After his Luhmühlen CCI4* debut in 2017, cross country course designer Mike Etherington-Smith is looking at the venue with fresh eyes this year. The event has released plans for 2018 that include a much beefier track in terms of difficulty and size.
“Last year was really all about getting a feel for the course, the terrain, and the layout and how the event works. Now I am getting more familiar with the venue and the opportunities that present themselves I am feeling more comfortable,” Mike said.
“The courses will be a bit more intense this time and I am starting to use changes of direction to create a different feel. I am a great believer in looking afresh each year at the overall layout and route of the courses to explore what can be done better and whether we are making optimum use of what there is.”
While he agrees that a CCI4* is the ultimate test, he also values his courses as learning opportunities. “I obviously hope that the best will come out on top yet at the same time I must recognise that some will be doing their first four-star. The experience must be a positive one that sees horses grow as they go around,” he explained.
Now in his second year, Mike is keen on giving the course his own distinct flavor. First up to achieving this is building new fences that boast an enchanted magic that Luhmühlen is famous for – a job that will fall into the capable hands of course builders David Evans and Carl Fletcher.
Other major updates will be seen at both water complexes. The DHL water will show a completely different look, and riders can say goodbye to the island which historically centered this element.
— Luhmühlen (@luhmuehlen2018) October 21, 2017
“We have built a number of new fences, but the primary changes are at the two water fences, where we have done a lot of ground work. There are several reasons for this not least to give a different flavour to these fences and the questions being asked, but also to give spectators something different to see,” Mike continued. “We need to look at the overall package and ensure that the courses continue to develop, offer new questions, and add variety. I also have the European Championships very much in mind with these developments”
Of course the 2019 FEI European Eventing Championships, which will be held at Luhmühlen, Aug. 28- Sept. 1, 2019, are hot on the radar, but Mike is staying tight-lipped on his plans for the cross country.
“I am not going to give away anything at this stage other than all roads are leading to the Europeans,” he shared. “I have pretty much designed that course and am working backwards from it without hopefully giving anything away.”
We will wait and see! Until then, check out a behind the scenes peek at preparations for the 2018 Luhmühlen CCI4*: