Tomorrow will see the Great British squad take to the terrain of the Blair estate as the cross-country phase is contested. The Ian Stark designed course, his first Championship track, boasts 29 fences across the 6000m CCI3* track.
After their dressage tests this week the athletes have been commenting on their thoughts on the course;
Team GBR’s pathfinder Kitty King said on her role; “I was a little surprised when Yogi said would I go first, because I haven’t been on a team before I thought they’d put me in the middle somewhere so I kind of got that in my head, I’ve had a bit of time to get my head round it and it’s not as bad as I thought.
“I’m a bit terrified of having to go first [for the British team on cross country] you want to make sure you get a good round, and a quick one, for the team so there’s a bit more pressure than when you are riding for yourself but we will do our absolute upmost and best and hope to have a good round, he’s a solid cross country horse so hopefully he will be alright.”
One lady used to the Scottish terrain is Nicola Wilson, who partnered Coco at Blair last year; “He [Coco] came here last year so I know he’s been up the hills but I think that Ian Stark has been incredibly clever with the layout of the fences on the undulations, it is going to be a true test of cross country and stamina on Saturday. I know that One Two Many is fit enough he hasn’t missed any work and he has been bang on all summer so hopefully he will cope as well as any.
“We come here as prepared as possible hoping that we’re going to do the best that we can possibly do. He is in fantastic form, he’s very fit and ready to go, he’s in the best shape possible and hopefully we’ve ticked all the boxes in our preparation to ensure that both of us can do a really good job on Saturday and Sunday!”
After his dressage test earlier today’s Oliver Townend, who last competed at the Blair Castle International Horse Trials in 2011, said; “I think it’s plenty tough enough, I think it’ll ride a lot tougher than possibly anticipated, the terrain is always tough here and the fences are tricky I think, there are lots of places which will catch you out. There are a lot of hills and when you’re starting to travel fast obviously the horses become a bit mentally tired and that’s when mistakes can creep in.”
Scotland based Wills Oakden, who trained with Ian Stark for three years, described his thoughts on the course following a super test with Greystone Midnight Melody; “It’s one of the most beautiful cross country courses I’ve ever walked, but I think there are plenty of places where you could make a silly mistake. You’ve got to keep your eye on the ball the whole way, I think the major factor is the hill so it’s just bearing that in mind and making sure you’ve got enough horse to go out and tackle the last three minutes.
“I think Ian’s done a great job, it’s all jumpable you just have to keep your eye on it and make sure the horse understands the questions. I think every one is jumpable it’s just making sure you don’t make a silly mistake. You just have to prepare the horse as you feel is correct, you never know what the weather is going to do and that obviously changes the ground, so tomorrow may be a completely different test to what you are walking today.”
Francis Whittington and Catherin Witt’s Easy Target will be the final Individual rider to head out on the cross country course for Team GBR tomorrow afternoon, and he shared his plans for the course; “For me it’s important that we just get out there and get into a good rhythm and I’m not one to make lots of plans, I try to do it as naturally as I can and not stress about my distances.
“This is my first time up here and I think it’s a wonderful place and by all accounts we’ve got about the best ground! Riding around Ian’s course this weekend is going to be a challenge, it’s an exciting course, I want to make sure is that I don’t take any liberties and that I’m 100% safe.”
The British rider times are as follows:
11.16am Kitty King and Persimmon
11.44am Gemma Tattersall and Artic Soul
11.48am Sarah Bullimore and Lilly Corinne
11.52am Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison
11.56am Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre
12.24pm Nicola Wilson and One Two Many
1.24pm Izzy Taylor and KBIS Briarlands Matilda
1.28pm Oliver Townend and Fenyas Elegance
2.00pm Pippa Funnell and Sandman 7
2.40pm Wills Oakden and Greystone Midnight Melody
2.52pm Francis Whittington and Easy Target
3.16pm William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero
Visit the Team GBR TV Guide for details on how you can watch the action: http://www.equestrianteamgbr.co.uk/news/european-tv-schedule/