I have always loved drawing out cross country courses & designing fences. Recently I have started to pursue gaining some more insight into how to design a cross country course, planning & building etc. I've done some homework looking through books & online, but what I think would be most helpful would be to ask the riders who compete cross country courses.
Now I don't event myself (& I know some people out there are going to immediatly say that I shouldn't even contimplate designing a course if I don't even go cross country), but I have groomed at several of the larger events & walked courses with professionals. I also had the opportunity to sit down with some designers & ask questions about course design. Needless to say, I understand what is required to build a course even though I don't ride them.
I really want to know what you guys, the event riders, have to say about courses. Some specific things are; What fences do you feel are the most difficult (upper level & for BN/N/T level)? Do you prefer a course that is more straight forward or more technical? What types of combinations do you think are the most interesting? Do you prefer long gallop stretches or a course that offers more jumps with less gallop room? What are a few of your favorite jumps from different events?
I'm certainly welcoming any other information that you would like to supply. The more the better! Thanks so much for your help. I figured coming directly to the eventers & getting information is always a good thing! Thanks so much for helping me learn more about cross country!
At BN and N, the ditches/ water/ banks/ trakheners tend to be the most difficult fences, with the occasional downhill fence/ shaded fence/ horrifying white fence etc. causing terrible problems.
At T & up, it's the combinations, because the vast majority of the horses and riders that make it that far are reasonably brave about the individual fences. And corners and skinnies, just because they require so much accuracy.
I prefer straightforward courses, especially at the lower levels (but hey, I only go T!) I want a fair amount of galloping, because that's what makes cross country unique. In a perfect world, I want my horse to come off course having learned something, but also pleased with and full of himself and having had fun. Obviously there are good days and bad days, and not all of it is attributable to the course designer--but I always seem to have this feeling at Fair Hill and Plantation, particularly.
1) Good footing (I know there is only so much you can do as a course designer, but I do think you can avoid some areas that are consistently boggy, etc)
2) Well built, solid, INVITING fences
3) Good use of terrain for the level. Part of XC is riding up and down hills, and I think it is important to include that on all courses. But don't go overboard. There are some unrecognized that use very steep hills on the BN/N course, and the horses and riders just can't balance well enough at that level.
4) I hate blind turns or fences that "surprise" a horse, especially at the lower levels. The fence might be 3', but it can still destroy the horse's confidence.
5) Gallopy courses are always nice, especially for the first few fences, so you can get in a rhythm.
6) I'm OK with more technical elements at novice, but sometimes you need to provide an option or make the fences on the smaller side. I've seen half-coffins at novice, and I think they are alright, but they should be on the softer side (smaller ditch and fence, a few strides between elements). In general, BN should be very straightforward, no combinations with ditches, banks, water.