It’s not very often you find a reason to compare Florida to France, but walking The Event at TerraNova CCI4*S cross country course I found myself thinking “Is it just me or does this have shades of mini-Pau, with all the twists and turns?”.
Granted, the profuse amount of sweat rolling down my back kept my brain solidly anchored on the fact that we’re in Florida, but you get what I mean.
Capt. Mark Phillips has certainly left our 50+ entrants with plenty to do. With 26 numbered jumps or combinations totaling 35 jumping efforts, most of these fences are going to come up rapid-fire, giving riders a feeling that could be akin to a show jumping course.
The time also might prove influential, given the heat down here in Myakka City (the projected high temperature on Saturday is forecasted to be 90 degrees) and the fact that there aren’t very many long gallop stretches to get ahead of the optimum.
Hopefully riders are also sat on horses that are quite genuine to corners, with four here on this CCI4*-S track, including one out of the first water that will probably live eternally in my nightmares. While there isn’t much in the way of terrain, the footing is lovely, with a thoroughly watered and aerated track that feels quite nice underfoot and should make for some prime galloping.
Optimum time: 6:00
Fence one is an immediate no from me dawg, but I’m sure these horses and riders won’t have any issue with it. In theory, it’s a reasonably sized, inviting cabin. In execution, they set the dang thing over top of a ditch. Can you see the ditch? Not really. Do I know the ditch is there? Yes indeed I do. The profile is friendly though, and the size is reasonable. You know, for a 4* horse and rider anyway.
After the first fence they’ll head straight towards stabling and the dressage/show jumping rings, giving a lot of “background noise” for potential distraction as they jump the simple and straightforward brown barn at fence two. Captain Phillips has left the first several fences friendly, to help the horses get into a good rhythm early on.
They’ll continue on a right-handed track as riders turn to travel alongside the road, jumping a big diamond brush table at fence 3. Here is where we see the first of several uses of frangible technology on this course, with this collapsible table.
This is also the first of many fences that could probably also be considered a legitimate shelter for a family of four. Giant tables… there are plenty more of those coming *shudder*.
Riders will continue galloping along the road, coming up alongside the show jumping arena to the deer feeder at fence 4. Greener horses will have to make sure to keep their eyes on their job, but otherwise there shouldn’t be any issues at this point. They do have to pass the food vendors here though, including the lovely woman with the fruity push-pops, but apparently it’s frowned upon to stop for some icy goodness whilst on course, no matter how hot it may be.
Fence 5 is where things start to get fun (for spectators anyway… riders, your mileage may vary). If I thought the first table was wide, this one is WIDE – it might accommodate a family of six – and very quickly afterwards you come up to your first combination. Riders will still be cruising to fence 5, but very soon after we’ll see them start pumping the brakes.
Here we go with our first letters on course at 6AB, a brushy rolltop down to our first corner, this one of the right-handed and brushy variety.
We ran into Will Coleman here during the course walk, and he very confidently said that it was pretty simple and you should be able to stay on an inside track on the approach to the A element. Okay Will, you go on with your bad self.
I personally would prefer the very long approach, like all the way around it to just canter right back to the barn, thank you. Still though, for the pairs in this division it shouldn’t be too complicated – Capt. Phillips is easing you into the corners to come.
Next we come to our first pass through the first water complex on course, a couple of beach-themed benches at 7AB. Just in case you forget that you’re less than 45 minutes from the coast, these fences really bring the beachy vibes. Riders will jump in over a big red bench and have a stride or two before getting their feet wet in the water.
Once they’re in the water it’s a sharp right turn out of the water, up a bit of a mound (nobody tell me Florida doesn’t have terrain – we can build a mean mound) to a matching bench, this one painted green.
Leaving the water behind for now, they’ll have a short gallop stretch into an adjoining field, popping over a MIM oxer as a bit of a “let-up” fence. It’s extremely wide and I personally would much rather limbo through it on foot than jump over it on a horse, but you know, po-tay-to po-tah-to.
Making a left hand turn towards the back of the field, they’ll come to their next combination at 9AB, a big wide blue table (also frangible) with another right-handed corner. The angle to the corner is steep, but it’s well-decorated with a very clearly defined face that makes it feel a bit more forgiving. Still, it’s very possible that we could see some drive-bys at this one.
From there they’ll continue their loop back out of this field to hop over the bridge oxer, which in theory is a relatively simple skinny-faced MIM oxer that shouldn’t cause any trouble. It does have a blue water tray along the bottom of it that I personally found spooky, but it’s possible that I need to re-up my Ulcergard.
After the oxer it’s a relatively simple pop over the TerraNova Barn fence to jump into one of the arenas – this one located next to showjumping warm up. The jump itself is relatively simple and up a small mound so it should jump well, but there’s a lot of distraction in the background with arenas and flags and tents, so riders will be looking to keep their horses focused here, especially with what’s to come [cue intense foreshadowing].
Here at 12AB they’ll make their second pass through the first water complex, first jumping over a house with a drop down into the water, then landing and making a right turn to a very skinny left-handed corner that I honestly didn’t even notice the first time because it was hiding behind a large bush.
This one is a legit question for sure, and Capt. Phillips has given the riders an option here for the B element. That option will be very costly though, time-wise, because it has them looping way back to jump over a simple hanging log on a mound then circling back again before continuing on their way. I don’t think that will be Plan A for anyone, but it may get utilized for those who run into trouble at the corner.
From the water they’ll continue on to the next field, jumping over a Trakehner in the treeline that sports a pretty massive ditch under it. Did I stand in the ditch and stretch my arms overhead to touch the log? Yes, yes I did. I was barely able to reach it with my fingers. Trust me, it’s a big ditch. By this level though, a question like this should be old hat for these combinations.
Up next they’ll have a legitimate let-up fence with a simple pheasant feeder, and theoretically there’s a bit of a stretch to gallop too. Of course, during that stretch you have to turn a couple times, so there’s probably not as much opportunity to step on the gas pedal as the riders would probably wish.
The next question is all about angles, with a couple of offset brushes. This question too should be old hat by now for these horse and rider pairs and they should be able to keep a bit of forward momentum after jumping these.
Passing through another treeline will see them meeting another big blue table, which most riders will probably be happy to see by now. I wouldn’t be, because it’s yet another one that’s eligible for family-of-6 status, but these folks will probably be yawning in the air or taking a quick siesta or something (“insanity in the middle” is right).
They might even take a quick nap as they pop over the wagon at 17, which admittedly from the front looks quite lovely doesn’t it? Trust me, it isn’t. It’s very very very wide, but should be a nice cruising fence especially after the table.
By then the break is over and they’ll be at their next combination at 18AB. The A element is up on a mound and has a very very vertical face, which is sporting a MIM clip. It’s a friendly enough fence, but certainly one that demands respect.
After jumping A they’ll land, go down the mound, and head straight to B, which is also on it’s own separate mound (told you we make a mean mound in Florida, and so many of them). The B element should also be filed into my drawer of nightmares in all of its skinny MIM log glory. Still, I feel like this one should ride pretty well (did I just jinx it? Knocking on wood ASAP).
From there they’ll hang a right and pop over another very large table at 19, this time with brush on top for extra oomph. I hope there’s a photographer at this one, I bet it’s one of those that would make for some great photos.
After the giant table of doom (that’s what I named it anyway, they’ve just got it down on the course map as “double brush” as if it’s cute or something) riders will hang another right and come to the first and only ABC combination on course. The A element is set up on top of quite a big and steep — you guessed it — mound with a MIM-clipped hanging log.
They’ll land from that and go down the mound to a left-handed brush corner at B and then a brush wedge at C. This one potentially could prove a bit tricky and should make for some good spectating. Riders are also given an option here if they’d prefer to not tackle the mound at the A element – instead they can go the long way around it to jump a similar hanging log on flat ground, but it will prove costly for time.
If they make it through that one unscathed, it stands to reason that they’ll be largely home free. That doesn’t mean they’re done though. They’ve got another gigantically massive MIM Oxer at 21, for funsies.
And then it’s over the again cutely named “log pile” at 22. This fence is also extremely wide in the family-of-six type of way.
They’ll then dip their feet into the second water jump on course, although this one is considerably more simple with only a cabin in the water. It’s a decent size fence, but not particularly tricky, and I can personally attest to the fact that the footing in the water jumps feels fantastic (will do anything to get these course walk pics, including strip off my shoes and socks and go for a wade).
Coming up toward the end is the last super butt-clenching fence of the course, with a large ditch and wall. Again, something that these horse and riders should be quite adept at by now at this level, but since it’s my own personal least favorite type of fence, it seems massive to me. I’ll find it very insulting when everyone just hops right on over as if it’s nothing.
Riders (who I have a feeling will be galloping home at a good clip by this point) will then hang a right and jump over the hayrack…
…followed relatively quickly by a massive step table. Again not complicated, but a big legitimate 4-star table.
The last jump is a quite cute (even to me) ramp with the TerraNova name on it. Which might be nice to remind the riders of where they are, if they’re feeling shades of heat stroke by the end. In all seriousness, it should be a nice positive way to cap off the course and have everyone wrapping up their 4* course feeling positive.
Cross country for the FEI divisions gets underway Saturday with the 3* first at 8:45 a.m., followed by the 4* at 12:15 p.m. and the 2* at 3:30 p.m. The full schedule and ride times can be found in the link list below.