I walked the XC Course this morning, bright and very early. I almost had it to myself but WFP very kindly (inadvertently actually – I know better than to bother a solitary rider on their final serious-concentration course walk!) posed by some of the fences for scale. 🙂 🙂
The course is serious. There’s question after question. Okay, the Quarry is the softest we’ve seen for a while, because it’s so early on, but otherwise it’s pretty unrelenting once they get going.
Katie thinks that Huntsman’s Close is one of the major tests on the course, but I thought it was okay (for 4* riders and horses of course, not me on my pony!), if they take the bounce on the far right (where the distance is longest) pretty strongly to make the distance, their horses can clearly see the third part, the raised angled log, no turn required in that one quick stride after landing over the bounce. Quick thinking and a real athlete required of course! The long route is very long…
Just one let-up fence after that (Ha, the Wadsworth Barrels are humungous!) and there’s the Lake. Again, the long route takes ages. The direct route is… dare I say it, okay… a good turn to set up, a strong jump in, and those brushes ARE forgiving as long as your horse is honest.
Two more enooooormous let-up fences and then the Swindon Designer Outlet Sunken Lane. This is a serious test, it will be so easy to run out at part C. These are recycled Olympic fences and I think this test is much harder than it was at Greenwich.
The Farmyard – short-armed open corners again. I think it’ll claim scalps, possibly surprising ones. No margin for error.
The 2nd part of the Mirage Pond is asking for problems too, strongly angled hedges after running through water, if they land a bit short or underpowered after the first one.
The Footbridge is an old fence resurrected. It’s huge. The best will make it look effortless of course, and treat it like a let-up fence, but more than 1 horse has misread it before and popped into the middle…
The Outlander bank is a totally new type of fence, an owl-hole has never been put on a bounce distance on top of a bank as far as I know. I expect it to cause problems. It’s a huge test of trust and quick-thinking on the part of the horse.
The Shogun Hollow… a proper ‘coffin’ in, and the two spreads are seriously BIG. If there get there half-powered an honest horse who takes off will be able to bank them.
The Shooting Butt is a serious flyer, will give a great feeling. The table as a let-up (Ha) and then the Market Square is another huge test. Totally upright gate to 2 corners on curving lines, not an inch of room for error.
No let-up, the Savills Staircase is next, 2 big steps up on curve to very skinny brush. There will be run-outs, I think. Anything getting there underpowered or a bit wrong will have to be mega-honest.
The Village has moguls before and between the houses, doing their best to put horses and riders off balance and off their spot. It’s caused problems before, not least to WFP and Tamarillo when they were absolutely cruising once.
The Keeper’s Brush is another huge-mungous ‘let-up’, and then the Alzheimers Research Log in the wood. There are various approaches through the trees, the fastest makes the angle serious, just asking for a drive-by from a tiring horse.
The final question is the double of Rolex watch-boxes, angled with a long distance between them. Can’t relax yet.
The Optimum Time 11 mins 13 seconds. The going will be fast. Only half an hour to go now, crowds gathering, tension building.
Prepare yourself for a FANTASTIC day of XC. It’s the best course ever, in my opinion, Hugh Thomas has excelled himself. Nothing to trick the horses, but everything to test them and the riders. No room for error or dishonesty. Only the absolute best will win.
Here we go…