Millbrook Advanced Cross Country Course Walk

Jump 4B sets the course off right away with a big corner. Photo by Kate Samuels.

The 17th Annual Millbrook Horse Trials is well underway now, with dressage completed for all divisions as of yesterday, and much of the jumping to come. The Adequan USEA Gold Cup Advanced division was split, with half of the division doing dressage on Thursday, and the other half going on Friday. At the end of the two days, we’re led by Lynn Symansky and Donner, who are Maggie’s predicted overall winners, but no pressure Lynn!

The cross country is always a factor in the placings here at Millbrook, due in part to the influential terrain. Walk the Millbrook Advanced once, and near the end of the course, when you have to go up a long and steady uphill climb, you’ll know what I mean. The jumps might not be enormous rider frighteners, but that doesn’t make this any easier. It’s fairly difficult to make the time, with an average of only 5.31% combinations managing it, which shuffles the leaderboard for Sunday.

It’s also worth mentioning that we’ve had quite a bit of rain up here each day of the competition, and we are predicted to have more rain storms today as well. I did see them aerating the course yesterday later in the afternoon, so they don’t seem to be worried too much about the footing holding up.

Tremaine Cooper’s course gives you three warm up fences with the usual loop around the front field before making a right handed turn to the first combination at 4AB. This combination looks a bit frightening upon first glance, but the ditch and brush isn’t terribly huge, and all the riders have to do is get a good shot in, and hold their line down to the sturdy corner on a straight four strides.

The course is fairly technical this year and doesn’t give you more than two jumps in between any of the combinations to catch your breath. We get to 7ABC fairly quickly, which is the classic Millbrook up-bank question that can really pull some wind out of your horse’s sails if you haven’t been doing your fitness. The incline to the top is so steep, you’ll plan on popping up the bank and riding quietly in two strides over the rail, and then rolling down to the skinny about five strides away.

After that, we’re treated to a nice long gallop down the hill, two decently sized tables to get a rhythm back, and at the very back corner of the hay field, we have an entirely new question. 11ABC is in a place that has never been used before on the cross country field, and it’s a bit of a control question after you just galloped two fly fences. Riders will want to get their horse’s balance back before jumping the A, and then it’s three strides straight down to the first barrel at B, and a bit of a rollercoaster up the hill to C, which is an identical skinny barrel. You can just barely see it in the photo up and to the left.

Now we begin one of two long uphill pulls, with one fence to relax at before another combination. 13AB is two very narrow but very wide tables set halfway up the hill on a tight-ish two stride. These tables will ride rather vertical, so as Phillip suggested on the course walk, you’ll want to ride them like you would a triple bar in stadium. Riders don’t want to get too collected, but they certainly don’t want to come at this combination like a fly fence.

After that we have a table followed by the inverted stump jump, formerly known as the “knee crusher”, but now widened to accommodate any and all size of horse and accompanying knee.

The water this year goes through the complex in the opposite direction that it usually does, starting at the A element as a duck which bends down in five or six strides to a log jumping into the water. The riders will travel through the water on a not-quite-straight line, jump up a bank and take one stride over a very angled brush fence. We will then immediately turn right, put our engines back in, and jump a brush chevron right in front of the awaiting crowd.

Heading back down the hill, the riders will have the classic large corn husk jump followed by another let-up fence before the tricky coffin. Set with the ditch in a real bowl, the A element isn’t terribly big, and you can’t ride aggressively at it due to the fact that it doesn’t hold the horses enough, and they could jump too far down the bank on the other side, putting them on an awkward stride to the ditch. It is wiser to put a bend in between A and B for two strides, and follow the hill back up for three strides to a chevron skinny.

Now begins the long haul up the hill, which can really taking the stuffing out of horses that are green to the level. The hill is late in the course, and they might not be as sharp on their feet as they need to be for 23AB, two angled cabins at the apex of the first hill.

Continuing the gallop, although on a lesser incline, we have one last angled ditch and brush before the final fence and the finish line. Stay tuned for more coverage from EN!

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