Walk the Bramham International CCI4*-L Cross Country with Ian Stark

A very typical Ian Stark entrance into the water at Bramham. Photo via CrossCountryApp.

Ian Stark, who has been designing at Bramham International since 2010 when he took over from Sue Benson, took us for a virtual spin around his CCI4*-L track with CrossCountryApp for this weekend. It’s a signature Ian design: dimensionally large and imposing but not optically difficult to understand for the horses. The relentless undulation of the ground at Bramham is key here, necessitating both stamina and manoeuvrability as Ian tests the physics of using a turn to accelerate to an attacking distance throughout.

This being the first running of Bramham since 2019, many questions and routes remain the same from what would have been 2020’s design, but there are some new paths cut through trees this year to create new galloping lanes. The general flow, however, will feel familiar to those who’ve been here before.

Riders will start at the highest point of the estate, near the stables, and they’ll also finish in this same area. And right from the word go, Ian’s got questions that he needs answers for. He’s placed the first combination at fence three, a brightly colored set of Orchard Dale Ice Cream Cones set on a bold, left handed three strides. This combination gives riders intelligence on what they might need to bear in mind for the next combination, which will ask a similar but more intensive question.

Fence 4, the Coopers Marquees Question, is the first frangible device on course — an upright rail with another bold, forward left turn to a large bird. Then it’s another sweeping left turn to a corner — hope you did your homework at fence 3 to set up for this one!

Another big test will come at fence 6AB, the Bramham Round House, and fence 7AB, the Bramham Leap. The Bramham Round House features a big trakehner followed by a sharp right turn to an angled brush, then followed by a straightness question at The Bramham Leap. Ian’s asking riders to be bold but also to be straight and adjustable; at this point in the course you may still have riders fighting with a fit horse to obtain a rhythm, but the “keep coming” nature of these early questions should serve to encourage that rhythm to emerge if it hasn’t already.

The A Element of the Bramham Leap. Photo via CrossCountryApp.

Bramham Leap, B element. Photo via CrossCountryApp.

It’s a classically Ian rail into the water at fence 11ABC, a slightly softer question than he’ll ask later at the main water (18ABCD), which gives off a distinctly Carolina International vibe, from a distance at least.

The first drop in the water at fence 11. Photo via CrossCountryApp.

Fence 12, the Joules Leap of Faith, is one of Ian’s self-professed favorite fences on course — “probably one of my favorite fences of all time,” he describes. And it certainly is something to behold: a big log that gives off the look that you’ll be leaping off into the great unknown. Ian admits here that he enjoys watching the riders’ expressions as they jump this question (this is one designer, remember, who very jovially says he doesn’t mind if riders lose a bit of sleep before riding his courses).

Fun fact, there’s also a mini-sized version of this fence on the BE80 (U.S. equivalent of Beginner Novice) at Bramham!

The Joules Leap of Faith. Photo via CrossCountryApp.

Several more accuracy-testing questions stand between the riders and home once they’re through the main water at 18, and one final pull uphill will ensure these 4*-L horses get a proper fitness test. It’s sure to be a delightful day of classic cross country action, and you can follow along live on H&C+ beginning at 4:30 a.m. EST. Replays are typically available within a day or two of the live stream.

View the full guided cross country tour on CrossCountryApp here.

Stay tuned for the final dressage report to come from Bramham later today. Go Eventing!

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