Rebecca Farm: where the only thing bigger than the sky is the imagination in the course design. There’s certainly no lack of innovation on the Rebecca Farm cross country course — from the track all the way down to the most minute details, no element goes untouched by this talented group.
But don’t let the playful nature of the fences fool you, Ian Stark’s courses are not for the faint of heart. The Flying Scot has quite a bit up his sleeve this year, and his Mad Hatter ideas come to life thanks to Bert Wood and his team. As Ian said, “What he can do with a chainsaw is unbelievable,” which is coincidentally the only compliment that suits both a serial killer and a course builder.
Riders will face four–yes 4!–water complexes on course, and they get their first splash at fence four.
“Its the first of four times they’ll go into the water, so they’re going to get their feet wet quite a lot here. It’s not that difficult as far as water goes, but it is fence four,” Ian said. “All they’ve had is three gallop fences, so it’s kind of a wake up call. I do think the riders are going to have to be on their game very quickly so they’re ready for it. If they struggle here I think they’re really going to find it difficult the rest of the course.”
Spectators will occupy every square inch of the hillside above come Saturday, only increasing the atmosphere of what’s commonly called the “main water.” Here riders have four numbered elements and six jumping efforts.
“It’s a very intense arena. This corner (11A) is about accuracy. And then the step up to the angled brush isn’t that difficult, but it’s going to happen quickly,” he said.
Ian Stark does have a heart though, and he’s left the final corner out separately numbered in case everything goes upside down.
“The drop back into water is big in it’s own right, but I’ve moved a corner this time, so they run to the water in four strides and they’ve got a solid corner on the way out. I’ve made that a separate numbers, so if riders are in a mess they can circle and represent without getting 20 penalties. It’s quite intense, this area, and for me, it’s the toughest area on the course.”
Finally, riders reach the bayou which pays homage to Rebecca and Jerome Broussard’s time spent in Louisiana before relocating to Montana in the 1980s. “Critters” including gators, snakes and Tabasco hot sauce will be there to greet them.
“It’s right at the end of the course, and horses can be getting a little tired,” Ian said. “You still want to challenge then and ask questions, but I’ve learned over the years not to make it too tough. I don’t expect anyone to be swimming, although the gator has quite a big drop in. It’s all about preserving energy in the tank for the horse and not galloping the legs off them early on. The riders have to work out how to do this.”
Keep scrolling to listen to even more insights from Ian and check out a more detailed course walk: