Over the weekend, I spoke with Richard Nicoll, course designer for the driving portion of the WEG. He was in town to check on the progress of the new marathon obstacles and to work with the course builder, Mick Costello.

Richard said that six of the marathon-obstacle sites being used at this year’s Lexington Combined Driving Classic / WEG test event will also be used in the WEG itself … the sites, that is, but not necessarily the obstacles themselves. This will let the crew test the ground conditions, and work on any “weak” areas they find. This sort of advance testing and tweaking isn’t usually possible at “one-off” events and championships, and Richard’s glad for the chance to be able to work out any difficulties ahead of the WEG. All this advance work will also allow the ground to settle and the grass to grow, so that what will in 2010 essentially be a new marathon course won’t actually look new and raw. It will look like part of the horse park.

The “hill” obstacle, which we featured here back at the end of August, is coming along quite nicely and is one obstacle that will (mostly) remain intact from this year’s event to the WEG. Richard assured me that it won’t look exactly the same, though. He’s very pleased with how it’s turning out … big, sturdy, and solid. There’s no doubt that it will look daunting, impressive, and exciting (depending on your vantage point) at this year’s event. But next year, it will be arranged and decorated to elicit a “WOW” from all who see it. One of Richard’s goals, in fact, is to have the marathon obstacles looking so impressive and beautiful during the cross-country Saturday of WEG that all the eventing fans unfamiliar with driving will be enticed back the following Saturday for the driving marathon.

the most recent view of the new “hill” marathon obstacle at the KHP

on the other side of the foreground grass, at the base of the hill, is the ditch where the water will go; the crew is installing a liner here, and we’ll have more on this tomorrow

another look at the “in-field” water splash, from a different direction

Another goal: to position the WEG marathon obstacles in pairs or threesomes so that spectators can easily see two or more from a single vantage point (or at least within a very short walk) and to make several of them so exciting to watch that people will want to wander and see them all. There’s nothing worse than having only one exciting water obstacle on a marathon course and all the spectators crowding around that one so that there’s no fan support at any of the others. To that end, the “tight / technical” obstacles are in some of the less-popular, more out-of-the-way spots, and the “galloping” obstacles, of which there will be several, will help keep the crowds interested and moving.

More work is being done on the “hill” obstacle today, and more work will be done on the course in general after this year’s test event. We’ll keep you updated!