Since both the judges for the 2012 Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals—Geoff Teall and Bill Moroney—have strong hunter backgrounds, it comes as no surprise that the first-round course has a very flowing, huntery feel to it.
The majority of the fences—all save two red jumps—are subtle colors. Some have extensive brush ground line fill, but others have minimal ground lines, and the Swedish oxer has no ground line.
The course map dictates that: “The number of strides from #5 to #6AB, from #6AB to #7 and from #10 to #11ABC is optional and less important to us than the quality of jump created by the rider.” That should eliminate much controversy about whether a certain number of strides is preferred by the judges!
The course, which does have a dotted line to limit the riders’ courtesy circle, starts with an inviting vertical set on a long diagonal away from the in-gate. The jump has a roll-top and plenty of brush fill for the ground line. From there, riders follow the end of the ring to the left and jump a line of oxers across the diagonal. The oxers have stone-wall painted roll-tops, but no brush filler. The distance is four forward strides.
A bending line of five or six strides leads to a narrow white gate. The gate has lots of fill at the ground line and shrubbery as wings. It’s also set in between two other jumps, so it isn’t sitting starkly out there to aim at.
Riders then do a rollback around the end of the ring and jump an airy red vertical at fence 5. A sweeping turn around the corner of the ring leads them to fence 6AB, an oxer-vertical one-stride. The jumps have white rails and gates, and just one box as ground line. They then ride a bending line to a red oxer with no ground line, set at five forward or six holding strides.
They roll back around the end of the ring again, and flow across the diagonal to a birch hogsback oxer filled with brush. It’s followed by a bending line to the right to a birch vertical with plenty of brush fill at fence 9.
They then make a short turn off the rail to an airy Swedish oxer with no fill or ground line. A tight left-hand turn leads to an oxer-oxer-vertical triple combination with long one-stride distances set along the wall directly in front of the judges.
There are no tricks to this course, and it looks deceptively simple. But the turns and the striding will demand that riders have their horses in front of their leg and adjustable. The best riders on the day will make it look like a regular working hunter course.
The turn to the Swedish oxer and the tight approach to the triple combination will be places where some riders run into problems.