Technical cross-country

 Like all good eventers who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to Kentucky’s holy ground, I spent the weekend watching Rolex on my laptop. I gasped, I groaned, I caught myself clucking at horses who looked sticky. I even forced Johnny to watch most of the cross-country and gave him updates on stadium while he was attempting to take a shower. (Johnny’s thoughts on Rolex ranged from “Those are very large jumps!” to “How does that horse poop while he’s going that fast?!”)

Watching the cross-country, all I could think about was how technical it appeared. From Land Rover Hollow to the Normandy Bank to the Offset Brushes, there were a lot of jumps that required a horse and rider to slow down, be careful and accurate, and absolutely precise. It seemed like there were only a handful of the big, galloping fences typically associated with cross-country. The course seemed to be comprised of several groups of related technical elements with big stretches for galloping in between.

Over the last few years, there’s been some noise in the eventing community that cross-country has gotten too technical; that the combinations on courses now require a show jumping pace instead of jumps that favor galloping rhythmically and jumping out of stride.

While I agree that there are more of these types of jumps on today’s courses, there have been technical elements on cross-country for decades. Take, for example, these stills from a video of the 1978 World Eventing Championships. 

From about 4:54 in the video

This is a shot of a jump called The Serpent, which appears to be a long line of trakehners zigzagging along. Riders basically made a serpentine through the jumps. (Lots of horses and/or riders fell on this jump!)

From about 5:30 in the video

This jump, The Sinkhole, required riders to negotiate the two post and rail fences. Most opted to jump the first to the left of the tree, slow down to make a tight turn in that gravel-filled ditch, then turn again and jump the second. A few went blithely in a straight line. This was an extremely tight, twisty route if it wasn’t ridden straight. (You can hear Jimmy Wofford shouting “WHOA” at Carawich around 3:19.) 

From about 9:25 in the video
From about 9:27 in the video
From about 9:29 in the video

And let’s talk about the most terrifying jump I’ve ever seen: Fort Lexington. This is a bank jump up to a bounce on top and a steep bank down. A number of riders had difficulty with it.

From about 12:15 in the video. A zoomed-out view of Fort Lexington.

I’d argue that some of the jumps on this 1978 World Eventing Championships course are just as technical as elements seen at Rolex over the weekend. 

Has eventing gotten more technical? Perhaps. But watching this video (which is about 30 minutes long and narrated by Bruce Davidson) makes me wonder if it hasn’t been pretty technical all long.

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

6 thoughts on “Technical cross-country”

  1. Those are awesome videos! I'd agree that xc technical aspects have always been a part of the test, but I also think the loss of the extra endurance aspects have changed the way horses are prepared. That's really big change, in my opinion.

    1. I agree with you- the elimination of roads and tracks and steeplechase have caused horses to be prepared totally differently! And not always for the better.

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