Walk The Land Rover Kentucky Cross-Country Course With Mark Phillips And The Riders

Apr 27, 2018 - 7:33 PM

Lexington, Ky.—April 27

There’s no doubt the Land Rover Kentucky CCI**** cross-country course will be influential on the standings. Course designer Derek di Grazia included 11 combinations, including three waters. The combinations have options, but those options are costly on the clock.

We were able to take of a tour of the course with Capt. Mark Phillips courtesy of Land Rover, and he gave us his take on this year’s track.

“There are very few places where the riders can relax,” said Phillips. “There’s always a downhill turn or a runout to the right, that question is there a lot, which means the riders have to be on the ball every inch of the way, which will make it mentally quite tiring.

“A lot of horses will jump these fences, but the rider has to make it easy for them,” he continued. “The easier the effort, the more energy, the more petrol you have in the tank at the end. If the riders make the horses struggle and work hard at some of these fences early on, they’ll be running out of gas by the time they get to the back end of the course.”

The first combination comes early, at fence 4ABC, the Water Park. It’s a vertical open rail fence, bending down the hill to a boat in the water, with riders jumping out over another boat up the hill.

4AB
At 4AB, riders jump down over the open rails before going through the water and over the boat. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

“You’d be surprised if anyone hit that rail too hard with the front legs,” Phillips said of the open rail at 4A. “You may see it broken with the hind legs because if someone’s going a bit too quick, the only brakes the horse has are the hind legs on the rail, and it’s frangible, so that’s 11 penalties if you break it. I don’t expect to see it come down from the front legs, but the hind legs if the rider is going too quick, but that would be stupid because it’s quite a sharp turn.

“The rail in is quite big, but [di Grazia’s] quite kind the way he’s put it on a mound, because when the horses jump the fence they push with the back feet and lift with the front, and when you’re going up the mound it’s done the balancing for the rider, so half the job is done,” Phillips continued.

“When it’s going down the hill to the boat it’s seeing the boat out of the left eye and wide open space on the right, so that’s completely down to the rider to hold the horse on both reins and help them turn,” he explained.

4BC
After jumping 4B in the water, riders finish over another boat up a slight hill at 4C. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

Competitor Elisa Wallace talks us through the first water, the Water Park, fence 4ABC:

Video by Caitlin Calder.

There’s not much time to breathe, because after a large table, the second combination on course is the Park Question at 6ABCD, a hanging log one stride downhill to a ditch, then two strides over a cabin before taking a left-hand turn to an open corner.

*6ABCDSC_9768
The view over fence 6ABC. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

“He’s been quite kind because again it’s frangible,” said Phillips. “There is no mound here though, so you’re more likely to see front leg contact. It walks one stride down to the ditch, but because of the steepness of the ground you’ll see a lot of horses put two strides in, and then the riders will have to kick going up to the house.

“More to the point you have the bending line around to the corner, and I don’t think it will cause a lot of trouble because you have five or six steps before you get there,” he continued. “Riders have a lot of time to get their ducks in a row, and at this level every time you give the riders more steps it makes it less difficult because they have more time.”

*6ABCDSC_9770
The combination at 6ABCD finishes over an open corner. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

Phillips concluded that there may be an odd fault or two, but the combination was unlikely to be too problematic.

Competitor Colleen Rutledge walks us through the Park Question, fence 6ABCD:

Video by Caitlin Calder.

The second water on course is the Rolex Grand Slam Challenge, fences 10ABC, a rolltop dropping down into the water at A, a turn around a post-and-rail fence to a brush corner at B, before finishing over C, a narrow table topped with brush.

*10ADSC_9753
Riders drop in over a rolltop at 10A… Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
*10BDSC_9754
Make a turn to the brush corner at 10B… Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
*10CDSC_9756
And finish over 10C. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

“Having got the horses’ feet wet once, here they’ve got a 180 drop into the water, which is sort of normal,” said Phillips. “It’s a relatively easy four-star fence. Knowing they can run this side of these rails, the angle to that next brush corner is probably the one place in the course [di Grazia’s] been a bit unkind. He could have given them a little bit more of a window. They’ve only got like two strides off the rails before it really opens up, and it makes that next four strides to the next double brush really quite more of an effort.”

Walk that combination with competitor Leah Lang-Gluscic:

Video courtesy of Leah Lang-Gluscic

The Land Rover Head of the Lake is always a difficult question, and this year is no different. There are two parts to it. After jumping a rolltop, riders come down the hill to 18A, a brush drop into the water. Next they do a turning three strides to a brush corner, at 18B. Riders then make a right-hand turn out of the water, where they’ll jump 19A, a brush-topped table, before cantering back through the water over a skinny brush at 19B.

*18ADSC_9739
The drop into the Land Rover Head of the Lake, 18A. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
*18BDSC_9737
The corner at 18B. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

“Three strides is not very long,” said Phillips. “When I was doing grand prix show jumping, I was told if you’ve got 60′ or less—60′ is four strides—you’ve got to have a plan. If it’s more than 60′, you’ve almost got time to stop and start again. Three strides is 48′, and if you’ve got a bad jump in, you’re struggling to save the day.

“The long way is the easier brush on the [left] side to [the right] corner where there’s much less angle, and then you do a circle the other way to the much wider triple brush here,” said Phillips. “All of these alternatives are 10- or 15-second alternatives.

“With the new rule this year where they’ve lost the co-efficient in the dressage, you’ve got the top who-knows-how-many horses within 10 marks,” he continued. “In yesteryear, you could do a good dressage, get a decent lead and think, ‘That’s going to allow me to take at least one alternative.’ I think those days have gone. I think the leaders now don’t have that luxury. Every second is going to count.”

*19ADSC_9744
They turn right to 19A. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
*19BDSC_9745
And finish over the skinny at 19B. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

Watch Jan Byyny, a selector for the U.S. eventing team and four-star rider, talk about the first part of the Land Rover Head of the Lake, fence 18AB:

Video by Ann Glavan.

And the second part of the Land Rover Head of the Lake, 19AB.

Video by Ann Glavan.

Another big combination on course will be 21ABCD, the Normandy Bank. The first element, 21A, is a ditch directly in front of a bank to a bounce at 21B over a carved goose. Riders then canter down a hill to  21CD, two angled brushes.

21AB
The ditch-bank at 21A to the bounce at 21B over the goose. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
21CD
Finishing over the angled brushes at 21C and D. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

Walk the Normandy Bank, fence 21ABCD with four-star rider Sinead Halpin:

Video by Caitlin Calder.

The Chronicle is on site at the Land Rover Kentucky CCI****. Keep an eye out at coth.com for all our coverage of the event.

Important Links: Land Rover Kentucky website  ⁄  Ride Times / Results /  Live streaming / All of the Chronicle’s coverage

Make sure to follow along on the Chronicle’s social media outlets: FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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