Millbrook is the place to be this weekend, not only because we have more than six hundred competitors from Beginner Novice to Advanced, but mostly because both Jenni and myself are in attendance! I’m running the Advanced with my steady partner Nyls, and Jenni is hiding behind the camera lens and trying to wear as much blue and grey so that she is completely unnoticeable. Pro-tip: Notice her and go bother her for Chinch photos and autographs. She loves it.
I got the chance to walk Tremaine Cooper’s Advanced course yesterday afternoon, and while a lot of the Millbrook staples are still in place, and there are certainly repeats from last year, he’s made fresh changes to almost all of the technical aspects, and there are some real questions out there. The terrain, while one of my favorite features of this competition, is a challenge within itself, as the course contains several long uphill pulls that can really take the gas out of some horses earlier than expected.
We start out strong at fence five, which is a pretty big corner three bending strides to a table, but the catch is that the corner is also placed so that a ditch precedes it. If you have unruly or ditchy horses, this will come up quickly, and while there is an option for the A element, it will waste you a lot of time.
The next question is at 8abc, which includes a log that some of you have seen developing as Millbrook posted photos on Facebook of the cross-country work. Beginning with an upright gate at 8a, there is a bending line to B, which is a half keyhole sort of skinny thing, which has the flags adorably carved and painted into itself. This is followed by three downhill strides to a chevron, but the chevron is quite generous in it’s width and I don’t think that will cause more than it’s share of problems. The B element looks terrible upon initial inspection, but I think even the chubbiest Advanced horses will be able to fit through it.
The water complex this year, while being somewhat notorious for causing trouble, has definitely become tamer in 2014. Last year, there were many issues with all the levels, and I know that the Intermediate divisions suffered greatly. This year it is much simpler for the Advanced, with a nice brush drop in, and then a canter through the water, a small bank out and one stride out over small keyhole.
The next really big question is the classic step ups that are always on the Millbrook course. This year it is only two banks one stride apart and then a bounce up over the C element, which is a half keyhole. Not only are the banks substantial and the climb up a phenomenal feat of athleticism, but it comes late in the course directly after a long and arduous pull uphill, and will certainly require that the riders re-engage their engines before attempting.
Advanced cross country starts tomorrow, so in the meantime, please enjoy these photos of the course! (Apologies for missing #18 — whoops!)