New Red Hills CIC3* Cross-Country Course Lives Up to Hype

The Shire. Photo courtesy of John Kyle. The Shire. Photo courtesy of John Kyle.

I’m bringing you this CIC3* cross-country course preview from Red Hills earlier than expected thanks to friend of EN John Kyle. A well-known and favorite commentator here in the States, we’re thrilled he’s back again at Red Hills this year to offer his insight and expertise for both the show jumping and cross-country phases over the next two days. He was kind enough to share the photos he snapped today while walking the course in preparation for his announcing duties on Saturday.

Course designer Hugh Lochore and press officer Kathy Foreman went the extra mile to include an excellent printout of Hugh’s breakdown of the new CIC3* course in the packets for each journalist. Thanks to the magic of technology, I scanned the document with my phone and included an excerpt below for your reading pleasure. Hopefully Hugh’s explanation along with John’s excellent photos of each fence will give you a good idea of what the horses and riders will face when they leave the start box on Saturday. Go Red Hills. Go Eventing.

From Hugh Lochore:

The warm up, start box and first three fences are at the far west end of the park, so sited away from the bustle of the Oak Hammock in an attempt to keep the horses calm and to help riders focus their charges on the task at hand. The course opens with Pine Frame (1) and the Red Hills Welcome (2), both max height but kind and forgiving profiles to encourage a strong, attacking mind set. A narrower roll top spread — Hog House (3)  again is forgiving in profile but garners respect due to the right hand bend on landing, which fires the competitors down the hill into the atmosphere which is the main ring. The Brush Oxers (4) are a big fence and are a setup for this early combination of accuracy, testing apexes on a bending stride that is the Arena Complex (5AB). This is one of many spectator friendly spots around this course, where it has been a deliberate ploy by Red Hills over the years to get viewers as close to the action as is possible and safe.

There is little let up as horse and rider roll out of the main arena and over The Park Gate (6), which being very upright and jumping towards the trees will test some horses’ attention. If they aren’t settled and concentrating at this point, then they are either on the floor, or they’ve just received a wakeup call!

Down through the standing pines they go, over a massive Cordwood Pile (7), Lower lane log (8) and onto one of our more featured fences for this year. The Shire (9AB) is a test of accuracy and trust between horse and rider whilst bringing some enjoyable theming and presentation for the spectators — you must pay a visit to these sweet little Hobbit Houses with their cleverly appointed decor. A more traditional look at cross country comes next in the form of an open Oxer (10), which will jump big from the woods to the open space beyond. Another well-presented feature fence is Stairway to Heaven (11 ABC). Requiring bold attacking riding, the horses are expected to climb 11 feet over three obstacles within what would normally be a one-stride distance — this is strong acrobatics at its best and will be sure to catch one or two less willing combinations.

There is a really good open part of the course coming up, which will consist of higher speeds over the next half mile. The Chicken House (12) and the Triple Brush (13) are followed by a slowing switch-back test at Oak Hammock (14). These are the three biggest fences on the course that should ride with flow and ease. The Hay Feeders (15) are a forgiving let up before competitors are to tackle the dramatic new Water Complex (16ABCD). This new cross-country course at Red Hills consists of two water jumps, this one being the best vantage point if drama is what you are after. A big log cabin lands them just shy of the water’s edge, where they must gather themselves quickly for a step onto an island — inspired by the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass for those who are golf enthusiasts — immediately off the back side of the island, over a brush hedge and bending to the right over Huck Finn’s Raft, which has been a feature at Red Hills water jumps for a number of years. If they hit their spot, then this four-part combination will be completed with dramatic speed and precision. Otherwise well, why did you come to watch the water jump?

The big Pine Table (17) and the Garden Wall (18) will take them slightly away from the public attention for a short while before they are tested once again at Goliath Gap (19). This gaping ditch with a giant oak log suspended over the top of it makes for quite a spectacle and photo opportunity. The Pergola (20) is a feature you will recognize from previous years. Natures Dew Pool (21AB) comes next. This is the point at which Tyson gets to show off his wood carving skills. As entertaining as this educational spot is, in the midst of all the park attractions, it is a stern test for horse and rider, who must deal with distractions to ride a testing and accuracy requiring line.

The Owl (22), which perches in the middle of the Avenue of Shops, I hope will serve as no more than a fun feature for spectators, as the riders are focusing on the home stretch of this course. The Offsets (23AB) are a reminder that it is not over yet and that we must take a check and be concentrating right to the end. At this point, horses will be digging deep into energy reserves to get through the bottom end of the arena and up the hill to the last jump — Safe and Sound (24) … God willing.

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