The Final Hurrah: Preview Ian Stark’s Final Carolina CCI4*-S Cross Country Course

We are a short time away from getting underway with the Yanmar America CCI4*-S cross country at the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International, with the first horse due out on course at 11:46 a.m. ET. If you’re not here in person with us, you can view the live stream on Horse & Country here.

Today’s cross country will be run in reverse order of standing, which will lead us up to an exciting finish to determine the 2024 champion. As we reported yesterday, Liz Halliday is in control of the 4*-S currently, holding 1st with Miks Master C, 3rd with Cooley Nutcracker, and 5th with Cooley Quicksilver. Cooley Moonshine, second after show jumping, was withdrawn as a part of Liz’s plan for this event.

We caught up with Ian Stark yesterday about this year’s track:

On the design of this year’s course:

“It’s the same flow the same course as last year,” Ian remarked. “I’ve just tweaked a few things. And the first water for example, is probably a little friendlier with the last water is quite intense. I got to the end of last year, and I kind of — my attitude was this year’s gone really well, maybe I should bring my own retirement forward a year! So I didn’t want to do big changes this year. I’m trying to get through this as smoothly as possible as the idea, but no, I mean, there’s plenty for them to jump out there. It’s not going to be a walk in the park, that’s for sure.”

On the date of this event being a prep event for spring 5* events:

“If I look at it that it’s early in the year and back off, then it’s not giving them a proper introduction to Kentucky or Badminton. And I’m a great believer in encouraging the riders and the horses to come up to the level, not taking the level to them. So, I’ve never really been shy at asking the questions. I’m kind of nervous on cross country, always because you ask the questions and you think, ‘oh, yikes, they’re out there.’ And it’s all your responsibility. But I think for the horses and the riders for me, it’s important that they get the chance to jump a decent track, before they go to the big competitions.”

On where a rider might be able to make up time:

“It’s a difficult one because the gallop stuff is at the beginning, and if you go too fast the horses are going to be tired at the end. But it’s not too much. There’s a bit of terrain all the way around, but there’s not great hills. So you know, the horses should finish it quite easily. So if they start off a little bit sort of steady, because as you said it’s earlier in the season, if they start off too quietly, they’re never going to make it up later on. Definitely there is a bit of gallop at the end, but you can’t throw everything at that. So they’ve kind of got to measure the minute markers and be up to the minute markers, at least, if not a little bit ahead of them before they start going through the trees. Because galloping through trees, you always think you’re going fast, but trees can make you slow down a little bit. You’ve kind of got to almost frighten yourself and gallop past them a great speed. Otherwise, you instinctively take the foot off the pedal and slow down the rhythm.”

On how it feels to have been the designer in residence here for almost a decade:

“What’s been fantastic, from my point of view is, you know you sort of come up with different ideas and I’ve wanted the tracks widened and said, ‘well, we’ll take these 30 trees out so I can do this’, and they’ve been so incredibly helpful and supportive about moving forward. From a legacy point of view, then I feel all these wider tracks have allowed the light in and the grass has grown, so the footing has got better over the years. So I’m very happy with that. I’ve loved coming here. I’ve always felt that the committee and the board and everyone working here stays so positive about everything I try and come up with. If I get excited, they get excited and suddenly it happens, which is, from a designer’s point of view, fantastic. It’s been great fun and I’d be sad not to be coming back here but I’ve had great time.”

You can view the course maps for each division here.

Stay tuned for live updates from Cheg Darlington during cross country and for our full report later tonight. Go Eventing!

Carolina International CCI & H.T. (Raeford, NC) [Website] [Schedule] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Cross Country Maps] [Live Scores] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

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