You may recall that course designer and builder Tremaine Cooper gave Millbook’s Advanced cross country course a little bit of a facelift last year, reversing the direction the track traveled. Riders in the Advanced division this year won’t be in for quite as much of a shock this time around (though riders in the Intermediate divisions will — we’ll have more on that later, as that track now runs parallel to the Advanced); this year’s course runs clockwise again and is quite similar to last year’s overall, save for some key combinations on course where Tremaine has swapped the elements.
“Last year I changed the track for Advanced — it had always run counter-clockwise in the past, so I moved it to give it a totally different feel,” Tremaine told EN. “This year I’m playing with the combinations because I like the track the way it is currently.”
Fences 1 through 9 remain the same as last year, save for a bit of earthwork here and there to improve the angle of the ground in places. Riders encounter their first difference in the course at the 10abc combination. The 10a element, a ditch and brush, remains the same but this year riders will have slice and dice their way through two steeply angled cabins.
The fence 14abc complex is the next place riders will see a difference in the course: they’ll first jump the A element, a large square table, then choose their line to a left-handed corner, followed by the skinny C element out.
There is actually one fewer combination on course this year. Instead of an additional abc element in the farthest back field, riders will instead enjoy a bit more of a gallop over the fences leading up to the water complex, where they’ll slash into pond twice before looping behind the patron’s tent and heading for home.
In walking the course it’s very apparent that the property’s terrain is what packs an extra punch over this track.
“You shouldn’t underestimate the terrain because it changes the horses balance quite a bit,” says Tremaine.
Buck Davidson echoes the sentiment: “There’s not really ever a flat piece of ground here and so having the jumps in the right place is a trick and I think Tremaine’s done a good job. Keeping the horses balanced as you ride is not easy here.”
While this Advanced course may not be as massive as those seem later in the year, riders will still need to be on their toes and ready for the challenge in order to go around clean.
“It’s an overall test, it’s not one single thing (that would catch a horse and rider out.) You need to be able to steer and go forward and come back and balance, and sort of a little bit of everything. So hopefully it will be fun,” Tremaine said.
“The idea is to ask the question and when it rides the best, it’s usually when the rider trusts the horse. Once you line it up at that level, hopefully they should focus on it and go.”
EN caught up with Sarah Gumbiner to get her thoughts on the track: “This is my first run back with ‘Larry’ since Kentucky and after walking today I am pleased to see that the course is big but inviting,” she said. “Millbrook puts on a super event every year and I am excited for a good, clean, and confident run tomorrow.”
While riders may be more familiar with the track as is it is this year, the ground is unfortunately a little firmer than everyone had hoped for this weekend. Thunderstorms passing through the area and the greater New England area overall managed to completely miss the Coole Park Farm property.
“We were out here working on the course on Wednesday and we could see a sheet of rain and clouds off in the distance, not far, but it wouldn’t move this way,” Tremaine said.
With the ground so dry, Tremaine’s team has been hard at work doing everything in their power to improve the footing. The upper-level tracks were aerated twice during the day on Saturday, with another one planned for that night.
“They’ve done a great job trying to aerate everything and try to get it as good as possible, but they just haven’t had any rain so the ground is firm,” said Buck. “So I won’t be going fast tomorrow, that’s for sure. All these horses are seasoned, they all know how to do it so if I feel it’s a bit too firm I won’t go for it. It would be great to do this, but at the same time I want to have them for years and years and years. But they have done a great job of doing everything they can and hopefully it goes well.”
The optimum time on the Advanced course is 6 minutes, 15 seconds and has a total of 35 jumping efforts over 3,560 meters. Time tends to be a factor over this course — only three pairs caught the optimum time last year and no one made it under the year before. Cross country at Millbrook starts today with Open Intermediate divisions at 8:00 A.M. (click here for the Intermediate course map!) Advanced starts at 11:10 a.m. Check out the gallery of the Advanced track below as well as the course map via CrossCountry App.