Eric discusses this weekend at The Fork CIC and preparations for the eventing and driving courses for the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina.
Eric discusses this weekend at The Fork CIC and preparations for the eventing and driving courses for the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina.
Happy holidays, everyone! It has been a big year for ETB Equine Construction, including The Fork CIC3*, the American Eventing Championships, and the Central Park Horse Show in addition to our regular big events like Plantation Field, Fair Hill Stable View Aiken as well as the numerous horse trials that keep us busy year-round.
We are well into construction on the eventing and driving courses for the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC, and also have big plans for Fair Hill in the future. We’ve been hard at work in our shop in Virginia building portable fences for the WEG, and the North Carolina-themed course is going to be a lot of fun to put together.
From all of us at ETB, we wish you and your families a very happy holiday season and all the best in 2018.
Eric and the ETB Crew
We’ve got another successful event at the Fair Hill International in the books. The two star started off slow – five of the first horses fell off and then things got going and we saw the results that we were expecting. In all there were a few stops and falls throughout the day but no major problems. It was a pretty nice day temperature-wise and I think the footing was as good as it could be. We sort of dodged a bullet with the rain the week before the event. All of the hard ground turned to good soft ground. The challenges on the course were spread around pretty well. We didn’t have any broken pins or MIM clips- really all we had to do was put out a bit of gravel and put flags back up when they get knocked down. A lot of the corners take a lot of abuse! Last year we had one get a flag caught in its tail. That’s one thing about sitting on a cross country course watching horse after horse go by: you’ll always see something new and unexpected!
We took down the portables this morning and all the permanent fences that he’s not planning to jump next year. It makes it easier to clean up the grounds when the jumps aren’t out there. Next year’s event will still be on the same piece of ground, so there probably won’t be any huge changes. The spring event might still be run on that property but I think everything is subject to change in the coming months as we figure out what the four-star is going to look like and how everything will work around that. Over time these questions will be answered but for now we’re planning to run a very similar track and won’t have any major dirt work. The tracks are still fairly new: the two-star is a two year old track and the three-star is a three year old track so we still have a few tricks up our sleeve for making things interesting.
I’m finally home for a couple of weeks, and have Full Moon Horse Trials left for this fall, then it’s all WEG: Capital W, Capital E, Capital G! We have a lot of jumps to build in the next four months. A lot of that has started with carving animals and things, and I’m meeting with Mark Phillips at the end of the month to go over the plan for the Eventing track and Richard Nichols mid-November to put some sticks in the ground and nail down his plan for the Driving Championships.
If you want to be part of be part of the action give us a call – we are still looking for help and it’s a great year to get involved! I’ve wanted to build a WEG course for 20 years, here’s an opportunity to do it the first year on the job.
We got a ton of good rain Monday and Tuesday and after a few weeks of sunshine it’s now green, cold and wet – it’s Fair Hill weather after all!
This year the two and three-star cross country courses are going the same direction and there’s new stuff the whole way around: new combinations and handful of new portables. It’s very similar to last year – it’s very typical of Derek’s course design, a steady, calculated step forward rather than something radical that might not work. He always provides a good reliable test of the horses and riders.
From our end, all the brush is in and the decorations are great. We have maybe 80 fences and each one is decorated individually, plus all the other decorations on the grounds. It looks spectacular.
The Young Event Horse competition is huge this year – their courses are on the Sawmill side, where all the spring and summer horse trials courses are. They do their dressage today in the main arena, next to the two-star, so it’s a big experience for the young horses will the flags flying and all the atmosphere. Normally the YEH is almost an afterthought, set up on the side of a hill somewhere, but here it’s really front and center; it’s a true championship. We lend them a handful of jumps to help make the cross country course different each year, and with some changes from the usual horse trials it has that championship feel.
We’ve been pretty squared away here all week. A couple of the guys are at Boyd’s farm today doing a little work. We really needed to be finished Monday and did a little tweaking Tuesday. Yesterday we were really finished with all the final touches. Ideally you should spend Wednesday drinking coffee!
We really dodged a bullet with the footing because before the rain the footing was hard as a rock, which would have been too bad because the footing was perfect in the Mid-Atlantic for the past year or so. All summer it rained and everything was green and perfect. It really stopped raining the week before Plantation, and it hadn’t rained a drop in five weeks. This rain was perfect; a little rain helps quite a bit. It wasn’t like we had a bottomless summer drought, we really just needed a top-up. There was plenty of moisture in the ground and just the top was dry. There’s no irrigation here, but even with serious irrigation you can’t replicate Mother Nature. Conditions now are perfect and we are looking forward to the weekend.
Slide show photos copyright Amber Heintzberger. Please email amberwriter(at)aol.com for more information about ETB Equine Construction or if you would like a copy of a specific photo for media use.
The Central Park Horse Show Arena Eventing Challenge was a major logistical challenge for our crew. We used two 40’ trailers to transport the jumps, because there are some limitations as to what you can bring in to the city – we were 13’6” high and the Lincoln Tunnel is 13’ maximum, so we drove over the George Washington Bridge and then down to Central Park. If these jumps get on the news, we want it to be because they’re great jumps and it was a spectacular night, not because they’re jammed into a tunnel!
They’re all Mark’s fences, we loaded them in Tryon on Thursday. We took one of the trucks to my shop in Virginia, loaded up the “Big Apple” keyhole fence onto the trailer and then drove to the city. The only thing that didn’t work out was that the leaf for the big apple fell off the truck somewhere in New Jersey. We improvised with some brush, but next year it’ll be properly outfitted with its leaf and stem. It looked really good, and it was such a disappointment to lose it. You kind of wonder where a four-foot leaf and stem end up, but we improvised and did the best we could.
Both trucks arrived Friday night and that’s where the challenge began. When we arrived the ring was set up for the jumpers. To jump Saturday morning/afternoon were the hunters, and to jump Saturday evening were the eventers. The storage yard was 24’x12’, and it’s just a little sloped piece of property. We had to put the jumps somewhere, and effectively we had to assume there was zero storage.
Bobby Murphy, who’s the designer for the hunters, was AWESOME. I’d been to Central Park four years ago when we first talked about the eventers, but you never know how it will really work until you’re there, and Bobby’s experience with the venue was invaluable.
There’s no precedent for this competition in Central Park, where they’ve got hunters, jumpers and eventers all sharing the arena back to back in a venue like this. I don’t think this has ever been done in the history of the world.
So Friday night after the Grand Prix, the jumper jumps had to be taken out and the hunter jumps brought in. The only thing they shared might have been the jump cups, so everything had to be cleared out! Bobby made islands and decorations out of some of our jumps so that we could “store” them in the arena. We had the brush jumps flanking a hunter jump, the bank was an island covered with flowers, the corners were islands with more flowers decorating them. I’m going to say we had 13 jumps plus two warm-up jumps, and we got all but seven in the ring with the hunters and the rest went in the little storage area.
We worked through the night and all of this concluded at 6am. When you’re in a situation that has to come to a conclusion, you’re awake because you need to be. You can’t do 70%, you can’t leave anything until the morning. We’d started that afternoon and worked straight through, then got a few hours’ sleep back at our hotel.
The schedule was demanding: the night we loaded at my shop we finished around 1:30am and then left for the city. Friday at midnight we started unloading jumps and finished at 6am, then headed to the hotel. Saturday at 5pm the hunters finished up and while they took their jumps out, our last five eventing jumps came into the ring and everything had to be moved into place. We had piles of hay bales, piles of hunter jumps. Remember there was only so much storage space, which also had to hold all the hunter jumps. We had two machines to move things around. After the hunters were finished Mark Phillips was laying rails on the ground and working out his courses which he’d drawn to a scaled drawing, but it always looks different in the ring than it does on paper. He’s laying the course out while there are still piles of stuff everywhere: rails, flowers and so on.
I’d never met Bobby Murphy before this weekend since I’d never been to a big hunter competition and Bobby had never been to an event. I think what we learned is there’s a lot we can do together next year. There’s a lot of stuff he brought that we had, and vice/versa. Next year the event jumps can be decorations for the hunters, so we can both bring less stuff. We did use a lot of the hunter decorations and flowers and stuff for our course.
Sunday was “family day” at the horse show so we had to clear out pretty quickly on Saturday night. When the class ended around 10:30 pm every jump had to get un-staked, un-numbered, taken down and put on the trucks to go back to Tryon, along with some additional stuff – a few dozen show jumps that had to go onto the already full trucks. We hired drivers for the trucks and they hit the road right away when we got everything loaded up.
The whole night time build and trucks and the way NYC works wasn’t foreign to me; it’s been 20 years since I worked construction in New York City, but I always liked working in the city at night. It’s always been fun to me that the “city that never sleeps” really never sleeps. We finished between 2 and 3 in the morning and went out for breakfast and there were still people out. Dylan flew home to Montreal and I’m getting back home to Virginia so I can get down to Stable View in Aiken, then back up here for Fair Hill. The other day we figured out with our fall schedule, we’re responsible for about 1200 horse jumps.
The apple and the bank were built for this, but the rest of the jumps have already been used at Wellington and Tryon. Some horses did crazy things over the bank but it was a good simulation of cross country. That’s what makes the arena eventing exciting and different: the jumpers jump extraordinarily big jumps extraordinarily fast and extraordinarily well. You can’t improve on that unless you add cross country jumps, and the Arena Eventing was really spectacular.
I did this one and Wellington with Dylan, and he does the Royal in Canada, so we’ve got a lot of experience between us now. I also did Devon. We only had three weeks’ lead time for this event, which they added when dressage was canceled. It was Sunday at the AEC’s when they made the decision; we were between levels on cross country, and Shelley called me and asked if I’d do Central Park. I said I don’t really understand what I’m agreeing to, but yes. We’ll figure it out on Monday. It was the same for Mark, he pulled that course together having never been in that ring. He did a phenomenal job: it was safe, it was fast, it was hard. You don’t realize until you’re in there just how small that ring is.
I think the team format is where the Bellissimo group really hit it right. That was sort of the shot in the arm that “Arena Eventing” needed to draw the crowd in, with the clock running continuously – two riders had to have every footfall perfectly and the riders looked different from the hunters in their jerseys. It was fun and I think the greatest part for me is it’s sort of the ultimate logistical test. There were some parts of Friday night that felt pretty low, when we were still working in the middle of the night, but by the time Saturday night’s class wrapped up, I was really to do it all again.
Once again we will be the course builders for the Wellington Eventing Showcase, January 5-6, which is similar to what we did last year. This is an easy year for us at this event since we are using jumps that we used last year, and some jumps that we used at the AEC, so we do not have to build anything brand new.
The Fork CIC3*, which is moving to the Tryon International Equestrian Center, will be a completely new track for the Advanced division. They’re also adding the Modified division, which is a new division between training and prelim, at 3’5” in height. That will be a completely new course including portables, with similar questions to the other courses. I don’t think every event is going to have this level, because it’s a stepping stone between the levels – but it makes sense for TIEC to have it, and for the to create a championship course for it too.
We’ve built a bunch of ditches, banks and steps for the prelim through intermediate levels on the Equestrian Center side of the property at TIEC, and we’ve done a lot of work on the track for the new advanced course, which will be on the former golf course next door. All of the dirt work is finished now, and Mark and Tremaine have a design, so now we’ll place the portables and build a handful of post and rails. It’s well ahead of schedule and the grass is seeded and growing. There are a bunch of bridges under construction, because a stream runs through the golf course, which we’ll cross a few times. It’s all going to be green and beautiful by April; that’s a really nice time of year in North Carolina.
The dirt work is also done at Plantation for next season, so now we’re just waiting for grass to grow there, too. I’m at home where things are a bit quiet and spending some time getting caught up in the workshop. We’re doing a bunch of benches for a Botanical Garden right now, which is a fun change of pace, and we also did an entryway for a local guy. I generally like to stick to horse jumps, but this is something different.
Stable View added the Aiken Opener this coming weekend, so we’ve set all the fences there. It’s BN through prelim and the idea is to keep it on the easier side to get the season started. They left out some of the big spread tables and made the combinations a little easier, and you start and finish in a different spot than they used to. Mogi Bearden-Muller designed it, so it’ll have a different feel to Mark Phillips’ courses. Aside from that we’ve built all the portables for the Intermediate, which they’re hoping to run in October.
COMING SOON: Directions for building a simple portable fence at home
While nobody sitting at home is thinking about Plantation Field yet, a lot of people behind the scenes are thinking about it and taking steps to improve the course for next year’s event. We just finished doing all the dirt work to reverse the one, two and three-star courses next year at the Plantation Field International in September, 2017.
The Ruin has a middle section that’s always been rubble and debris and we cleaned all of that up . There’s still some rock work restoration to do ,but it’s looking good. The point was to get the seed on the ground and start growing grass; you can do the rest, like rock work or building timber fences whenever, but at this point in the schedule it’s all about footing. The excellent weather at the moment is an added bonus. This is really the best time of year to do the dirt work, with a season and a half of growing season before the event, and things are right on schedule. The fall of 2017 seems like a long ways away, but it’s not that far anymore!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We’ll have more updates after the holidays.