SPOKANE SPORT HORSE FARM SPRING HORSE TRIALS
Date: May 11th – 13th
Running order of Divisions:
See Course Designers Evaluation sheet below
Advanced/Open Intermediate – 3/1 (35%)
Intermediate Open – 9/6 (60%)
Preliminary – 18/1 (6%) 7 clear including time faults (39%)
Modified – 16/6 (37%)
Training Open – 22/8 (36%)
Training Amateur – 11/6 (55%)
Training Junior – 12/6 (50%)
What I like about these courses is the difference in the technicality of each track without moving any fences.
This meant that providing all of the course plans were posted at the beginning of the day, the competitors could walk their own tracks well in advance of their Division. This also helps with quick course changes, which can be aided with two sets of fence numbers, in different colours, so the next track can be numbered (with those numbers turned around) while competitors are walking the current track.
The Course Designer had, correctly, designed his courses in advance of arriving on site, only to find a display of farm machinery in one corner of the arena. This meant that the line on the far side of the arena was riding into it and could cause a distraction to the horses. Unfortunately, this is something that all of us Course Designers experience at times and therefore the need to acquire as much information from Organisers in advance, including the running order of the Divisions, is important. However, by ‘flipping’ the courses 180 degrees, this distraction was averted and it showed good ‘horsemanship’ on the part of the Course Designer. This did mean that the Advanced and Intermediate Divisions were riding the first fence out of the in-gate, but at that level it was a lesser distraction.
I am not sure what ‘farm machinery’ was involved but care should be taken when anything is placed in the arena that could be dangerous should a loose horse gallop into it. In some case it may be better to erect a low fence around such objects for safety reasons. This is the responsibility of the Course Designer, along with the Technical Delegate.
It is interesting to read from the Evaluation sheet, from the Course Designer (posted below), how differently the line on the far side of the arena rode from the Advanced/ Intermediate Divisions to the Preliminary Division. This line was an oxer, 84ft (6 normal strides) to a one stride double of verticals, set on 26ft, to 72ft (5 normal strides) to an oxer.
In the Preliminary Divisions many of the competitors rode the last distance on four strides compared to those in the higher Divisions on the normal five. In theory as the fences get lower the take-off and landing distances get closer to the fence so this can open up the distance between jumps. This whould have made these lines slightly longer and therefore needed to be ridden with a little more forward stride. The line was also going home which can also open up the stride of the horse. If you look at the results of the class you will note that only 3 of the 18 starters in the Preliminary Division made the time allowed.
On paper, the course plan shows a long gallop from the fence preceding this line, which if the time was tight would encourage the competitors to open up their stride, in this line, to save time. Added to this, the line in question is quite a technical one for Preliminary horses, especially with only five strides at the end. Therefore, I am guessing that some competitors found it difficult to shorten their novice horses in this last distance and therefore the reason of leaving out a stride. In hindsight, it would be interesting if this were a five/one/six stride line, or if the last fence were a vertical and not an oxer, to see if it would ride differently.
The evaluation sheet below, shows that the’ Time Allowed’ for the Divisions, from Modified and below, were shortened after the third horse to complete the tracks without refusals, in most cases by as much as 10 seconds or more. Looking at the tracks on paper it is easy to see that the courses could be measured, appropriately for these Divisions, around some jumps or a wider turn was taken to what the some competitors chose to do.
It is worth remembering that these Divisions are ridden at lower speeds compared to the Advanced Division (375 m/m). Preliminary is 350 m/m, Modified and Training 325m/m, Novice 320m/m, and so on. It takes a very experienced Course Designer and Jury to decide at what speed an actual horse is doing, and different striding horses can be deceiving. If the course has been measured correctly, by both the Course Designer and Technical Delegate, there should be no reason to change the time unless a mathematical error has happened. Early competitors, not knowing how the course will ride, are inclined to ride faster than the appropriate speed for that Division, or they may choose to take a shorter, or inside line, that may suit their horse better. However, shortening the time in the lower Divisions should not be done to create a problem to later competitors, who chose to ride at the correct speed and take a more appropriate line for the level of training of their horse for that Division.
USEF Eventing Show Jumping Course Advisor