2. Upper body control is key.
Almost anytime I saw someone have a problem, specifically on cross country, it was because their upper body got ahead of their horse. Not to worry, everyone has days that are more difficult than others. Many of the best riders knew exactly when to stand up in the stirrups, control with the core, or two point in a forward position.
3. The course rewarded the bold (but not too bold.)
I found it very interesting how both the show jumping course and the cross country course pushed the horses for time. This forced the riders to either run at a very fast pace or plan their striding very carefully. As the day went on, the younger riders seemed to take the longer stride (preferring the 3- to 4-stride at the water combination rather than the 4- to 5-stride the veterans took) and it seemed to pay off, shaving precious seconds off the time. However, they also needed to be careful, as shown by the corners, which were easy to run at and run out on.
4. Impulsion is important.
This is something I've been seeing at home, at shows, and now in the upper levels. Everything comes from it. Many of the horses who failed on cross country were "trantering" (trot-cantering). It puts everything off balance and messes with the pace. Even the commentators spoke on keeping the forward pace of the canter but being able to balance in that canter.
5. Eventing is still a 3-phase sport.
More and more we see competitors finishing on their dressage scores. Carolina was a wonderful surprise in that the rankings moved in all three phases, especially after the tough cross country course. There were some massive jumps in placings between Dressage and Cross Country.
What'd you learn from the Carolina International?
Watch and learn, smile, and have fun!