Team USA Talks Course Strategy Ahead of Boekelo Cross Country

Fence 23AB on Sue Benson’s Boekelo course. Photo via CrossCountry App.

We are in for a wet and wild cross country day tomorrow at Military Boekelo CCIO3*, with the forecast calling for a 90% chance of rain. If the weather mimics the conditions we’ve seen over the past two days, we can expect to see very heavy periods of rain, which will only continue to soak the already saturated course.

Sue Benson has designed the track here in Enschede, Netherlands, for the past 17 years. The optimum time is 10 minutes, 3 seconds, and the course has 40 total jumping efforts. You can view photos of all the fences and listen to Sue’s commentary here.

While six in 10 starters at Boekelo have jumped clear on cross country this decade, only 6.2% have made the optimum time, according to EquiRatings. Thirty seconds separate the entire top 50 on the leaderboard after dressage, and we are expecting time penalties to be extremely influential.

The view looking down the bank to fence 24B. Photo via CrossCountry App.

Liz Halliday-Sharp, Caroline Martin and Katherine Coleman are all ready to do battle with the course tomorrow. Team USA is sitting in eighth place in the Nations Cup standings at the conclusion of dressage and looking to gain ground.

This is Liz Halliday Sharp’s seventh time competing at Boekelo, and she said it is the wettest she has ever seen the ground. Rain has been pouring down steadily over the past two days, and while we had brief bursts of sunlight today, there hasn’t been much drying progress.

“There are some really tough combinations,” Liz said. “I would say the course isn’t overly huge, but there are a lot of questions. It’s going to take some determined and smart riding, and I think managing your ground position is going to be a big factor this year.”

The jump in to the first water complex at fence 10B. Photo via CrossCountry App.

Liz and the Deniro Z Syndicate’s Deniro Z, a 9-year-old KWPN (Zapatero VDL X Zonne-Trend, by French Buffet xx), sit in 24th place on 44.6 in the horse’s CCI3* debut. “I believe in this horse, and he is a trier,” she said. “He trusts me, and the plan is to go out be smart.”

Katherine Coleman competed at Boekelo for the first time two years ago with Longwood, and while she said she thinks some of the questions are easier this year, there is still plenty to do on the course.

“I think the combination of corners at the Hollow (at fence 8) is probably the toughest question,” Katherine said. “It’s quite early on, and there are usually a lot of problems there. I’ll be relieved when that’s over with! There are a lot of corners, so your horse needs to be good with corners. Hopefully the time, especially with the weather, will be a factor so we can gain some ground.”

Katherine and Kalai LLC’s Back to Business II, 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Harlequin Du Carel X Moxella, by Quick Star), sit in 53rd position on 51.3. “Bizzy” made the optimum time in her CCI3* debut at Tattersalls CCI3* over the summer, and Katherine is hoping to pilot her pocket rocket to another fast and clear round.

Caroline Martin is making her Boekelo debut with Pebbly Maximus, and she agrees the course is beefy. The 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Nazar X Kelshamore Lady) owned by Caroline and Sherrie Martin, is sitting in 60th place on 50.2.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest largest CCI I’ve done, but it’s very technical. There are a lot of questions towards the end that once the horses are tired, it’s going to be hard to get them back and jump clean. I don’t think it’s a dressage competition.”

Looking toward the final water complex, two tables set in the water at 20AB. Photo via CrossCountry App.

USEF Developing Rider Coach Leslie Law, who is acting as Chef d’Equipe for Team USA at Boekelo, said the team has an advantage in that our first rider, Katherine Coleman, doesn’t go out until nearly two hours after the start. They will be able to watch tomorrow and fine-tune their strategy depending on how the course is riding.

“We have a plan and a couple of lines at certain fences. If one line isn’t working out, we have another line in mind. It depends on the weather. We could see two competitions, quite honestly. The ground is soft, and I think it’s going to get chewed up and harder to get the time as the competition unfolds,” Leslie said.

“It isn’t an easy course to get time anyways because it’s twisty, so you have to make sure you’re going from the start and staying up on your markers because you’re probably not going to make up time toward the end of the course.”

The direct route at fences 13 and 14. Photo courtesy of CrossCountry App.

USA cross country ride times are:

  • Katherine Coleman and Back to Business II: 11:26 a.m. local time/5:26 a.m. EST
  • Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z: 2:06 p.m. local time/ 8:06 a.m. EST
  • Caroline Martin and Pebbly Maximus: 3:46 p.m. local time/9:46 a.m. EST

Cross country starts at 9:30 a.m. local time/3:30 a.m. EST. You can watch live with commentary from Diarm Byrne, Nicole Brown and special guests on the free live stream on the Boekelo website. Go Eventing.

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