Ian Stark will unveil his new cross country courses at the $75,000 Cloud 11 ~ Gavilan North LLC Carolina International next week, but already there’s been quite a lot of chatter amongst competitors about what to expect. The tracks are clearly stamped with Ian’s trademark style — think open and galloping; attacking, forward distances; and, of course, a “rider frightener” fence or two.
Well known for blending a venue’s natural terrain into his designs — whether he’s designing at Galway Downs in California or Bramham in England — Ian said the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, North Carolina, created an ideal canvas from which to mold the new cross country courses.
“From flat ground and lots of trees to the race course and a bit of terrain, it’s got everything you need for the event. I was quite impressed with the property,” Ian said. “I tried to use some of the ground that hasn’t been used recently in order to open up the course a bit more, so the riders are going to see tracks that haven’t been used for quite a number of years.”
Working alongside course builders Tyson Rementer and Levi Ryckewaert, Ian has introduced an imposing new water combination — “I think it looks more frightening than it really is!” — that features a mammoth trakehner on a mound before riders gallop down to the water and the surprises he has lurking for them there. There are also other new fences, like a beefy ditch and rail, on course.
Carolina International will welcome a record-breaking number of entries this year, with 85 entered in the CIC3*, 70 in the CIC2* and 89 in the CIC*. With the CIC3* track playing a critical role as a preparation course for pairs aimed at next month’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Ian said he’s mindful of striking a balance.
“First and foremost you have to keep the course up to standard as a CIC3*. I don’t like twisty, turny courses, so I’ve tried to open it up and let it flow. For horses going to Rolex, there are enough big jumps out there that the riders can kick on and be bold. They have to be accurate, but they can be forward. I hope the Rolex horses have a good positive go around it,” Ian said.
“I used to want about a month before (a CCI4*) to go over a decent track and feel where I was, and so hopefully we’ve given them that to think. In addition to the Rolex horse, we’ve also got young horses doing their first CIC, and for them it may look a bit big and imposing, but as long as the riders are positive in how they approach the course, they will come away with a good experience.”
Riders can breathe a small sigh of relief in that Ian’s new coffin combination won’t be ready for this year’s event. “There are still a lot of trees to thinned out and a lot of ground work to do, so we agreed we would save the new coffin for next year, with will save something new and and exciting,” Ian said. “The coffin fence this year is a little on the tame side, I think. The riders mustn’t get complacent because the new one will be on the course next year!”
Ian gave massive kudos to the Carolina International Organizing Committee, co-chaired by Jane Murray and Bobby Costello, which has succeeded in significantly raising the bar each year at this event and creating one of the most highly anticipated competitions of the spring season.
“The organizers have been brilliant and given me fairly free reign about the place. They are keen to get the courses right,” Ian said. “I just hope that people enjoy it at all the levels, and I hope they have a bit of fun. It might not be a walk in the park, but if they jump around it well they’ll go home with a very satisfied feeling.”
Carolina is the fourth cross country in the U.S. that features Ian’s work. He also designs the courses at Rebecca Farm, Richland Park and Galway Downs. Those of you who live in the Raeford area and want to get a sneak peek at the Carolina course ahead of next week can join Ian and members of the organizing committee for a guided course walk from 1-2:30 p.m. on Sun, March 20. Click here for more details.
EN will be on the grounds providing live coverage starting on Wednesday next week, and you can also watch the competition live on EQSportsNet. We will post the full broadcast schedule shortly, so stay tuned. Click here for more information on Carolina International. Go Eventing!