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. Upper level eventer and course designer Marc Grandia talks us through fence 10AB on the Training level course that he designed for the Twin Rivers Spring Horse Trials, the “sunken road.”
In addition to serving as the assistant course designer at the Twin Rivers Spring CCI and Horse Trials, Marc Grandia also competed aboard five horses: Campari FFF in the Advanced, Sunsprite’s Watusi and Jammer at the Training level, and Sunsprite Seryndipity at the Novice level. He took a few moments out of his busy schedule to walk through how to ride the combination at fence 10AB on the Training level course.
“This is our sunken road complex, but Training level doesn’t do a bank here – they just get to ride the terrain,” Grandia said. “It’s not a property with a lot of terrain – it’s very flat in a lot of places – so we try to maximize the terrain where we can.”
“This corner of the property has a good hill that’s a long slope all the way up and then a little bit steeper slope coming back down to the sunken road,” he described. “Where the Training fence is set, they’ve got a longer downhill approach to a hanging log, or U log as we call it – where the sides are higher than the middle – and then a couple more strides on that gradual slope. It gets steep and drops off for a stride and then levels out and is six or seven strides to a brush chevron that we have at the bottom of the hill. Riders get several strides on the level, but they definitely have to deal with the terrain here.”
Watch Marc Grandia and Sunsprite's Watusi jump through the Training level "sunken road."
“I try to create a lot of flow in my courses,” Grandia explained. “Riders gallop all the way around to the corner of the property and we’re using a steeplechase fence to encourage horses and riders to continue to come forward up the hill. Then the question is, can you maintain balance all the way down to the U log and can you stay straight for the 8-foot wide chevron. From a course design perspective, here you’re trying to encourage forward riding but also make people figure out how to ride on terrain. It would be a fairly simple question set on the level, but set on the terrain it adds that element. You’ve got to ride all the way forward to the top of the hill and you’ve got to stretch up and make sure you can balance your horse but not ride backwards down to the U log.”
Once horse and rider make the turn back down the hill to approach the A element, the key is to keep the balance. “I’m going to try to take advantage of that forward ride up the hill and then balance right at the top and then let go a little bit so my horse has to learn to maintain his balance coming down the hill by himself,” Grandia said. “This is a good opportunity to ride forward, set up, and then allow for a little bit of mistake and correction, mistake and correction. You want to maintain the balance without riding backwards to the first element, allowing the horse to jump out over it, and then dealing with the slope afterwards.”
After landing from the A element, riders navigate down the slope to the B element, a brush chevron with an 8-foot face. “You’ve got a decent [slope] on landing, it gets a little bit steeper, then you get to repackage on the flat ground and close your leg and press up to the chevron.”
The sunken road complex at Twin Rivers has something for every level from Novice to the four-star, and it’s interesting to see how the Training level question compares to its neighbors. “This combination is really good for this stage of learning,” Grandia elaborated. “You look at the Preliminary combination next to it, which is two strides to a downbank and four strides to a corner, or the Intermediate next to that, where you only have one stride before the downbank, and the Advanced, where you’ve got a bounce dropping down. Everyone is dealing with the same level of terrain but increasingly difficult questions as you go. It really is a great example of the graduation of the levels.”
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.
The 2012 and 2016 individual Olympic champion, Germany’s Michael Jung, blazed into first place after dressage at the Tokyo 2020 Games with a superb test on Chipmunk.
Deservedly scoring 21.1 - a record for both rider and his country at an Olympics, according to EquiRatings - it was a joy to watch. From the first extended trot, the pair looked secure, positive, and harmonious. The test was as accurate and as well-delivered as that of long-time leaders Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class (GBR), but with more expression and ease. Jung and the Contendro 13-year-old demonstrated all this specially-written, short Olympic test asks for and each movement flowed into the next.