Morven Park Advanced Cross Country Preview

The second water combination at fence 20.

Morven Park Horse Trials starts today, and considering this event offers the Area II Championships as well as the last run for the majority of horses headed to Fair Hill, it’s a pretty special competition. Beginner Novice through Advanced is running in both championship and regular divisions this weekend. With more than 400 entries, the event is positively packed with top-notch horse and rider combinations at every level.

While most competitors haven’t arrived yet, the championship Advanced and Intermediate combinations are already on the grounds, as those divisions start early this morning with dressage and show jump in the afternoon on the grass in the steeplechase field. Just briefly looking at that course from afar, I can tell it will be influential because of the tricky terrain.

I arrived yesterday and took the opportunity to walk the Advanced cross country course to see what it’s all about. There are three divisions of Advanced this weekend: Advanced Championships, Advanced CT and Advanced HT. The regular division is large, with 22 entries, while the Championships is relatively small. The CT division is small as well, but it’s wonderful of the organizers to offer it, as they also do the same three-star test in dressage that they will see in a few weeks at Fair Hill.

The cross-country course is designed by Tremaine Cooper, who seems to be designing just about everything on the East Coast right now. Unfortunately, after being completely rained out all spring and summer, Virginia is experiencing a dreadful drought, and the ground is quite hard. They are working very hard here to aerate and aggravate the ground, but I imagine that with a three-day looming in the near future, there will be quite a few combinations that will opt out of cross country due to the ground.

I was pleased with the course, and I think it flows quite nicely. There are a lot of technical combinations that require accuracy and the ability to find a distance on a bending line. The terrain is used quite well to make the questions a little more complex, but I was surprised to find so many options. Every combination has a black-flag option for one or more of the elements. This is not characteristic of Tremaine’s courses, but I was unable to find him late in the day to figure out what he was intending.

However, this means that riders can choose to have an easy and slow day to build some confidence for less experienced horses or go the direct route and challenge their horses to step up to the task. Overall, it looks challenging and also inviting, and I’m excited to give it a go on Saturday morning.

Morven Park Fall H.T. Links: [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

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