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October 11, 2009

The 2009 Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals Course

Judges Leo Conroy and Ellen Raidt, with help from course designer Steve Stephens, have set a course with lots to do today for the Medal Finals. The questions come hard and fast—there’s no room for a breather.

Riders have to enter the ring and proceed directly to Fence 1, a vertical set coming out of one of the far corners of the ring, heading back toward the in-gate.

Then, a flowing bending line to the left leads to a white oxer. After jumping Fence 2, riders have to circle back to the right immediately at the end of the ring by the in-gate , and then jump a vertical at Fence 3, which is set just to the left of Fence 2. A sharp left turn of just four, five or six strides follows to get them to Fence 4ABC, a triple combination of birch rails and of oxer-vertical-oxer. The two oxers have large birch rolltops under them, which could be spooky. The one-stride distances between elements look a shade long, but definitely doable.

The challenge here is to have enough impulsion on the tight turn to carry the horse through the combination. 

From the triple combination, riders curve left around the end of the ring to a vertical set by the out-gate, Fence 5. Then, they negotiate  bending strides through the corner to Fence 6, a brown oxer set against the long side of the ring. After Fence 6, they have two options for a turn to Fence 7. A line of ferns leads away from Fence 6, with a gap in them after about 25 feet. After the gap, there’s a piles of straw bales about 15 feet further on. Riders have to choose to turn into the gap about two strides after landing, or turn after the straw bales, or make a more wide, sweeping turn around Fence 9. The three turn options are marked on the course map. The jump they’re turning back to is a plain coop with no wings, set almost parallel to Fence 6.

 After jumping the coop, the riders have to turn right and jump a narrow, wingless wall. The turn is complicated by the fact that Fence 5 prevents a really straight approach. Then, there’s a bending line of six strides to a Swedish oxer of white rails at Fence 9.

A quick left turn past the in-gate leads to Fence 10AB. This is a combination of two split-rail verticals, but the A and B elements are offset. A direct ride through, angling both elements, has a long two-stride distance. Riders can choose to bend a bit in the middle and do the three strides. But many are running into problems with get being positive enough with the direct two strides.

Just four strides in a left turn leads to a line of oxers set on a diagonal triple-bar at Fence 11. The course map dictates five strides to Fence 12, a white oxer and the last fence on the course. The five strides get quite quiet, and require a tactful ride to avoid looking like they're strangling the horse down to the last fence.

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