The Olympic eventing showjumping course asked plenty of questions from horses and riders at the Tokyo Games – with spooky colourful fences and a tight time allowance, combinations were put to the ultimate test.
The course encouraged forward riding with a 79-second time allowance. A treble combination at fence five put accuracy to the test, while an influential double at fence nine (pictured), which had poles merging from red to yellow, needed positive riding for some combinations.
Ireland’s Sam Watson and Flamenco were one of the pairs to be caught out by the combinations, picking up faults at both.
“We don’t have the same vision as the horses. Whatever he was seeing, it wasn’t quite what I needed it to be,” said Sam, about fence nine.
While the first two fences on the Olympic eventing showjumping course for the team medals were quite straight forward and welcoming to the horses, the other influential obstacles included a big vertical at three, a water tray under a square oxer at four, a bridge wall at fence seven with no ground line, and a treble-bar spread at eight before the combination.
US rider Doug Payne, who picked up four jumping faults with Vandiver, said the course was “cleverly designed” and separated riders.
“You had to decide what’s best for your horse and it made you think all the way round,” he said.
“The triple bar could have been an inside six [strides to it]. I was planning seven but then it got a little shifty so I went a little steady for the eight and thought I had done it early enough that I could press him across it, but he still sat on the back rail a bit.”
New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell jumped clear but picked up 0.4 time-penalties with Diachello. He said the course rode “exactly” how he wanted it to.
“We’ve learnt a lot from going to Kentucky and jumping a really big track on a surface, and when walking some of the distances [today] I thought ‘oh that’s quite long’ but actually, we knew from Kentucky and we’ve been training with Shane Breen at Hickstead, that the distances are actually always going to be a little truer than you think,” he said.
Swedish rider Sara Algotsson Ostholt, who picked up 12 jumping-penalties and 0.8 time with Chicuelo, said the course was “a little challenging” in terms of rideability and that horses needed the ability to shorten and lengthen.
“The technical [side] was a little bit in-between distances and you had to choose,” she said.
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