Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy—Sept. 14
There’s not a carved duck, brightly painted crab or jumpable solar panel in sight on Italian designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s cross-country track at the FEI Eventing World Championships, but the traditional, natural look of the course belies its challenges. The track consists of 30 fences—and 42 separate efforts—over 5,600 meters of hilly countryside, which riders will attempt to complete under the optimum time of 9 minutes, 50 seconds. The undulating terrain factors prominently in the course’s design.
“I think it’s challenging,” Australia’s Shane Rose said. “It’s quite hilly early on, with some awful camber we’ve got to gallop on that I think is going to knock the horses around a bit.
“Anyone that’s going to be down on the clock and trying to chase the time in the second half where it flattens out, I think that’s where he’s been quite good, Giuseppe, in if you take a risk, and your horse is tired, then you could have a glance off here and there, right to the second to last,” added Rose, calling it a four-star track that includes many options and longer routes to keep less experienced competitors safe. “I think he’s done a good job in that.”
There are nine combinations on course, but several have three routes to give those less veteran horse-and-rider pairs options to ensure they finish.
“When you’re called to design a championship, you have a very different variety of experience and ability,” Della Chiesa said. “That is good; it’s part of the sport. We have 25 people in the world who can jump anything. We have 25 that can jump some things, and we go down [from there], so the idea is to try to give an opportunity to everybody to come home and have a nice memory of the championship—if the rider makes the right choices. I cannot ride their horses; I can only give routes, and then it is up to them to pick what is right for them.”
Reigning world champion Rosalind Canter of Great Britain, who this year is riding her 10-year-old rising star Lordships Graffalo, said the way the course is set into the landscape is deceptively challenging.
“There’s definitely plenty of questions out there, lots of challenges, lots of places where you can have a silly whoopsie,” she said. “Although we have that lovely uphill pull at the beginning, we could have some quite fresh horses coming back down the hill. I think it’s clever a couple of the questions—one at the end as well—they’re positioned so the warm-up’s right on the right-hand side, so it’s really about trying to get their focus on the job and not thinking that it was a little cross-country school, and we’re going back to the stables again.”
U.S. pathfinder Will Coleman talked about the effect the terrain could have on his 2021 Aachen CCIO4*-S (Germany) winner Off The Record.
“You’re just kind of weaving up and down these Pratoni hills,” he said. “He’s not the most blood, but he’s a real fighter. And I think he’ll hopefully bring that same kind of bulldog like attitude to the cross-country, and if he does I think we should be OK.”
Fences 4 and 5, the IGA PicnicTables, present riders with their first option. Riders pick one of two tables to jump at each fence, one narrower than the other. While very similar, one route—from the left table at 4 to the right table at 5—is slightly shorter than the other, and the jumps are a bit wider.
“You won’t waste a lot of time; the difference will be maybe one second, two seconds, not more,” Della Chiesa said. “It’s up to the riders. I think the majority of them will come the left to the right; it is the quickest route.”
Fence 7ABC, the KEP Italia Slide and Target is a question that is traditionally seen at championships at Pratoni. Riders will jump a log at the top of the hill and then negotiate a steep downhill “slide” to a pair of narrow chevrons. Riders can opt to jump the direct route through the chevrons or jump the first and turn right to a second further down the hill.
Those wishing to avoid the steepest part can jump another log off to the right, with a gentler slope with a longer distance to the pair of chevrons.
“It’ll be a relief for everyone to get that slide out of the way; it comes early on,” Carter noted.
The angled brushes, Fence 9AB, give riders an accuracy question before another long pull uphill to the next combination on course, 11ABCD, the fischer Brush and Corner. Riders begin over a brush fence at 11AB, and turn to a pair of left-hand corners at C and D. There is a longer alternate route with different lettering (11A, BC and D), requiring riders to commit to one route or the other.
Fence 16ABC is another combination that gives riders options. They can either take an open oxer to an open corner, or pick a longer route that involves jumping a narrow vertical after the oxer to a closed corner.
Next riders will head to a complex with three routes for 18 and 19 ABCD. The left option at Fence 18, the SAP Vertical, gives riders the straightest route. They then canter down a slope to the SAP Sunken Road (19ABC), which is a ditch, and then up a hill in two strides to 19D, the SAP Triple Brush. If riders chose to take the right-hand route, they will jump an additional vertical, across flatter ground to a ditch, out over a triple brush.
Those wishing to be extremely careful can jump a vertical way off to the left at Fence 18, to a log at 19AB then over a different triple brush, but it will cost them on the clock.
Fence 20, Intesa San Paolo Wall, is a stone fence that was on the course at the 2007 FEI European Championships, but here riders also can opt to take a vertical on either side.
“It will be interesting to see if they prefer stone or they prefer the upright,” said Della Chiesa. “The idea is here you can jump what you want.”
Fences 21A and 21BCD, the Longines Hydro Jump and Longines Hydroconquest Combination, make up the first of two water combinations on course. Riders will canter into the water and up onto an island with two skinny fences to choose from. The one on the left gives the straightest line out of the combination. They’ll then canter back through the water and then up a mound to a pair of angled brushes.
“You have to commit to an angle on the first one,” Della Chiesa said. “On a line you are clear in your mind, you jump, get down in one stride, and you have two strides turning, but this is not for everyone.”
Now the riders will head back through the water complex, this time in the opposite direction. The direct route is over a big log, the Longines Oak (24AB) to a brush corner, Longines Water Corner (24CD). This is another place riders must commit to either the direct or the long route, as the long route is lettered differently. For the alternate route, they’ll jump a roll top, canter through the driving marathon hazard set nearby and then jump out over a pair of boats in the water.
At Fence 26AB, the Intesa San Paolo Brush and Skinny, riders can opt to skip the skinny B element and instead jump another large brush fence.
Fence 27 is the KEP Italia Open Oxer. Riders will once again have an option of which to jump. The one on the right is a short related line to Fence 28, another open oxer, or they can take the one on the left, which has a much longer route to 28.
The final combination on course 29ABCD, the Pratoni Horses, is another route that gives riders options. The straight route involves only two efforts on an angle. There are two alternate routes containing three jumps.
Cross-country will begin at 10:30 a.m Central European Time (4:30 a.m. Eastern) Saturday, Sept. 17.
The Chronicle is on site to bring you interviews, photos and stories daily, so follow along at coth.com. We’ll have full analysis from the competition in the Oct. 10 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.
Results and order of go can be found here.