‘Hop’ Around Capt. Mark Phillips’ CCI4*-S Track at Stable View

Grab a No. 2 pencil four-star riders! Your cross country test begins soon.

Spring has sprung and it’s time to gear up for one of the biggest weekends of sport in the southeast (and no, we don’t mean The Masters!). EN is on the ground at Stable View for their $62,000 Spring International Event.

We have thirty CCI4*-S pairs coming forward to contest Capt. Mark Phillips track, and here’s what they are up against. Competitors have 3,550 meters of varied terrain that they’ll want to cover in the optimum time of 6 minutes 14 seconds. The track follows its usual route, which is similar to past editions at Stable View.

Phillips has laid out an open, galloping start, which should encourage horses to get moving from the jump. Once they’ve got momentum and confidence, combinations come fast and heavy in the latter parts, most of which can be viewed from the Pavilion and tailgating spots, so spectators will have a front row seat to the main action this Easter weekend.

Being a spring four-star, this is a key preparation for many Kentucky-bound horses this weekend as well, and Phillips had that in mind when concocting the challenges. “The questions that are being presented mean it’s a good preparation for Kentucky. The terrain here allows us to produce big fences, which is good five star prep, and we can use this terrain to present questions the likes of which they might see at Kentucky,” he says.

The weather is also a massive consideration with a gloomy forecast looming, but with Aiken’s sandy base that can run on the firm side despite heavy land management, historically a little rain makes the going that much better.

“You always design for good weather. You go to Plan B if the footing deteriorates. Here at Stable View you cannot have enough water, so the more water, the better the footing,” Phillips says.

EN took a spin around the Easter-decorated track with our canine mascot in tow, so read on to see what’s in store.

Stable View Spring 2/3/4* and H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Volunteer] [Scoring] [EN’s Coverage]

Splish splash! Let’s go eventing.

Before they even leave the ground for the first fence, horses get their feet wet at a water complex situated ahead of their first effort, the Let’s Go! Log Rails.

The first half of the course gives competitors a good opportunity to stretch their legs and move into a good gallop. Fences 2 (The Hitch and Tow Hammock), 3 (Attwood Aqueduct) and 4 (Skip Over The Log Pile) are all rather straightforward tables that take athletes along the Boyd Martin/ETB Schooling Field on the east stretch of the property.

The Twin Oxers are the first combination on course.

Riders meet their first combination at fence 5ab, the Twin Oxers. For horses of this caliber, they won’t find this incredibly challenging (despite the fact that these are maximum height, airy fences), but rather an opportunity to ensure that they’re on their desired line. This is followed by the Easter Table at 6.

Quite a climb to the Academy Alp at 7a.

Seven is where things start to get interesting. This Academy Alp combination takes full advantage of the steep terrain up to the MiM rail at 7a — there’s only a few feet of purchase for takeoff at the base here — before it takes them right back down toward a rail-thin skinny triple bar.

The “Hoppy” Easter Hay Rack.

The “Hoppy” Easter Hay Rack leads them between two aisles of pine trees before a great big pull uphill deposits these pairs at a relatively small, yet upright fence at 9, The Gate of Glory.

The Gate of Glory.

With good galloping behind them, Capt. Mark Phillips starts to turn up the heat from here on out.

Fence 10a into the water.

At this point in the course horses and riders are meeting their first official water obstacle, the G.L. Williams & Daughter water complex at 10abc. Competitors will jump in over an arrowhead brush situated at the water’s edge, then they’ll ride out to meet a roll top that drops them into a twin pond. Element c is a another narrow brush.

Fence 11b.

The line here is a straight one, and there shouldn’t be much hemming and hawing on that fact, but rather, it’s a test of accuracy.

The Table at the Memorial Garden.

A hard left-handed turn brings these riders to 11ab, the Table at the Memorial Garden. The big table in is set five strides away from a narrow, but otherwise similar b element.

The Blanchard Table.

The Blanchard Table to a double of corners brings forward a perennial challenge that riders familiar with this venue will recognize. A big, bold table is followed by two offset corners, which are left- and right-sided so unilateral horses will find no relief here. The most direct route is five strides between both, but riders could have the option to bend their line out for a six stride line with a bit more breathing room if necessary.

Cyndy’s Cross Question.

Cyndy’s Cross Question at 13 will require a bold leap.

Hang on tight! We’re dropping into 15abc.

Competitors come left-handed to the FEI Stabling Step Table at 14, which should set them up nicely for the combination at 15abc.

If they get a big jump over the preceding table, riders will want to carefully set themselves up for the open rail at 15a because they’ll need some fancy footwork for the following bank down which is set as a bounce. The work’s not done then, though, and three strides later they’ll tackle an open right-handed corner.

The Tiger’s Trap at 16.

The unassuming Tiger’s Trap at 16 brings them back to the main spectator viewing.

The Pavilion Water complex is front and center for spectators.

A water-to-water house meets them at the Pavilion Splash, followed by a skinny cabin right out of the water, but this is made all the more challenging by its proximity to the upcoming tricky combination at 18abc.

Thread the needle for 18abc.

While not related in number, these two combinations are only a handful of strides away from one another, causing the first to affect the second. The Stable View Combination at 18 features an angled brush to a corner to a second angled brush. Set on a straight line, this will require riders to thread the needle to achieve a smooth line here.

Bunny Barn at Fence 20.

Riders will likely let out a big breath of air by this point as they’ve tackled the trickiest of what Capt. Mark Phillips has to offer. Now they have five single fences between them and the finish.

Barry’s desk, the penultimate fence.

No pairs caught the time here last year, though many came close, and the majority of those time penalties were only due to a handful of seconds. The question more for this type of event — one that is a key preparation for upcoming long formats — is whether riders are looking for a steady or speedy trip.

If you’re here on site, be sure to join us at the start box by the Hunt Box lodging at 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon for a preview of the course with designer Capt. Mark Phillips and Boyd Martin fore more insights on Saturday’s track.

Stable View Spring 2/3/4* and H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Volunteer] [Scoring] [EN’s Coverage]

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