Border course shows promise

International course designer Mike Etherington-Smith with Albury-Wodonga horse trials course designer Sylvia Roberts and Meg Paterson, 13, on Red at the water jump. Picture: TARA GOONAN
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ONE of the world’s leading cross-country course designers has said he was envious of Albury-Wodonga’s equestrian facility.

And while the terrain may be a “little flat and plain”, Mike Etherington-Smith believes there is plenty of scope to improve the centre’s cross-country course to appeal to riders and spectators.

Yesterday’s visit to the Albury-Wodonga Equestrian Centre in Thurgoona was Etherington-Smith’s first trip to the Border and the man who designed the Sydney 2000 Olympics cross-country course was impressed with what he saw.

But the British Eventing chief executive and former professional rider also had some words of advice for event organisers.

“As a course designer we want to put horses in front of people,” he said.

“Don’t tuck the jumps away — you want to build a course that is both user friendly and spectator friendly.”

Etherington-Smith’s trip to the Border has been funded by Equestrian Australia to provide world-class mentoring to Aussie course builders.

He spent yesterday walking the Albury course and inspecting fences with Syliva Roberts, course designer for the Albury-Wodonga International Horse Trials.

Event director Angela Ramsay said it was a major coup to have input from a designer of the calibre of Etherington-Smith.

“To have the opinion and experience of someone associated with Olympic and World Equestrian Games is invaluable,” Ms Ramsay said.

Etherington-Smith said times had changed since the days when he was eventing.

In Europe the trend is towards courses with more vertical fences, deeper water and smaller timber to test riders’ skills, he said.

“It means people have to ride properly,” Etherington-Smith said.

“We need to build courses so that people can learn at the lower levels, otherwise they will crash and burn at the higher levels.”

Regional competitions were crucial in helping riders and horses progress up the ladder.

As a course designer we want to put horses in front of people. Don’t tuck the jumps away — you want to build a course that is both user friendly and spectator friendly.

Mike Etherington-Smith

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