2 oktober 2009

Kentucky: competitors await beautiful marathon

International O-course designer Richard Nicoll from the USA has designed a beautiful marathon for the over 90 competitors at the CAI-A Lexington, Kentucky. This WEG Test Event hosts a combined driving event for competitors from FEI level, intermediate level and preliminary level, which is a big challenge for Nicoll.

Nicoll’s favourite obstacle is the hill obstacle, which will get a pergola by next year: “I would like to give the spectators an exciting moment when the competitors and their horses suddenly come up the hill towards the spectators.”

This year, three out of seven obstacles include water; this varies from a true water obstacle to a water splash. Although the obstacles might be a little too easy for the four-in-hand drivers this year, this will be different next year since they will then be entirely designed for the horse teams. The decoration is relatively primitive this year, but this will all be more glamorous in 2010, said Nicoll.
In 2010 every obstacle will get a video screen so the spectators can follow the competitors in the eight obstacles.

Photos by Rinaldo de Craen

When designing the obstacles, Nicoll’s goal was to impress the spectators in such way, that they will become a driving fan for the rest of their life: “During the cross country phase of the eventing competing at the WEG, which is one week before the marathon, I already want to give the spectators a taste of what they can expect next week. They have to become so curious and interested that they like to come back for the marathon. This is our chance in the US to show people what driving is like and we have to make use of it.”
The same team constructs the marathon obstacles in Kentucky, which is responsible for building the cross-country obstacles. The posts are nice, round and smooth and everything is done to avoid injuries.

Course designer Richard Nicoll

The obstacles are situated quite far apart, but the spectators can still follow the competitors in several obstacles.
Nicoll has tried to design the obstacles as much as possible like an amphitheatre. By building the obstacles in the lower grounds, the hill around it offers room for a large number of spectators: “I have noticed at various big international shows that spectators are packed behind each other around an obstacle and only the people in front were able to see the obstacle properly. I wanted to prevent that, my goal is that as many spectators as possible are able to see the obstacle.”


But Nicoll is comfortable with the situation: “I have been building the course here in Kentucky for the past two years and I was the course designer here in the 80’s as well. I am used to designing obstacles for classes of different levels.“ The FEI and the intermediate classes drive all 7 obstacles, while the preliminary classes only take 5. The FEI competitors must take all gates in every obstacle, while the other two classes only have to take up to gate D or E. Nicoll has done a great job flagging the posts, since the way from D to the finish is just as challenging as the way from F to the finish of the obstacle.