie Brannigan explains how to ride the Intermediate sunken road at the Plantation Field Horse Trials.
After a spring season of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eventers were finally able to gallop out of the start box once again at the beginning of June, and the Plantation Field Horse Trials was one of the first events to take place after the suspension of competition was lifted. Jennie Brannigan, who is based just down the road from Plantation Field in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, had five rides on Friday at Plantation Field – three in the Intermediate, one in the Preliminary, and one in the Training. Despite having a busy day, she took a moment to describe how she approached riding the Intermediate sunken road.
The sunken road on course designer Jeff Kibbie’s Intermediate course at Plantation Field was comprised of a cabin at the top of the hill, two strides to a down bank, and two more strides out over a brush. The sunken road sat approximately halfway around the 3,032-meter, 31-effort course.
Horses and riders had a long uphill pull from the “Hobbit House” down by the ruins to the top of the hill before turning right and approaching the “A” element of the sunken road on a very slight downhill. “I was concerned that the distance from the bank to the skinny was quite short, and I know my horse I Bella leaps off banks, so I wanted the A element to back them off a bit,” Brannigan described. “I came in actually quite quick and used the turn to get them balanced and put them in so the distance was close enough that they would rock back.”
After landing from the “A” element, horses and riders continued two strides downhill to the down bank. “I tried to come quiet off the down bank and really held my body and had my reins long and my hands a little wider so that then then I could ride up to the two-stride out,” Brannigan continued. “I was concerned that if you rode in too strong or came in too straight or too long that the horses would get really bold, so I used the turn in to help that.”
Horses landed from the down bank on nearly flat ground that then actually sloped slightly uphill to the final “C” element. “Lillian Heard and I were concerned that the distance was going to be short coming out yesterday, but we were discussing that the ground sloped up which obviously would help,” Brannigan commented.
“The upper level horses, they can get a bit keen,” Brannigan observed, “so I tried to almost back them off and have them be a little bit surprised so they would look at the bank and just step down it. That way, I could ride up in two strides to the out. It actually ended up riding pretty well on all three horses. I’m glad I didn’t come in on a long straight approach at it because I think that would have made them a bit bold at it."
Watch Jennie and Nina Gardner's I Bella tackle the Intermediate sunken road!
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