Designer details Rebecca Farm cross-country course
Different themes, elaborate designs and an interesting setup can be seen throughout the cross-country course each year at Rebecca Farm.
The course is a combination of several different designers working together to create the show.
A four mile cross-country course filled with high jumps, fish fences, in all about 275 obstacles designed to test the best.
"It's got lots of bits of natural terrain, natural features that I can use to design to test the riders and test the horses," said international course designer Ian Stark.
Stark knows what he’s talking about.
"I've been incredibly lucky,” Stark said. “I've managed to ride in five olympic games."
Now he's put up his saddle to instead design the cross-country course at Rebecca Farm and courses across America, the UK and Ireland.
"I have a theme of being bold and attacking and I want people to get out their and ride aggressively forward and have a good time, but all of my courses are different because every bit of land and farm is different," Stark told NBC Montana.
His planning for the next course is a long process.
"When I'm here during the competition like this week. I'm already planning,” said Stark. “The fences are all built now and they are all ready, so I'm starting to plan next year."
Course designing is even part of his everyday life.
"Even driving on the road, I'm not concentration on driving. I'm always looking over at hedges and fences thinking oh yeah a nice jump their would be quite good,” Stark said. “I think my wife gets a little nervous when shes a passenger in the car and I'm like oh look. Yeah, I'm probably not the best person to drive with."
His way of thinking helps him come up with tough obstacles. For example, a part of the course he calls the big jump where competitors first go over a large jump, then down a hill over another jump that drops nearly two meters into a pond.
"It's on the tougher side of each level,” Stark told NBC Montana. “I'm not known for being soft on the riders. I like them to have a sleepless night or two."
Since the horses do not see the course until when they are competing, he tries to make sure jumps can be easily read by the horse.
As for who comes up with the creative jumps and fences throughout the course, the jump design team brings Stark's vision to reality.
"A lot of it's just shapes,” said Rebecca Farm jump designer Bert Wood. “Ian will say you know I want a log shape here, but he wants it fancy well you know that's a fish or a moose or whatever, it gives us a shape and then we all come up with ideas between all of us and figure out how to build it. No idea is too crazy."
Their ideas range from dragons, to crocodiles, to city hall, but not every creative idea they come up with works out.
"So the hardest part is you come up with an idea and you need to make a nice friendly jump out of it," Wood told NBC Montana.
"I think one of the biggest things when we are building is we always have to have that thought of safety and really thinking about how we see the jumps verses the horses," Rebecca Farm jump designer Adrei Doyal said.
It's more than just creativity that goes into designing the course, but also a lot of research.
"A good example is the western town, which we came up with as an idea to build that so to keep things authentic with the area we had to research things like whose the first bank in Kalispell and things like that to make it more authentic and interesting," said Wood.
This year is shaping up to be one for the books.
"I've driven around it and I feel this is probably as good of one as I've produced here,” said Stark. “The decoration is phenomenal, the fences are good challenging fences and we've got some good horses and riders coming to compete."
Even though the festivities just get started on Wednesday, the creative juices will be flowing through Stark's head for what competitors will face for next year's course.