Take a Walk Around David O’Connor’s CCI4*-S Cross Country Track at MARS Great Meadow

Fence 18AB, the MARS Sustainability Bay Lobster Trap, features a slightly more forgiving B element than last year’s brush arrowhead.

Fact: The Plains, Virginia wouldn’t be known for being flat. Despite its position early on in the beginnings of the fall season, David O’Connor’s track remains a formidable test for any combination, seasoned or otherwise. This year’s 4*-S track is no exception, and while the general ebb and flow of the track has similarities to its 2021 edition, some questions have been tweaked and added for this year.

You can view the full course below or, if the embedded post does not show up in your browser, here.

The track features 32 jumping efforts across 22 numbered obstacles, set on a 3740 meter track at an optimum time of 6 minutes, 34 seconds. Time is famously difficult to achieve here, and not every rider will be gunning for it to be sure. Many horses here, aside from the Pratoni-bound, will be aiming for big fall Long formats, including the Maryland 5 Star and Pau. Others will be looking for a test of mettle, putting the pedal down to really go for the top of the podium.

To that end, it’s a fascinating task a course designer is assigned: you must, in this instance, be giving enough of a test of World Championship-caliber horses without expending too much effort, be objectively challenging for greener horses or riders to set them up for a positive experience, and be mindful of where the horses are at in their respective fitness programs at this point in the “new” season” — among many, many other factors.

Fortunately here, the terrain provides a significant enough challenge that fitness can be tested. David’s questions frequently ask riders to select their line and commit to it, and while dimensionally it’s not the largest course (though there are a couple of positively massive fences on the track — the Brush Table at fence 9A is particularly top of mind to me), it will provide riders with a healthy amount of data to analyze later.

The dimensionally imposing Brush Table at fence 9A. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Cross country for the CCI4*-S begins today at about 1:30 p.m. EST and can be viewed live with your H&C+ subscription here. The order of go for today can be found here.

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