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Review of the Year 2017 by Richard Jeffery

After 12 years of reviewing selected show jumping courses, before they were built, this year the format of the program was changed to reviewing them after the Event.

All but two of the F.E.I. Events held in America were chosen, with the idea that while Technical Delegates and Jury members travelled to many Events across the Country, few show jumping Course Designers had that opportunity. This allowed these Designers to review these courses with the ultimate goal of maintaining an equal level of competition throughout the country. Eventing Show Jumping Course Designers for National Horse Trials, and anyone else with interest in Course Design, could also review the course maps as preparation for F.E.I. level competitions.

Along with posting these courses it was intended that I would write a short, constructive, critique of the tracks and general design. To help me to do this I developed an Evaluation form which was sent to the Course Designer in advance for them to complete and return it to me, with the course plans, after the Event. The idea of this form was to give me a little insight to the event as far as arena size, weather conditions on the day, any changes that took place with the time allowed and any other comments that may have affected the competition. An additional question was to offer the Course Designer the opportunity of stating, in hindsight, whether they would they have changed anything.

Originally, I was planning to use this form just for my use, but I soon discovered that it contained a lot of information that would be useful to other people studying the course plans, so these sheets were then posted with the course plans. I have to add a big thank you to all the Course Designers who allowed me to share their personal thoughts.

While all I was originally planning to offer in my critiques was a short analysis of the tracks, I soon realised that there was more to offer in an educational way, such as placement of triple bar’s, the different types of combinations and their distances, the use of islands as turning points, etc. This would be useful to anyone who wanted to study course designing or further their knowledge either of designing, or in the case of competitors and trainers, a better understanding of how certain lines ride.

On each of the individual reports I listed the percentage of clear rounds for each Division. I have now complied a chart of all of the Events, comparing each under the headings for the various Divisions, and if the show jumping took place either before or after the Cross-Country.

However, we need to read this chart with caution as there are so many differing conditions relating to each Event. While it is hoped that all competitions have been built to the same standard, the level of competitors may not be the same. Not all arenas will have the same footing and in many cases the jump material will differ. This was very apparent at one Event were the poles were only 11ft long and 20mm cups were used. These percentages for all the Divisions were well below the average.

In this chart I have also listed the number of starters, as Events with numbers in single figures can distort the percentages very easily, as one less, or one more clear round, can change that percentage as much as 10% to 20%. At the base of the chart I have averaged out each Division.

From past experience I would have expected Events, that held the show jumping after the Cross-Country, especially in the long format (CCI’s), to have had much fewer clear rounds, but this was not the case. This could be down to the improvement, not only in the designing of the show jumping courses, but the fact competitors are now taking this discipline more seriously and improving their training. I also hope that this program over the years has contributed to that.

The final figures show, in general that the Two and Three Star Events average around 33% clear rounds. The One Star are a little lower at 30%, which may be due to the fact that the F.E.I. One Star show jumping height is 5cm higher than the National Preliminary height, while the other phases are similar. The Three Star percentage is much higher, which could be due the fact that a lot of competitors in this Division are in fact riding Four Star horses, so they are jumping a course 5cm lower than they would at a Four Star Event.

Because of all the variables listed above, I do not think we should read too much into these figures. However, any Officials involved with Events where the percentages are below 25% or above 40%, may wish to go back to my report of that Event, and see if there are any improvements that could be made in the future.

By posting the course plans of each Event there is an opportunity for people to copy them. However, there is a danger here, and I would suggest, firstly, you read the comments on that course, and secondly, only select a plan that is built in an arena that is the same size that you plan to build in, and that the ‘in-gate’ is in the same approximate position. There is a common saying that “you cannot fit a quart (two pints) into a pint bottle”. The same applies to courses. Each course posted was designed for its own size arena, taking into account the position of the in-gate, its terrain and level of competition. As soon as you try condensing a course to fit into another venue, you lose the flow of the track and suddenly some jumps will not fit into the space.

Now that the season has come to the end I hope more people will have the time to go back and study some of my reports and learn from them. Finally, I must thank all the Course Designers who very kindly sent me their plans and comments and to Shealagh Castello at the Federations offices, for her untiring work in assisting me, and for posting all the relevant documents.


Richard Jeffery

USEF Eventing Show Jumping Course Advisor