You won’t see any carved wooden animals or fake turquoise water complexes at Boekelo. This is straight-up cross-country — no frills, no cutesy distractions, nothing except you and your horse and 28 questions you’re going to need to answer in timed-quiz fashion.
When I talked to Jon Holling today after dressage, he said that when he competed here three years ago, the course rode harder than it walked. This year, he says, it walks harder than it did last time so … maybe it will ride easier? Probably not.
It’s a twisty course with lots of dips in and out of the woods and plenty of surprises along the way. Several jumps come up suddenly off turns, and the horses won’t have much time to get their eye on the fence before willing their feet to leave the ground. Mercifully there are a number of happy-go-lucky galloping fences tucked in there as well to give everybody a quick mental breather and confidence booster in between the more technical questions.
There’s been enough rain this week that the already sodden turf is probably going to start looking a bit rough early on. With 85 horses on the start list and six out of 11 North American horses leaving the box after 2 p.m., here’s hoping the ground isn’t so torn up that the afternoon horses have to keep their feet on the brakes.
The big atmosphere is another consideration. Boekelo is a party event and cross country day is the fever pitch of festivity — there are makeshift bars set up beside the galloping lanes throughout the course. (The joke is that riders who don’t make it around can stop for a drink during their long walk back to the barn.)
Here’s a look at the course. Note: Jumps #3 and #4 aren’t pictured, as they are located in the main arena where dressage was taking place today. As usual, I would advise riders to actually walk the course as opposed to memorizing it via some photos they saw on Eventing Nation the night before.
Also be sure to check out the course preview over on CrossCountry App, which features commentary from course designer Sue Benson. Many thanks to Dutch amateur rider Willy Leysen for volunteering his time to record the preview, which we’ve also embedded below.
Cross-country begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. Netherlandia time with Ireland’s Simon Porloe and Padraig McCarthy. Buck and Copper Beach will trailblaze for Team USA at 10:16. If you have math issues like I do, I posted a time-zone translator here. You can view the complete order of go here.