Welcome to Day 2 of the Wellington Eventing Showcase! By now I’m assuming every day is perfect in south Florida over the winter, so our conditions are just like yesterday: sunny skies, a light breeze and a perfectly manicured Capt. Mark Phillips cross country course waiting to be tackled this afternoon.
The course is 2,000 meters with a speed of 535 mpm and an optimum time of 3 minutes, 45 seconds. The general consensus among the riders is that’s pretty fast, and I’m not sure we’ll actually see anyone crack along quickly enough to hit the optimum time, especially when you consider all the twisting and turning required in the track:
Assistant course builder Mauricio Bermúdez, who built the course with Eric Bull of ETB Construction, kindly recorded a preview of the course on Cross Country App, which you can check out here. A full gallery of the photos of each fence, 18 in all, is below, and our top three after dressage — Boyd Martin, Michael Pollard and Marilyn Little — shared their thoughts on the track in yesterday afternoon’s press conference.
“The jumps out there aren’t super big, but I think they’re right big enough because of the turning and slowing down and going fast,” Boyd said. The speed of 535 mpm is about halfway between Preliminary and Intermediate speed, and Boyd said he thinks that will feel really fast, which will make mistakes like glance offs on corners and skinnies easier to make.
Marilyn Little said she thinks it feels a lot like the back loop of Capt. Phillips’ cross country course at Luhmühlen, which is also very twisty and has horses and riders turning back around to maximize the space.
“You have to understand the horses are used to feeling like they’re going somewhere,” she said. “After they loop around a few times, they start to realize they’re not going anywhere, and it can change the game mentally.”
Marilyn said she thinks Capt. Phillips has done a beautiful job of maximizing the available space to build the course on a part of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center usually used as a derby field — but the horses are definitely going to notice the difference in feel right away.
“There can be mistakes, both because it’s earlier in the year and because the horses feel like they’re on a hamster wheel. It can change in a moment’s notice, and it can equal a bigger mistake.”
Michael Pollard agreed he thinks the course is built really well and that it will ride harder than it will walk. It hardly takes any time to walk the short track, and though riders won’t be out there for very long, there’s plenty of time for mistakes to happen.
You can get a bird’s eye view of the course with this super cool drone video, and you can watch cross country live at this link starting at 1:30 p.m. EST. Show jumping starts at 10:30 a.m. EST and will be streamed live at this link. Go #WellyEventing.