Thursday Video from Ecovet: A Sneak Peek at Red Hills Cross Country with Mike Etherington-Smith

The 2019 edition of Red Hills International Horse Trials marks Mike Etherington-Smith’s fifth year as designer of the CCI4*-S (formerly CIC3*) and Advanced courses. He’s a master at keeping horses and riders on their toes — last year, he reversed the course completely, and he’s got some tricks up his sleeve for this year no doubt.

In this video from The Tallahassee Democrat, Mike drops a couple hints about what we can expect. He starts out by talking about Red Hills’ terrain, which still dips and out of the woods although it has opened up significantly over the years — crossing the finish flags with a veil of Spanish moss trailing from one’s skull cap used to be quite standard at this event. Mike explains that while the wooded parts have aesthetic appeal, they also present challenges.

“It’s very easy to mess with horses’ heads when they’re going through the trees which you don’t want to do, because they can get a bit too suspicious and they don’t jump well,” he says. “So it’s all about the flow, the balance of the course, where you put the questions and not making it too busy in the trees, because then the horses come around the bend and think ‘Oh God, what comes next?’ That’s what you don’t want. When they start thinking backwards or questioningly then they don’t jump well and their confidence drops.”

A notable change for this year is the second water complex, which the horses will now take two passes through: “This year I thought I’d make it a bit more spectator friendly by using it twice,” he explains, guiding us through the various questions. “This is a interesting series of fences — not easy, and not to be underestimated.”

Looking forward to the big reveal. CrossCountry App has shared a preliminary course tour of the CCI4*-S and CCI3*-S courses; we’ll have a full course preview here on EN once the fences are numbered and gussied up. Our roving reporter Jenni Autry has landed and will be bringing us all latest action throughout the event, so keep it here!

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