2012 Rolex Kentucky – Saturday, April 28 Early Morning

September 13th, 2012 1:34 PM | Comments Off on 2012 Rolex Kentucky – Saturday, April 28 Early Morning

Early Morning, XC Course Walk

by Sarah

One of the best perks of coming before cross-country day is the opportunity to do a course walk. Where else can you learn that a 3’11” jump with a 6’6” spread is a “breather”? This year I did two: one for the press with course designer Derek di Grazia, who is returning for his second year; and the second with eventing legend Jim Wofford  sponsored by Practical Horsemanmagazine. Derek de Grazia is a veteran eventer who has competed internationally since 1977 and represented the U.S. at the 1986 World Championships. He was short listed for several Olympic Teams, and he won the 1985 Rolex Kentucky Event. He was also assistant course designer to Michael Etherington-Smith, who designed nineteen years at Rolex and several Olympic and World Games courses.

Course Walk with James Wofford at Rolex 2012

James Wofford’s guided walk of the course was very popular.
Sarah Miller/MacMillan Photography

Jim Wofford is a three-time Olympian, a member of the USEA Hall of Fame, and the 2012 USEF Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

The two course tours were completely different experiences. The press walk with di Grazia was a small gathering with di Grazia’s quiet wisdom carefully shared. Wofford’s course walk was much larger, and liberally sprinkled with Wofford’s infectious sense of humor and a different set of insights. Here’s what I learned.

Course Walk with James Wofford at Rolex 2012

James “Jimmy” Wofford on course.
Sarah Miller/MacMillan Photography

The course begins with four galloping fences designed to get horse and rider into a confident rhythm before the first big question at the HSBC Water Park (#5a,b,c,d). According to Wofford it will require some very forward riding. It’s the first place that the horses will encounter water, and crowds. Di Grazia suggested the option for a horse or rider feeling more timid, but as with any option, that will take more time.

After the HSBC Water Park is what Wofford called a “breather” fence, the Tobacco Stripping Bench (#6). The Trakehner (#7, a log suspended above a ditch) is next, followed by a sharp turn into the infield water jump, (#8a,b) the Brush Water Challenge. The brush has the maximum drop. Di Grazia allowed us a rare opportunity to step past the ropes, and looking down over the brush at the top of someone’s head really brings home how far down that is.

Both men expect the Brush Water Challenge and the next one – a coffin combination jump called the Bridgestone Park Question (#9a,b,c) – to be possible game changers. The Bridgestone complex jumps will require a tight line, and good control to get through the narrow chevron brush at the end of the obstacle.

After that is another series of galloping jumps. This gives the horses and riders a breather of sorts, but don’t think that the pressure is off. Obstacle 13 – the Sheep Shelter – goes on to the number 14a,b obstacles, the Double Corners, and riders will need to have good control and a straight line to make it through, according to di Grazia.

The Land Rover Hollow was an influential jump last year, and di Grazia said this year it should be a little easier. After that is another “breather” – the Mountain Dulcimer (#16).

The Sunken Road (# 17a,b,c,d,e) goes in the opposite direction this year, and should be an exciting obstacle. Another breather fence, the Ditch Brush (#18), precedes a fan favorite, the Head of the Lake water complex (#19/20a,b,c,d). Wofford said in his walk that the lake has been here since 1977 and the crowds there are as big a factor as the jumping efforts at the Head of the Lake. Wofford said the horse can sense the crowds and you don’t know whether that will make the horse braver or more timid until you get there. Brave or timid, it’s a great obstacle, with five efforts to clear.

Jimmy Wofford at Rolex 2012

James Wofford, veteran eventer, coach, author and member of numerous U.S. international eventing teams, led a course walk sponsored by Practical Horseman magazine.  Sarah Miller/MacMillan Photography

Another breather fence is next (#21 the Stepped Table), then the HSBC FEI Classic Normandy Bank. Up the bank, bounce the rail and riders can choose either the right or the left side of the brush, depending on what they think their horse’s preference will be. Both di Grazia and Wofford said this is where you know how much horse you have, since the jumps come late in the round.

Then another galloping fence (# 23, the Keepers Brush), and then the deceptively simple Horse Park Shelters (#24 and #25), where Wofford commented you need to watch the line you take. Di Grazia says the riders can make up some time over the last four fences. The course ends, for those fortunate enough to get there, with the Fruit Stand (#29).

Weather might be a factor this year, with a possibility for a heavy thunderstorm with hail possible during the day. Keep your fingers crossed that Mother Nature spares us a downpour!


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