Between the Flags: Leslie Law Walks Through XC at Oktoberfest CCI4*-S

With dressage and show jumping behind them, it is time for the CCI4*-S competitors at the Oktoberfest three day event in Aiken, South Carolina to set their sights on the showcase of eventing: cross country. The pristine grounds at Stable View are adorned with meticulously planned cross-country elements built by ETB Equine Construction and decorated by Beth Perkins and Sam Keats. This year’s course designer, Captain Mark Phillips (GBR), who was assisted by Mogie Bearden-Muller (USA), has set a testing 35 effort track that will require horse and rider pairs to be at their fittest. Phelps Sports spoke with Olympic gold medalist Leslie Law (GBR) to get his thoughts on this year’s track and what he and his fellow competitors will have to take into account as they navigate each question.

Fence 1: Log Box

Law’s thoughts: “You just want to come out of the start box with the horse out in front of your leg. You’re really just going to come to this one with a nice rhythm to get a nice jump there at fence one.”

Fence 2: Diamond Table

Law’s thoughts: “Here you are trying to be economical, again you have a nice line down to fence two to get the horses thinking and going forward. The goal is to get your horses confident here at the first few fences.”

Fence 3: Designer Builders Cabin

Law’s thoughts: “Fence three is not a big fence, but you have a bit of terrain on both sides of the jump, so it’s more of a footwork exercise for the horses to get their feet moving.”

Fence 4: Barry’s Desk

Law’s thoughts: “This fence is really the first big jump on the course. It is slightly downhill, but you have a nice turn there to make sure you have the horses balanced. You just want to stay alert here because going down the hill you could get dragged into it a little bit.”

Combination 5AB: Meadow Oxers

Law’s thoughts: “After running down the hill, you come to what is the first combination with this double of oxers. I think a lot of riders here will be looking, quite honestly, to ride up well to the first oxer so that we get a nice forward ride in on a little bit of an inside line. Then you’ve got quite a forward six-strides. I think that if you get a backward ride in or if the hill drags you down you might have to quickly change your mind and put in a stride there to make that seven strides. You have a decision to make there. You really want to be getting a nice ride in and hopefully getting the six to set the tone for the course, which is forward riding.”

Fence 6: Giant Log Pile

Law’s thoughts: “After the combination you settle down a bit to jump this single table, followed by another quite large table.”

Fence 7: Chevron Table

Law’s thoughts: “These are nice, straight-forward fences, but after this you have to run up the hill to your first accuracy question.”

Combination 8AB: Stable View Brushes

Law’s thoughts: “You have to jump these two hedge brush boxes on an angle across these on one-stride. This is your first accuracy test on holding your line, but it should be straight forward.”

Combination 9AB: Hillside Rails to Hillside Triple Brush

Law’s thoughts: “After your rails here, you have to have a forward ride to your triple brush. Again, obviously, this is all about accuracy and the horses holding and keeping on your line. This might catch somebody out, but the horses are so good at this sort of thing and it is right there in front of them, I don’t see too much trouble here.”

Fence 10: Hitch and Tow Hammock

Law’s thoughts: “From the combination we have this nice, straight-forward type fence in this hammock type table, but it is followed by our first water jump.”

Combination 11ABC: GL Williams Boat, GL Williams Step and GL Williams Cabin

Law’s thoughts: “This is quite nice. You have a rollback turn into this water, so it’s going to be a little bit about how brave you want to be and how tight you want to keep that turn to be economical with your time. You jump your little sailboat in the water and ride out of there on five strides up the step, then over the narrow house and back into the water splash. Again, you are looking for a nice ride up the step with it being a bank to allow the horses to keep their energy and momentum up the step to give them a comfortable jump over the house.”

Fence 12: VTO Brush

Law’s thoughts: “This is a straight-forward big fence that gives you a chance to settle the horses after the water. Another chance to make sure that you give them a good ride, so this should be a straight-forward fence.”

Fence 13: Hay Rack

Law’s thoughts: “Again, like 12, this is just another straight-forward fence to get the horse moving again.”

Combination 14AB: Aqueduct Table and Alp Corner

Law’s thoughts: “This is our first serious question, I would say, in this table to the corner. This big tree is planted right in the middle of the line to kind of push you off it a little bit. I think the thought here is to jump the table really slightly across it right to left so that you have a very slight right bend to the corner on an open four strides. I think that is a proper question.”

Combination 15AB: Alp Brush Tier and Alp Triple Brush

Law’s thoughts: “Here we run up a sort of awkward little bank with this fence right on the top, and then obviously a very steep bank going back down with this very skinny triple brush at the bottom. I think we are going to see four strides and three strides down here. I think it totally depends on what sort of ride you get at the top of the bank and then how the horses react to that. Whether they land and go down the bank a little bit careful, then you will be on four strides. But if the horses are bold down here, you will get down here on the three strides. It is very much reacting in the moment here for the riders. I think until you get up on this bank and know what sort of ride you have going to the A-element and what might happen here, you don’t really know if you will get three or four here. The riders are going to have to be able to react to what is happening underneath them at the moment. I think this will be good and it will be interesting to see how this rides.”

Fence 16: Elephant Trap

Law’s thoughts: “Here we have the nice bold jump over the ditch to get the horses thinking forward again.”

Combination 17AB: Dog Kennel Corners

Law’s thoughts: “Next is the two right-handed corners. The one right before the water splash I think is okay. I think with the corner right there just into the water splash, you will want to be a little bit patient here as a rider in the turns. You will want to make sure the horses are square to this and just have the chance to read it. I think the key here is jumping the first corner and just being a little bit patient and not be in too much of a hurry here. I think that is the test, being quick but also giving the horses time where they need it.”

Fence 18: Step Table

Law’s thoughts: “This jump is a big table, for sure, but I think it will be okay!”

Fence 19: Pine Top Cross

Law’s thoughts: “The big cross question is over this big ditch, but I think this will be nice. They’ve been a little bit kinder here this year by putting this little potted plant right at the front. I think that makes it more inviting and we haven’t had that in other years. I think something as simple as that makes it just a little more inviting for you to ride up to.”

Combination 20AB: Derby Field Water In and Derby Field Wedge

Law’s thoughts: “After coming up the hill we jump into our third water jump over a log. This looks like it should ride quite well. Its four strides to the skinny triple brush, and I think that the horses at this level will probably read this well and jump it well even if it looks fairly difficult being a narrow fence.”

Combination 21AB: Blanchard Table and Amen Corner

Law’s thoughts: “This is the last big question and I do think that this is a big question. You’ve got a big table and a almost 90 degree bend to a corner which is hidden behind some trees. So I think this is a proper question. You have a bold jump to a careful jump. The accuracy jump is hidden a bit, so I think the horses will be a little bit late picking it up. I think again, you have an inside line in four strides or a little bit of an outside line in five, which can give the horses just a little more time to read it. I think we might see some glance-off’s here at the corner because it is a test of rideability, and at this point in the course the horses are longer in their stride and perhaps not quite as adjustable as they are halfway through the course.”

Fence 22: MIM Table

Law’s thoughts: “After that last combination, it’s really a question of keeping your head and really coming home as efficiently as you can. This one is a big table, but I think most will look to jump slightly across this left to right to get onto your line to the next.”

Fence 23: MIM Twin Table

Law’s thoughts: “This one is a bit more of a narrow, but wide, table. Still here just keeping your cool, like I said.”

Fence 24: Summer Cabin

Law’s thoughts: “I think for the last two it just remains the same, like I said at the last. The goal is to get home as efficiently as possible.”

Fence 25: Last Leap

CCI4*-S cross-country will begin upon the completion of the CCI2*-S division which starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Phelps Sports wishes Law and all of the competitors the best of luck as they gallop around the tracks at Stable View!

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