PDA

View Full Version : xc course design



Doodle
Feb. 28, 2010, 11:16 PM
I think Southern Pines got the right idea when they got a new course designer...I'm now not a big fan of John Williams design. apparently Pinetop - a great event in every other way - is an example...
Aren't early season courses supposed to get the horses going and build confidence??... instead this course (Pinetop) was trappy, tricksy.. and nearly 7 minutes long (advanced)...?? what's up with that?
Tons of trouble too...
geez, thanks john. what were you thinking? Not about the horses obviously..

gooddirt
Mar. 2, 2010, 09:27 AM
Were you here Doodle? Trappy and tricksy? Many of the riders were quite happy with the courses. Some of the questions caused some anxiety but they rode quite well.

This in no way is meant to belittle the very unfortunate falls and injuries but I have to defend John's work. He put a lot of good thought and effort into these courses.

One of the Advanced questions, the bounce/skinny/corner complex at Boot Hill, was one that we discussed at length with regard to late afternoon sun. The rider reps commented that the other riders liked it and wanted to ride it unaltered if at all possible. We concluded to add flower boxes to compensate for the sun and shadows and it rode fine.

The other booger complex was the coffin, which also rode fine and got a few glance-offs as it should have. After all, it is called the Cross Country Test.
Glenn

jpalisades
Mar. 2, 2010, 09:58 AM
Its always nice when events bring in a new course designer from time to time. Nothing against any designer in particular, just that is brings a "fresh pair of eyes" to a course and hopefully new courses/tracks. You know spice things up from time to time.

Most of John's courses have spots that when you walk them at times you go :eek:. But once on course, if you plan your ride correctly for your horse, they ride really nice. I like courses like that, if you plan and ride your particular horse correctly for him/her, you do come off the course going "h#^l yeah that was fun, lets go again:D"

Every course has its problems, at any level, from time to time! It could be the position of the fence, weather, lighting, footing, etc. But thats what makes is cross country.

pegasusmom
Mar. 2, 2010, 10:30 AM
I worked with John for about eight years as a course designer and am well aware of the incredible thought process he goes through in fence placement, terrain analysis course design. You may not care for his courses, You may not like him personally, but don't ever suggest that he sets out to design poorly set up trappy stuff.

Our group had a horse at each level, the prelim horse not hugely experienced at the level and the Int and Adv horse went out of the box with a catch rider. All three horses handled the courses with ease.

faybe
Mar. 2, 2010, 11:56 AM
I worked with John for about eight years as a course designer and am well aware of the incredible thought process he goes through in fence placement, terrain analysis course design. You may not care for his courses, You may not like him personally, but don't ever suggest that he sets out to design poorly set up trappy stuff.

Thank you, pegasusmom, very well said. If the OP has a problem with the course, she should fill out a event evaluation, not launch a personal attack or drag someone's good name through the mud.

pegasusmom
Mar. 2, 2010, 01:06 PM
Would like to add one last thing with regard to this - the TD inspects the courses to make sure they are incompliance and appropriate and the PoGJ gets the final say so to include overridng a CD. The PoGJ for this event is herself a "R" CD.

Coppers mom
Mar. 2, 2010, 01:30 PM
I think John designs some very good courses that ride very well. However, they aren't always easy, inviting, move up courses.

I've ridden his courses, thought I was going to die before going out, and have had clinicians say things along the lines of "Remind me never to come show down here!". But, you never see anyone coming off the courses looking like they didn't have an absolute blast.

They're a little too challenging for my taste, but then I'm always riding ultra-green horses at their first or second shows where that kind of course wouldn't be appropriate.

JER
Mar. 2, 2010, 01:45 PM
But, you never see anyone coming off the courses looking like they didn't have an absolute blast.

Does the above statement include the 12 riders who fell at Pine Top -- including 3 who were chauffeured off course to the hospital? And what about the 4 horses that fell -- did they have an absolute blast?

We all agree that no course designer wants to harm any horses or humans. But we have to take it seriously when things go seriously awry. An honest, unflinching investigation and assessment -- which is what needs to be done in these cases -- is not a personal attack on anyone.

Course designers have licenses and they need to be accountable to their licenses, much in the same way doctors and lawyers and hairdressers are. Otherwise, what's the point of a license?

Course designers make XC courses for the public to see and USEF/USEA members to ride. Which means criticism and commentary will ensue.

Carol Ames
Mar. 2, 2010, 01:54 PM
I found that, although his courses scared the **&*_:eek:__ out of me on walking it; after jumping it;;) the horse came out roaring like a lion on :cool:SJ

InVA
Mar. 2, 2010, 01:54 PM
But, you never see anyone coming off the courses looking like they didn't have an absolute blast.

.

I beg to differ...I've had several upper level riders tell me their horses don't come off these courses feeling confident, nor did they have a blast .. they come off feeling confused and backed off. not quite what you want early in the season I don't think. that's what the OP meant I think - that this early in the season the courses should be more inviting to get the horses going.. and to save the technical stuff for later.

pegasusmom
Mar. 2, 2010, 02:01 PM
Just to clarify - there were 11 falls at 10 different fences. And I believe that at least two of the horse falls were unrelated to fences.

And yes, hold your licensed CD accountable. But you damn sure better hold your officials JUST as accountable. At the end of the day the buck stops with them.

Carol Ames
Mar. 2, 2010, 02:10 PM
I.too, thought I would die; and did pull up :yes:rather than have the horse flip "rotational fall" just entering our vocabulary that time; I wondered what would happen to that event if, there were a rider death:sadsmile:;thought it through , decided I would die only if the horse stepped on my chest:eek: ; I only stated to enjoy it before he last combination, the water, and after , or at the last fence thought "ah-:(:sadsmile:--it's over?







I think John designs some very good courses that ride very well. However, they aren't always easy, inviting, move up courses.

I've ridden his courses, thought I was going to die before going out, and have had clinicians say things along the lines of "Remind me never to come show down here!". But, you never see anyone coming off the courses looking like they didn't have an absolute blast.

They're a little too challenging for my taste, but then I'm always riding ultra-green horses at their first or second shows where that kind of course wouldn't be appropriate.

Carol Ames
Mar. 2, 2010, 02:14 PM
But you damn sure better hold your officials JUST as accountable. At the end of the day the buck stops with them.

lstevenson
Mar. 2, 2010, 02:26 PM
I worked with John for about eight years as a course designer and am well aware of the incredible thought process he goes through in fence placement, terrain analysis course design. You may not care for his courses, You may not like him personally, but don't ever suggest that he sets out to design poorly set up trappy stuff.


I agree with this. While John's courses may tend to be on the challenging side, I feel that he is definitely one of the best and most thoughtful course designers we have. His courses always ride well if ridden well!

Jeannette, formerly ponygyrl
Mar. 2, 2010, 03:07 PM
Seems to me this winter, esp in the past 6 weeks or so, has been harder on training schedules than most years. If it hasn't been wet it's been icy, if not icy, covered in snow.

While it is certainly possible that the course design was flawed, I have to wonder first if horses were coming in with as strong preparation as they usually do.

Miriam
Mar. 2, 2010, 03:12 PM
I've refrained from saying anything about Pine Top this weekend, even though I was there spectating, because I only ride Prelim. So, in regards to Prelim only- the course was absolutely fine. It was a great course, and anyone who does their homework and plans their season accordingly would be ready for it. It's the third show Pine top holds in the spring/winter, so there is some progression. It was a hard prelim, but I saw a TON of bad riding. In particular, people familiar with the spring season in Area III realize that this is a show most people use to prep for the Florida * or other bigger events. If it's your second time out, you don't go to this one. That's why I wasn't showing. We have a few Prelims under our belt, but I'm holding out for the one in a month, which will probably be a little softer.

Now obviously there were some professionals who fell. I didn't see those falls, so I can't speak to what may have caused them, but I can tell you that everyone makes mistakes, and I bet they aren't blaming the course design.

There were some doozies on the A and I courses, that I was glad I wasn't jumping, but nothing looked terribly unfair, and I did see a lot of good riding as well. The one fall I saw at Int was totally rider error- she wasn't in good balance, jumped ahead, and came off over the shoulder when the horse pecked on landing. Mistakes happen, but that one for sure wasn't anyone's fault but that riders.

I really don't know what happened this weekend. I was completely surprised, considering the weather was AWFUL last year for this show, and the Advanced competitors did a great job of being careful and staying safe. I thought this weekend would be even better since the weather was pretty nice.

I have nothing but respect for the Wilsons and this great event, and I'm sure everyone involved is working to make sure all and any issues are resolved quickly.

gooddirt
Mar. 2, 2010, 04:14 PM
I am thankful and sometimes amazed that people like John are willing to be course designers and put it all on the line, knowing that whatever they do they will be criticized.

John also puts it on the line because he rides his own courses. That's a pretty good way to get immediate feedback and ideas for improvement.
Glenn

ThirdCharm
Mar. 2, 2010, 04:37 PM
I've ridden over a lot of John Williams' courses over the years (including Intermediate at Pine Top last year), and have found them to be very fair. Pine Top always makes my eyes pop a bit but always rides great, too.

We haven't been able to prep like normal here in the south due to the crazy weather, but if one was trying to get geared up or qualified for the big spring 3* & 4*s, or justify spending clients' money heading south even, one might be tempted to do something foolish.

Jennifer

Shortstroke
Mar. 2, 2010, 06:15 PM
My daughter and I were fence judges at PTF and for the prelim course were at jump #13, a large log at the top of a mound. Neither one of us thought that this fence was too challenging for Prelim and everyone made it over successfully. However, we discussed while OP was still running that it seemed to us that many of the professionals were riding green horses and that while they did make it over the jump, they didn't necessarily do it very well, handily, in good balance, etc... It was interestiing to see that many of the ones who were not very balanced stumbled the first stride after landing as they negociated the downhill of the mound. We need to keep in mind that several of the horse falls were not jump related. In addition, we need to keep in mind that the courses at upper level events are expected to be more challenging and are specifically not move up events. So the prelim at this event should be somewhat stiffer than at PTF's next event at the end of March as it caters to a more elite group.

Coppers mom
Mar. 2, 2010, 07:00 PM
I beg to differ...I've had several upper level riders tell me their horses don't come off these courses feeling confident, nor did they have a blast .. they come off feeling confused and backed off. not quite what you want early in the season I don't think. that's what the OP meant I think - that this early in the season the courses should be more inviting to get the horses going.. and to save the technical stuff for later.

I addressed this earlier in my post. He's hard, and you have to know that your horse is read for that kind of course. It was early in the year, but I've never seen John bring his courses down to "normal" just because it was early, they're always a bit difficult.

Coppers mom
Mar. 2, 2010, 07:06 PM
Does the above statement include the 12 riders who fell at Pine Top -- including 3 who were chauffeured off course to the hospital? And what about the 4 horses that fell -- did they have an absolute blast?

We all agree that no course designer wants to harm any horses or humans. But we have to take it seriously when things go seriously awry. An honest, unflinching investigation and assessment -- which is what needs to be done in these cases -- is not a personal attack on anyone.

Course designers have licenses and they need to be accountable to their licenses, much in the same way doctors and lawyers and hairdressers are. Otherwise, what's the point of a license?

Course designers make XC courses for the public to see and USEF/USEA members to ride. Which means criticism and commentary will ensue.

I believe there were 11 falls, all at completely unrelated fences, and some of them didn't even have anything to do with a jump. Some of the jumps that did have falls were considered "easy" jumps as well, and were just single fences with no combinations or anything in sight.

I completely agree that course designers should be held accountable for their courses. Personally, I don't think his courses are appropriate for the level, but it's important to know this when you sign up for the event, and keep in mind your horse's ability when you're walking the course. Of course, that brings up good and honest description in the Omnibus, etc etc.

Of course, I said all this months ago (His courses are too hard and not appropriate for the level), and everyone was up in arms. Interesting that now that things are falling apart a bit, people are taking notice.

Liebe-ist-Krieg
Mar. 2, 2010, 08:31 PM
I wasn't at Pine Top this weekend so I can't comment on those particular tracks, however in general I am a HUGE fan of John William's coures. I have run several of them at Pine Top and Rocking Horses (quite a few prelim's and most recently the Rocking Horse III Intermediate) and my horse and I generally come of course feeling super. I love the ratio of technical to galloping fences, and the way the technical questions look quite intense but generally ride very well. In general I also find the time quite attainable.

lizajane09
Mar. 2, 2010, 09:02 PM
I wasn't at Pine Top this weekend so I can't comment on those particular tracks, however in general I am a HUGE fan of John William's coures. I have run several of them at Pine Top and Rocking Horses (quite a few prelim's and most recently the Rocking Horse III Intermediate) and my horse and I generally come of course feeling super. I love the ratio of technical to galloping fences, and the way the technical questions look quite intense but generally ride very well. In general I also find the time quite attainable.

Same here - can't comment on Pine Top, but that is exactly how I felt about the RH III Intermediate course. However, there were 3 or 4 falls of horse and several falls of rider at RH as well, which is interesting to note in conjunction with the results of Pine Top.

pegasusmom
Mar. 2, 2010, 09:14 PM
Same here - can't comment on Pine Top, but that is exactly how I felt about the RH III Intermediate course. However, there were 3 or 4 falls of horse and several falls of rider at RH as well, which is interesting to note in conjunction with the results of Pine Top.

Counted one RF and one MR at Intermediate. I think RH utilizes another CD for the lower levels - several more falls at training. As an aside, I would be interested in hearing from anyone who was at Rocking Horse who saw the chestnut mare flip over the fence in one of the training rider divisions.

Liebe-ist-Krieg
Mar. 2, 2010, 09:20 PM
that is true-there was a hold on course as I was warming up for a fall at fence #4b (IIRC) and almost immediately after I finished I heard about another fall and subsequent hold on course, I believe at #4a. Is this usually the case for this level/venue? I rode the prelim course at Pine Top in Nov 09 and I don't recall hearing about any major issues then...And what about Rocking Horse Winter I and II?
lizajane09- You wouldn't happen to be the other YR I talked to during the hold on course would you? I was riding the bay who was shaking in anticipation :lol:

lizajane09
Mar. 2, 2010, 09:24 PM
Counted one RF and one MR at Intermediate. I think RH utilizes another CD for the lower levels - several more falls at training. As an aside, I would be interested in hearing from anyone who was at Rocking Horse who saw the chestnut mare flip over the fence in one of the training rider divisions.

Ah, didn't realize there was a different course designer for the other levels. Still an interesting observation though, that two different horse trials with two different designers on consecutive weekends both seem to have had inoordinate numbers of falls. So what is going on here? I know no one has a clear answer to that question, but it's becoming more and more obvious that we need to figure it out.

Did not see the mare flip, but there was also an MR at Prelim and one at BN as well as other rider falls. The BN one, I believe, was not so much fence-related as it was surrounding environment-related.

lizajane09
Mar. 2, 2010, 09:27 PM
that is true-there was a hold on course as I was warming up for a fall at fence #4b (IIRC) and almost immediately after I finished I heard about another fall and subsequent hold on course, I believe at #4a. Is this usually the case for this level/venue? I rode the prelim course at Pine Top in Nov 09 and I don't recall hearing about any major issues then...And what about Rocking Horse Winter I and II?
lizajane09- You wouldn't happen to be the other YR I talked to during the hold on course would you? I was riding the bay who was shaking in anticipation :lol:

Yes! I was wondering if that was you! We had a fantastic time out there, I saw you come off the course and you guys looked like you had a great go too. You're right about the holds - 4b was a rotational fall and 4a someone hit very hard and broke, so we were held while they repaired it. I think they only got off about 3 riders in between those holds.

Can't tell you about Winter I/II at RH, but I don't recall this many issues there in November.

Sportsfield24
Mar. 2, 2010, 10:28 PM
I second Glenn's thoughts completely. John puts an unbelievable amount of time and a tremendous amount of thought into all of his courses. He cares deeply for and respects the horses and riders more than most of you know. He is always trying to find ways to better his courses and help riders/horses come off his courses successfully and safely. We have so many checks in place with TD's, POGJ, CD'ers, rider reps., and organizers. All of those folks this past weekend apparently agreed on the safety of those courses and were prepared to stand behind their decisions to run them as designed or things would have been changed. Let's be honest here, these officials/rider reps are not going to be bullied into doing something that is unsafe for anyone out there. There reputations are also on the line. Most of them are in in the position they are in bc they have strong opinions and personalities and get the work done properly. They all shoulder a huge amount of responsibility for the safety of all of us and our horses at these events and I am pretty darn sure they knowingly accept that responsibility with serious regard for all of us and for our beloved horses. I believe with all my heart that all of the aforementioned are doing their best to create safe courses and provide good experiences for all of us from BN to Adv. level. I post very rarely, but I really am shocked at some of the cruel things people have written and I think if those folks are so bold in their posts and have such strong opinions, they should take them up with John, personally. I am very sure that he would listen and respond appropriately bc I have seen him do so on many occasions at the CHP with competitors at all levels. And for goodness's sake, if you feel so very strongly about this issue, sign your name and stand up for what you believe in and write. What are we, in middle school ?...where some kids use to write mean notes about people but not sign their names for fear of being known? Please grow up. By signing your name, you will, at the very least, show respect for your own thoughts and ideas. Take ownership in your attacks on people or in your kind comments for that matter. All in all, I think it is very unfair to blame any one person or anyone for that matter for these unfortunate accidents at Pine Top. It is John this week, but in our chosen sport of eventing, could be anyone next week. You could be the next one slammed on this forum even though you do your job well and really care. Very sad. Prayers and blessings go out to all of those injured from me and my family.
Michele Lobsinger

Carol Ames
Mar. 2, 2010, 10:46 PM
I agree that with respect to time of year:yes: after this particular winter:eek:; it might have been too trappy for :cool:adv. horses, but, isn' t that something the TD should have decided :confused:?



Was this concern brought up during the course walk?

Carol Ames
Mar. 2, 2010, 10:58 PM
This year, as last, there seem to be a lot of falls in Florida:eek:; what is/ are the cause(s)? just rusty?need to jump a few fences at speed? Does the UK/ Canada have the same problem?

EventerAJ
Mar. 3, 2010, 01:55 AM
While everyone is very quick to blame the course designer, I would like to offer a perspective that is rarely considered... I hadn't until an ULR mentioned it to me recently.

(Forgive me for stating this in a roundabout way. I do not want to mention names or specifics, or be unfair.)

There may sometimes be outside influence upon course designers to create courses to suit an alternate party; that is to say, the course designer does not always have the ultimate say in what is built. As mentioned in an earlier post, the POGJ can change anything on the course; and I've seen them do it, which later caused a problem for a few riders (riders would not have incurred problem via original CD's plan). I hesitate to mention it, but there may be others besides the POGJ who press a CD to create a certain course to suit that individual's agenda...and that individual may or may not have the entire division's success in mind. I am NOT implying this is what happened at Pine Top. I just want to provide the perspective that the Course Designer is not the devil from hell trying to kill us all. Sometimes he is merely an accomplice. ;)

I *do* think that a possible lack of preparation could have played a role in the difficulties faced at Pine Top. The weather has been exceptionally difficult this winter. And I think there has been a recent trend over the years to create "tougher" courses earlier in the season. I heard that there was a relatively light turnout at the RH Feb Adv HT, and the course was rumored to be "too easy," so certain riders skipped it and went (were encouraged to go..??) to Pine Top instead, knowing it would be a more difficult track. The report I heard from RH was the advanced course was quite friendly, very appropriate for this time of year to knock the rust off. Pine Top, it seems, was not so inviting for the rusty ones. This is just my opinion, feel free to disagree. I was not in either location, and my info could certainly be inaccurate.


As for John Williams himself, I have found his courses to be incredibly well-planned and his thought process usually very evident. He is also very approachable and willing to discuss anything he designs. There are some elements he uses that aren't my favorite; and sometimes his designs look excellent on paper but ride a bit wonky. However, I don't recall walking up to anything and being completely confused by the question presented, or feeling unsafe and dangerous.

LisaB
Mar. 3, 2010, 07:30 AM
What's the world coming to when you blame John on bad course design. Jeez! Wasn't there but have ridden plenty of his courses and specifically choose his courses at given times because I know his style and really love it.

gooddirt
Mar. 3, 2010, 08:32 AM
While everyone is very quick to blame the course designer, I would like to offer a perspective that is rarely considered... I hadn't until an ULR mentioned it to me recently.

(Forgive me for stating this in a roundabout way. I do not want to mention names or specifics, or be unfair.)

There may sometimes be outside influence upon course designers to create courses to suit an alternate party; that is to say, the course designer does not always have the ultimate say in what is built. As mentioned in an earlier post, the POGJ can change anything on the course; and I've seen them do it, which later caused a problem for a few riders (riders would not have incurred problem via original CD's plan). I hesitate to mention it, but there may be others besides the POGJ who press a CD to create a certain course to suit that individual's agenda...and that individual may or may not have the entire division's success in mind. I am NOT implying this is what happened at Pine Top. I just want to provide the perspective that the Course Designer is not the devil from hell trying to kill us all. Sometimes he is merely an accomplice. ;)(snip)


That's ugly. I have never seen it and I have built courses for 87 events at Pine Top.

Sometimes you do have to take individual riders' comments with a grain of salt, because sometimes they may be thinking of their particular horse's quirks. That's why it's a group review effort consisting of the rider reps, ground jury, cd, builder, and organizer. No single one dictates changes without discussing with others in the group.

Nobody's perfect and sometimes the last-minute adjustments backfire, but do not impugn the motives of those trying to do the right thing.
Glenn

martyc
Mar. 3, 2010, 10:27 AM
[QUOTE=Coppers mom;4720385]I believe there were 11 falls, all at completely unrelated fences, and some of them didn't even have anything to do with a jump. Some of the jumps that did have falls were considered "easy" jumps as well, and were just single fences with no combinations or anything in sight.

I completely agree that course designers should be held accountable for their courses. Personally, I don't think his courses are appropriate for the level, but it's important to know this when you sign up for the event, and keep in mind your horse's ability when you're walking the course. Of course, that brings up good and honest description in the Omnibus, etc etc.

Of course, I said all this months ago (His courses are too hard and not appropriate for the level), and everyone was up in arms. Interesting that now that things are falling apart a bit, people are taking notice.[/QUOTE


I believe John's courses are always up to the standards of the level. If you or your horse aren't ready for that level, DROP DOWN a level! Talk about accountability! Also, for those who think it is too early in the year for a "technical" course, please remember there is a CIC-W*** running this weekend. How do you expect riders to prepare for this if allt he courses are "easy"?

McVillesMom
Mar. 3, 2010, 12:57 PM
I don't know that I've ever ridden one of John's courses, but I have cliniced with him several times and I have always been impressed by his professionalism and care for the well-being of horse and rider. He is a true horseman, and I know that he has the horse's best interest and safety as his top priorities.

It sounds like there were many factors that played a role in the multiple falls at Pine Top. I wasn't there, but I have to wonder, as others have, about horse and rider preparedness - maybe not in all cases, but at least some of them....

millerra
Mar. 3, 2010, 01:43 PM
I've ridden one of JW courses - only novice.

Was it challenging? Yes - it was not a "move up" novice -BUT it was a late fall (end of season) event here. My horse is moving up to training this year. And we had an absolute blast. It had great galloping sections; nice, out of stride fences; and a couple of - let's slow down here, get our line correct- things.

My horse did come off the course thinking he was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I found myself thinking - I need to find more JW courses to ride...

(and this is from someone who has been whining about the increase in technical difficulty at the LLs)