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  1. #1
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    Default Smurfs taking a stand? Should courses be a guessing game?

    I'm sure persefne won't mind me reposting this here. I thought it was an EXCELLENT read.

    http://4stargazing.blogspot.com/2011...sing-game.html
    Last edited by eponacowgirl; Mar. 29, 2011 at 09:56 PM.



  2. #2
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    I totally agree that thoughtful, accurate course descriptions are a WONDERFUL thing, and wish more places would do them.

    But to be honest, for Training and under there just aren't THAT many questions separating an easy course from a tough one. If a pair is legitimately ready for a level, that means to me that they are ready for anything within the guidelines.

    I almost always do my first show of the year at a level lower than normal just to get going again, especially if I don't have a chance to school. Never been south for winter showing in my life.

    The courses are the same for everyone. Either you're prepared, or you're not.
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  3. #3
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    delta, I agree with you in theory (hmm, second time this week...), but I can think of several examples where better course descriptions would indeed have been helpful at T and below.

    One year a local Training course had 2 very modest fences (one shared with Novice) as 1 and 2. 3 was a pretty unfriendly ditch and wall.

    This is a fence that is considered, in area II, as a tough Training question. To put it at fence 3 was definitely "tough" -- way tougher than the majority of local T courses which don't even ask this question, and tougher than the one or two that do, but 2/3 through the course when you've got your groove going.

    That was the day I came home with a ribbon with 2 stops (yes, at the ditch and wall) and time. More than half of the division didn't even cross the finish line.

    I think there ARE differences in how you present the admittedly limited questions at the lower levels, and I wish we had more descriptive blurbs to gue us...
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by deltawave View Post
    I totally agree that thoughtful, accurate course descriptions are a WONDERFUL thing, and wish more places would do them.

    But to be honest, for Training and under there just aren't THAT many questions separating an easy course from a tough one. If a pair is legitimately ready for a level, that means to me that they are ready for anything within the guidelines.

    I almost always do my first show of the year at a level lower than normal just to get going again, especially if I don't have a chance to school. Never been south for winter showing in my life.

    The courses are the same for everyone. Either you're prepared, or you're not.
    I see where you're coming from, but I don't totally agree.

    We had an offset question on a N course last year that was just eye popping.

    Someone pointed out a chevron on T at this last Poplar show that was questionable.

    We had a jump on a N course last year that was maxed out and a bit on the trappy side that appeared until you were in the air over the fence that you were jumping INTO the water.

    In our area (geographical, not USEA), anyway, seems like KHP is one of the few that does their events in a progression, giving you the option to increasingly challenge your horse as the season goes on and they gain confidence- AND- you can count on year after year to have a similar course.

    I think the directives are being lost- which is fine- as long as we can rely on a course description to help us choose where to bring our horse.



  5. #5
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by eponacowgirl View Post
    Someone pointed out a chevron on T at this last Poplar show that was questionable.
    I know which chevron you're talking about, and while I think the chevron itself would have been fine if put in a friendly location, I thought its positioning was made it much more difficult. It was placed near the water. The riders jumped a large canoe , then had to go down hill and to the right for the chevron. The turn was not an easy turn, Intermediate turned to the water in that general area and I didn't see many Intermediate rides that looked smooth through the turn either. Also, the jump was located right next to the Intermediate in to the water, and almost every single Training horse was largely focused on the Intermediate jump and didn't even see the Training chevron until too late.



  6. #6
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    I think Novice is getting to be the new Training, just like several years ago Training began to resemble the new Prelim. Courses are SO much more technical at N and T since I started out in this sport, only 15 years ago. to be honest, thinking back that far, I think Prelim has changed the LEAST.

    The gap between T and P used to be huge, but it is not so big any more IMO. Training has gotten more technical, and so has Novice. Not everywhere, but in a lot of places.

    Still I think we need to accept that this is the way many courses are, and be prepared. If we're planning a successful season at Novice, we do need to expect offset questions, half coffins, little corners, and bank/water questions that test confidence. Training may have some almost-Prelim questions AND a lot of shared jumps with Novice. (this is very common, IME)

    As to expecting courses to be similar year after year . . . that can verge on boring, especially if a venue literally never changes their courses or does so only marginally.

    Nadeem Noon has a great saying WRT being anxious about XC. "Be
    overprepared". Nothing wrong with bumping down a level the first time out.

    That said, course maps with pictures are one of my criteria for a really top-notch event. Feedback to organizers on this is probably the only way to make it happen.
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  7. #7
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by deltawave View Post
    But to be honest, for Training and under there just aren't THAT many questions separating an easy course from a tough one. If a pair is legitimately ready for a level, that means to me that they are ready for anything within the guidelines.

    I almost always do my first show of the year at a level lower than normal just to get going again, especially if I don't have a chance to school. Never been south for winter showing in my life.

    The courses are the same for everyone. Either you're prepared, or you're not.

    Well said and I agree, especially with what's bolded. While I have seen an occasional "left field" lower level course that made me go "and what is the horse supposed to learn from THIS?" , the majority of lower level courses I've seen fall under deltawave's description.

    Also, to address this (from the blog):

    I wonder why the USEA doesn't get more regular or routine updates on courses and course changes around the US? It wouldn't be too difficult. The designer and builders and organizers would know well enough in advance to email some details that could be posted online somewhere.....anywhere.
    While I think it would be great to see an initiative like this taken on the part of the USEA, I don't know how feasible it would always be. Mr. faybe is a CD/builder and is on the road building and designing for all but a few weeks out of the year. Especially during this time of year (busy spring!), he DOESN'T have the courses laid out that far in advance. For example, he has been south building since January and didn't make it to Morven to set courses for their event next weekend until last week, almost a full week after closing day. He's always thinking of courses in the back of his head, but until he's actually at the farm (and sometimes as late as the week or two leading up to the event when he's physically setting the courses) he doesn't have the exact course to put on paper and hand to the organizer. Given the time crunch that he (and many other CDs) face during peak competition seasons, I just don't see a high degree of compliance for such a program. As a competitor "average, for horses with some experience with this level" is the ultimate frustration if you're trying to decide which event to enter, but having seen the other side of it, I'm not sure what the answer is.

    I WILL say, you can usually count on course designers to put out the same types of courses. Yes, they try new things and are always making an effort to keep courses fresh, but (for all the CDs I know at least) their design styles are pretty consistent. In lieu of any organized effort by the USEA or some other group to put out "course summaries", take a look at who is designing at the events you want to enter and you should get a pretty fair idea of what to expect.
    If it were easy, everybody would do it.

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  8. #8
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    Default

    This is a great thought-provoking post and I'm really enjoying hearing about how all the changes have come about and what other riders do to prepare themselves. My horse and I are moving up to Novice this year, so I really want him/us on good, welcoming courses the first few times out and move up from there.

    I had a BNT once say to me "Ya know, I'm not a fan of overfacing my horses." She wanted them fairly comfortable with jumps/questions above their competition level so they can gain confidence at their competitions. It works very well for her!

    I have GVRDC nearby which puts on two HT, Spring and Fall, with the Spring one an "early season" competition with Intro, BN, N and T/N. Their website has pictures of a all the jumps so you can see most of the questions (can't get a perfect angle for all of them!). For the Fall HT, the track is different and the jumps/questions are upped to a more appropriate "end of season" level. This may be a system that other HTs could implement.



  9. #9
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    Default

    Showing this winter at 4 shows (RH Fall, Ocala Jan, RH 2x in February) I will say that the Rocking Horse courses definitely ramped up from their Fall course, and from the 1st Feb to the 2nd February event. At the 2nd event in Feb, they pulled an open ditch out of novice due to approaching weather conditions, but training at both had rolltop open ditch to jump out that were going downhill, with the first one set at a 1 1/2 stride.....so many were eliminated at training at those 2 events.

    The Ocala course seems easier for the LL riders, not sure about upper since I am not riding those
    Beth Davidson
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  10. #10
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    Default Thank you!

    Thank you all for your thoughts (and for taking the time to read my blog). Wow. I appreciate your feedback so much.

    I just posted a comment to the blog that mentioned a possible way to approach an initial "information sharing" system and I'm going to see if I can't at least start that for some of my local events here around TN/KY/SC by next week. I think if it were a riders' initiative (on a voluntary and cooperative basis), then that would remove the responsibility from the organizers/designers/builders. The volunteer could get a quick update to an already cataloged course description of the existing tracks, and then write a detailed update and share it from there. Additionally, as I mentioned in my blog comment, the ERA site is a riders' site (not the BE site), so what better way for riders to help other riders? Good stuff.

    In terms of the issue of levels, courses, and challenges, I think that the one thing we all agree on is that preparation is the key: if you're prepared for your level, you should be fine. But, therein lies the true value of the theoretical and the assumptive use of the word "should." We all know that doesn't prove true on all counts. I think that what I'm seeing most (and hearing about the most) isn't the type of jump, height, width, or construction that is a problem.....but, rather, the presentation of the fence on the course. Sometimes it's an odd or unexpected angle, sometimes it's a fence in an unfortunate location, and other times it's just bad luck regarding the other obstacles surrounding or in the line of the lower level fences. I'm not sure how to approach that issue, because it pushes beyond just the measuring stick saying a fence is 2'9" or 3'3". It goes much more into the realm of the user's interpretation of an element, which isn't always as black-and-white as what is on the designers plans or what the notches on the yard stick say. It's very much like my job as an English teacher, in many instances. If I prepare work or teach in an objective vacuum, then I am not presenting information for the benefit of my students. No matter how many classes I teach or how many students I am assigned, they are my students, and I take ownership of those learning sessions and the responsibility is on ME to teach them....not to just put things in front of them and hope they find a way to learn the material, consistent with their level of incoming knowledge and education. Students are individuals; they learn differently, see differently, and hear differently. The way I structure my lessons and assignments is very customized each session, although I'm teaching the same materials and asking the same questions time and time again. My class is one of the most traditional and demanding, yet my students work hard because 1). the EXPECTATIONS are always clear beforehand, and 2). they ultimately realize success and satisfaction in a job well done (no matter the grade.....or "placing" in the class). I think the same thing applies to preparing questions and challenges to horses and riders at shows. And, of course, the ill-prepared always do get caught out, but at least those who have worked hard and tried hard come away with a pleasant and fair result (and that's not always reflected in ribbons). It is a sad day to come away from an event and the only number of the 20+ starters who feel satisfied are the riders holding a ribbon. That's not a good experience. And, this goes right back to my earlier thought about the riders helping other riders: if riders can maybe prepare and write the course update reports, then the information can be shared from user to user, which might go one step further to a better understanding of what is changing and what to expect on any given course.

    Anyway, thank you, again, for the responses and your thoughts. I'm going to do a bit more work on this in the next few weeks and see where it takes me!



  11. #11
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    Default

    isn't the type of jump, height, width, or construction that is a problem.....but, rather, the presentation of the fence on the course. Sometimes it's an odd or unexpected angle, sometimes it's a fence in an unfortunate location, and other times it's just bad luck regarding the other obstacles surrounding or in the line of the lower level fences. I'm not sure how to approach that issue, because it pushes beyond just the measuring stick saying a fence is 2'9" or 3'3". It goes much more into the realm of the user's interpretation of an element, which isn't always as black-and-white as what is on the designers plans or what the notches on the yard stick say.
    Very rarely will you find a course designer at the USEA level who hasn't thought about ALL of those things. Sometimes those are intentional questions: siting a jump next to an Intermediate one, a more difficult angle, etc. Some of the local/unrecognized HTs? A bit more of a crapshoot, IME. But whenever I've gone about a question on a course and sought out either a very experienced rider, TD, or course designer, the question has become obvious and is entirely intentional. Just because I don't know the answer to the question doesn't mean the question is inappropriate for the level.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by asterix View Post
    One year a local Training course had 2 very modest fences (one shared with Novice) as 1 and 2. 3 was a pretty unfriendly ditch and wall.

    ...
    That was the day I came home with a ribbon with 2 stops (yes, at the ditch and wall) and time. More than half of the division didn't even cross the finish line.
    Conversely, I LOVED that jump. It earned me and Belle a Red ribbon by finishing on our dresage score- which was, IIRC, second to last after dressage.

    It is the Trakhener at Frying Pan that eliminates her. But I don't complain that the course is unfair.

    But more to the point, I do not believe that the organizers know the details about the course when they send in their omnibus listing.
    Janet

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).



  13. #13
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    Venues are afraid of stating what their courses are like for the most part. Some now will state hilly or difficult for this level. But they don't want to hear that they explained their course and we disagree with them or worse, that they are held liable.
    We do have http://www.crosscountryreview.com/ that we don't use. I'm guilty, I know. But we should put our opinions out there so you get a general consensus of the course at that time.
    The issue is when they change it up enough so the nature of the course is different.
    Like our first training was at Waredaca. Had a good time there at novice, I'm familiar with the training course, it's at the right time. Well, I had NO idea that particular event they had, I had to share the entire course with the championships and the T3DE. Boy, was that a shocker. Fortunately, we were clean and happy. But if I had a horse that was going to top out at training, I wouldn't have had a good time and a course description of their intentions would have helped me tremendously.
    Conversely, I went to Millbrook and was told word of mouth that it was on the difficult side. Hot dog! I thought because our dressage has been dismal lately and might actually come home with a ribbon. But I thought the course was on the average with experience at this level side. I didn't get the difficult at all. I'm thinking maybe because it's area 1? I dunno.
    Even duct tape can't fix stupid



  14. #14
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    What a great read! I too have often thought of how USEA could improve this issue. I think improvements in this small area of the competition would fall right into the current safety discussions. If LL competitors were better prepared prior to entering an event, maybe there would be fewer occurrences of BN pairs being injured (physically or mentally). I know what my horse is capable of and I would never knowingly overface him. If better course descriptions were available I would gladly pick the ones appropriate for my horse and me.

    One way USEA may be able to better designate the difficulty of a course is to possibly implement a numbering system. Perhaps rate the courses on a scale of 1-5 within each level. That might make it easier to distinguish the "move-up" courses from the "championship" ones. It also seems like a fairly easy way to uniformly rate the difficulty of various courses.

    Part of good training is the art and ability of building a bond with your horse through a constant and methodical process. Of course, events/shows are meant to test the horse and rider's strengths and bring to your attention where improvement is needed, but the LL should be confidence builders.

    "Move-up" courses are becoming increasingly scarce. Even events that offered straight-forward courses early in the season in the past have made changes to reflect courses which are now much more challenging. One major problem with that is that competitors don't know that until they arrive on the show grounds immediately prior to competition. At that point you have already paid the expensive entry fees, made hotel arrangements, driven your rig there on the gas/diesel that is $5.00 per gallon, taken vacation time at work...etc. It is my preference to know beforehand what type of course I will be facing before I make the trip.

    I hope in the future a method can be put in place to help with this ongoing issue.



  15. #15
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by Heliodoro View Post
    This is a great thought-provoking post and I'm really enjoying hearing about how all the changes have come about and what other riders do to prepare themselves. My horse and I are moving up to Novice this year, so I really want him/us on good, welcoming courses the first few times out and move up from there.

    I had a BNT once say to me "Ya know, I'm not a fan of overfacing my horses." She wanted them fairly comfortable with jumps/questions above their competition level so they can gain confidence at their competitions. It works very well for her!

    I have GVRDC nearby which puts on two HT, Spring and Fall, with the Spring one an "early season" competition with Intro, BN, N and T/N. Their website has pictures of a all the jumps so you can see most of the questions (can't get a perfect angle for all of them!). For the Fall HT, the track is different and the jumps/questions are upped to a more appropriate "end of season" level. This may be a system that other HTs could implement.
    Agreed! Competition is not the time to introduce new types of fences or concepts. If the horse doesn't know about it before the competition, then they won't just automatically learn it at the competition. Very good points!



  16. #16
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    I also think that it's problematic to have the "moveup" events mostly in the spring and progress to more difficult events later in the season. Personally, my horse is coming off a vacation/ minimal jumping starting back, and I'm often not really in a moveup place until I've run 5-6 events and by then it's July or August.



  17. #17
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    I agree. I am MOST likely to move up in September. VERY RARELY in the spring.
    Quote Originally Posted by Highflyer View Post
    I also think that it's problematic to have the "moveup" events mostly in the spring and progress to more difficult events later in the season. Personally, my horse is coming off a vacation/ minimal jumping starting back, and I'm often not really in a moveup place until I've run 5-6 events and by then it's July or August.
    Janet

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).



  18. #18
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ntoeventing View Post
    What a great read! I too have often thought of how USEA could improve this issue. I think improvements in this small area of the competition would fall right into the current safety discussions. If LL competitors were better prepared prior to entering an event, maybe there would be fewer occurrences of BN pairs being injured (physically or mentally). I know what my horse is capable of and I would never knowingly overface him. If better course descriptions were available I would gladly pick the ones appropriate for my horse and me.

    One way USEA may be able to better designate the difficulty of a course is to possibly implement a numbering system. Perhaps rate the courses on a scale of 1-5 within each level. That might make it easier to distinguish the "move-up" courses from the "championship" ones. It also seems like a fairly easy way to uniformly rate the difficulty of various courses.

    Part of good training is the art and ability of building a bond with your horse through a constant and methodical process. Of course, events/shows are meant to test the horse and rider's strengths and bring to your attention where improvement is needed, but the LL should be confidence builders.

    "Move-up" courses are becoming increasingly scarce. Even events that offered straight-forward courses early in the season in the past have made changes to reflect courses which are now much more challenging. One major problem with that is that competitors don't know that until they arrive on the show grounds immediately prior to competition. At that point you have already paid the expensive entry fees, made hotel arrangements, driven your rig there on the gas/diesel that is $5.00 per gallon, taken vacation time at work...etc. It is my preference to know beforehand what type of course I will be facing before I make the trip.

    I hope in the future a method can be put in place to help with this ongoing issue.
    Actually, several years ago I developed such a scale and presented it to TPTB of both USEA and USEF. Received positive responses from both organizations, indicating they planned to use it as a template for a more formal presentation - then nothing.
    Ping me if you are interested and I will send it to you.

    Sending it to Brian Sabo now. For what it is worth. . .
    "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
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  19. #19
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    ..."training at both had rolltop open ditch to jump out that were going downhill, with the first one set at a 1 1/2 stride.....so many were eliminated at training at those 2 events."



    What is the point of putting in a 1 1/2 stride combination at any level? (Ok so I am a gutless wimp but dont horses need to be given the opportunity to save themselves?)



  20. #20
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    Well, a "move up" course, being a very easy one, is suited to both spring AND fall. If I'm pretty solid at Training but rusty after the winter, a "move up" course at Training is just the ticket. But if my goal that year is Prelim, I'd also like to see a Prelim move up course later in the year, too.

    Really I think this is all about rider preparedness. You might hear a pro or very experienced rider complain about a certain jump or combination or the flow of a course, but they don't want to know how each course is going to be before they enter.

    Maybe the "Rider" divisions need to be where some softening of courses takes place? After all, there are currently NO differences between Horse, Rider, and Open divisions. Maybe there should be a few options, with the Open classes making the tougher questions mandatory?

    But in the end, we have to ride the course that's there, or not. Personally I don't want the same course year after year at a show, and although course photos are great, I don't need the answer key for every question.
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