The world's best horse and rider combinations will jump over giant logs, toucan carvings and a model of the Sambodromo on a French-designed, 5 km cross country course in Rio's Deodoro park early next week.
Eventing, the first of three Olympic equestrian competitions, kicks off on Saturday with individual and team dressage tests. Horses and riders will move on to the cross country course on Monday and medals will be awarded on Aug 9 after the final stadium jumping phase.
The Rio cross country course, designed by France's Pierre Michelet, starts out with a few inviting obstacles before running the horses through a water combination on obstacle four. Michelet said a down-hill combination at obstacle six, involving a tall and narrow brush jump set at an angle, could cause the most problems.
"I like to ask questions with balance," Michelet told journalists during a course walk on Thursday, adding that posing difficult tests early on a course is his signature.
Michael Jung and Sam, London 2012
Germany is out to repeat a team gold from 2012, with individual winner Michael Jung returning. Jung had to switch horses only a week before the animals were due to fly to Rio after his first choice horse got an infection. He will be riding Sam, a 16-year-old London veteran.
The unpredictable sport also forced last-minute switchups for Great Britain, which finished second behind Germany four years ago. The team added Pippa Funnell and her grey mount Billy The Biz on July 22 after another rider's horse was injured.
Funnell, like fellow Olympic medalist William Fox-Pitt, recovered from scary cross country falls over the past year in one of the Games' most dangerous sports.
"We just hope it’s not going to be too hot. The weather is potentially going to be warm, we just hope we are prepared for it," Fox-Pitt told Reuters.