By Boyd Martin
January 19, 2016
The past couple of years I’ve gotten more and more involved with the Plantation CIC event, held in September every year. It’s an extremely important event for all the horses and the final preparation for Fair Hill, Pau or Galway Downs. Part of this mission is trying to make the event bigger to the public with trade fairs etc and secondly we are improving the cross-country to be world-class, with Mike Etherington-Smith designing the courses built by ETB Equine Construction. Our newest project is improving the footing.
Plantation Field has taken on a groundsman by the name of Jamie Hicks, most famous in Unionville for being one of the leading farmers, specializing in hay, corn and soybeans; also married to Kate Hicks 4* rider which brings a unique connection to the table. We brought Jamie onto the Plantation Committee and he is leading the charge in trying to make the footing on the course as good as anywhere in the world.
Last week one of America’s great racehorse trainers and footing expert Michael Dickinson was kind of enough to give Jamie and myself a 3-hour presentation on the art of footing. He has an unbelievable training facility in North East, Maryland with a number of grass gallops in pristine condition.
While we were there, the first section of our meeting covered equipment. Michael and his property manager Robert walked us through the various aerovators, spreaders, mowers and agro-vators that they use on their grass gallops. The next segment covered going out into the field with Michael and watch this machinery work. Then he showed us all the types of grasses he recommends for gallops. Different varieties have pros and cons: for example some are good in rain, some when it’s dry. On top of that he gave us a detailed overview of the care of grass, including fertilization, mowing height and irrigation.
In the final part we had a one-hour slide show of all the different gallops Michael’s been involved with here in the US and in Europe. We were blown away by the attention to detail Michael showed. I feel like we walked out of this meeting with a much clearer understanding of exactly what needs to be done to have good footing, come cross-country day at Plantation. It’ll take a couple of years to get it spot-on but with Michael mentoring Jamie we could have as good of footing as you’ll see anywhere in America.