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 Meghan O’Donoghue explains how to ride 13ABC at Great Meadow International.
David O’Connor’s Great Meadow International CCI2*-S cross-country course consisted of 19 numbered questions over 2,620 meters with an optimum time of five minutes and three seconds. A field of 50 horses competed in the class with 45 finishing cross-country and just a handful of jump penalties. Meghan O’Donoghue rode her 7-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Fashionable Man (Charitable Man x So Francie) to sixth place in his first CCI2*-S.
13ABC, the “Platinum Performance Angled Tables to Corner” came just over halfway around the course and consisted of two tables (AB) on an angled four strides to the corner (C) on a bending four stride.
“We had just jumped two straight-forward galloping jumps before this combination, so the horse’s step was open and forward-thinking which was helpful for the two big tables on a nice four strides,” explained O’Donoghue. “The technical question was asked from the second table turning right-handed to a left-handed corner in another four strides. This asked the horse for its honesty, straightness, and rideability.”
“I felt this question was appropriate for the level as it was friendly for the horses to understand but would punish a rider's mistake. The riders needed to know the correct balance and pace to approach the A element which would then set them up to have the rideability for the turn from the B to C element. It was a combination that needed to be respected and we will see similar larger, more technical versions of as the horses progress up the levels," continued O’Donoghue.
O’Donoghue and “Thumper” were one of only 10 pairs to make the time on the course and one of only six to finish on their dressage score. Thumper raced 11 times as a 3- and 4-year-old under his Jockey Club name “Fashionable Man” and won over $20,000 with two wins and two seconds. He started eventing in 2018 with Suzannah Cornue before O’Donoghue purchased him at the end of 2018. O’Donoghue brought him up the levels from Novice and in 18 events together they only have had one rail down and one cross-country jump penalty.
“I was really pleased with my horse's efforts all the way around the course," said O’Donoghue. "He read this question easily and I felt I had him appropriately prepared for what the course asked of him. I think all the horses will be better from the experience around this forward-thinking track. Everyone at Great Meadow International did a beautiful job putting on the event and the cross-country footing was perfect.”
Adjustability and turning questions are something you will see on nearly every course from Training and above, so it is important to train for them and be prepared. O’Donoghue recommends practicing the technique of finding a jump out of gallop and being able to bring your horse back for a question quickly. “In training, I like to break it down for the horses to easily understand. I always have a couple of boxes or cavalettis in my arena to work on adjustability. From there it’s easy to add the technical practice with different skinny options on bending lines to address the rideability and straightness,” she suggested.
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After a jam-packed week, the final day of competition at the Maryland 5 Star is upon us. Riders have shown off their style in the horse inspection, danced their way down the centerline in dressage, and contested some serious obstacles in cross-country up until this point. Now it's time to demonstrate the fitness and accuracy that each horse possesses in the final phase: show jumping.
It was a great day of cross-country riding at the Maryland 5 Star. There were 35 horses who crossed the finish and 11 of those finished double clear. With British, French, New Zealand, Canadian, and American riders coming through the finish flags – it was a true world class competition. The USEA was at the finish to see what the riders thought of the very first Maryland 5 Star cross-country track designed by Ian Stark.
Weren’t able to spend your morning glued to the livestream of the 2021 Maryland 5 Star cross-country? Couldn’t be there in person to trek up the hills? We have you covered with a play-by-play of what happened on Ian Stark’s cross-country course which gave both the designer and the riders many sleepless nights, but ended up riding quite well for the majority of the field.
Kurt Martin maintains his lead in the USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship with a score of 23.5. He piloted D.A. Lifetime, Debbie Adams’ 9-year-old mare, through a fault-free cross-country round over the new Ian Stark-designed course.