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Assessing courses at the lower levels (BN - Prelim)

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  • Assessing courses at the lower levels (BN - Prelim)

    Thinking a lot about courses, course design, and soft vs difficult across each level. Is there some sort of tool to use to think through these ideas? Obviously, with any sort of skill, there is a trajectory of learning that needs to happen - it's not all or nothing. So, how does the eventer learn to read courses and evaluate them in general for a level and specifically for their own training?

    Here's what I thought would be interesting...for your level of competing, choose a course that represents soft, mid-level, and a "are you ready to move up?" - explain your assessment please. It would be neat to involve your trainer/coach. If nothing else, it will open a window for us personally as to how much we do or don't know about this sort of thing.
    ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

  • #2
    I compete Novice, hoping to move up to Training end of this season/beginning of next, so right now I'm looking for a lot of the mid-level courses. When it gets closer, I'll be looking for the "are you ready to move up?" courses. I think this is a great idea!

    I am not going to choose specific courses, more just explain what I think would be included/left out at each 'level within a level':

    A soft novice: At a venue with mostly flat, open terrain, or at a venue that does not place their fences on terrain that would make them more difficult (up and down hills, drop fences, etc.) Has a smaller amount of fences: 14 vs. 19. Time is at the lower end of the spectrum: 350 mpm - 360 mpm. A couple of fences may be maximum, but the rest are around 2'9" or less. No 'spooky' fences, all very straightforward and inviting. Maybe one two stride combination made up of 2'6" logs or something of the sort. No bending lines, no half coffins, no fences right before or after the water. Very flowy course, jump everything out of stride, no need to rebalance for combinations, etc. A small ditch, a water pass through, and a simple bank up or down, is totally acceptable for an "easy" Novice.

    Mid-level: I think this is the hardest 'level within a level' to describe because it should not be easy, but it should not be on the verge of being a "are you ready to move up?" course. While most of the fences on a mid-level Novice should still be straightforward, quite a few more would be maxed out and a couple of fences may have spooky fillers or groundlines. You may see a bending line of straightforward fences, 3 or 4 strides apart, labeled A/B. Maybe a step up, handful of strides to a small fence, possibly labeled A/B, but probably not. You may see a small fence situated at the top of a small slope, which would warrant collecting before the fence to encourage a small jump down. I think this is the point where you would see the course designer aiming for about 1/3 of the fences to encourage riders to say "Oh, I should pay attention to this one and half-halt and rebalance a bit." There may be a couple of 'rider frighteners' such as a faux trakehner or a low and wide table. These should be encouraging for the horse though. Still no half-coffins but maybe a fence 7 or 8 strides before or after the water, but not both. I think the mid-level of a level is defintely subject to variation because it is such a broad spectrum.

    Difficult/Ready to move up: This is where if a venue has a lot of terrain, they are going to use it. If they don't they are going to max out every fence they can and make difficult combinations. This is where you will see half-coffins (maybe even labeled A/B), bank questions (jump, bending line to a step down, few strides to another jump), some kind of a mound question, a bank out of water or a jump with the takeoff in the water, downhill fences, fastest speed allowed (400 mpm), 18-20 fences, a lot of 'rider frighteners', and a few fences that riders are really going to have to ride to get over. The course should certainly be hard, but not in a way that it is not forgiving of mistakes. It should not be dangerous in any way. This is why I believe we need a better description system of how difficult an event is. While I do believe that if you are going to move up, you need to be able to handle anything that is allowed at that level, most people move up without preparing fully and just expecting to go to the softer courses.

    What happens after they jump a couple of softer courses and then assume they have "some experience at the level," and then end up going to some place where there is a max width ditch, three strides to a max height and width table. (For one thing, that would be terrible course design! ) Neither the horse nor the rider have the training or experience to make it out of that situation if it goes badly. And a solid, max table set on a related distance that can be easily messed up due to the ditch being the first element, is not a forgiving fence.

    While it is a hard task, and not necessarily fair, I think that course designers have a certain responsibility to make the harder courses forgiving of major mistakes, particularly at the lower levels. Not so that it turns into an easy course, but so that mistakes are punished with a silly run out or a last minute refusal rather than a rider and/or horse fall.

    Once again, this is a great thread, sorry if I made it more serious than you intended!

    Comment


    • #3
      Please send me an email with this thread as the subject to grizcj@aol.com. I will send you the XC grading template I have sent to both USEA and USEF, several times over the past few years.
      The responses have been positive. . .
      "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
      Courtesy my cousin Tim

      Comment


      • #4
        Looking forward to this thread

        I've been spectating several events recently as horse has been nursing hoof ailments, and I'm always hearing 'that was a T level question on a N course listed as 'average' according to the Omnibus,' or something of that nature. Everyone has a personal preference, but at this point I've very unsure of what constitutes a 'fair' or 'difficult' question at the various levels.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by JFCeventer View Post
          Once again, this is a great thread, sorry if I made it more serious than you intended!
          Your analysis is PRECISELY what I want...and can use to learn! Thanks so much for your thought and for the time you took to write your smart thinking!
          ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

          Comment


          • #6
            Once you get to Training, there are not "supposed" to be any "soft" courses.

            Qualifying results at any 4 Training HT qualify the rider to go Prelim. So any Training course has to be tough enough that the qualifying result is meaningful.
            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).

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Janet View Post
              Once you get to Training, there are not "supposed" to be any "soft" courses.

              Qualifying results at any 4 Training HT qualify the rider to go Prelim. So any Training course has to be tough enough that the qualifying result is meaningful.
              What about the Training division at MDHT II? It says in the omnibus that it's a good move up course...that would make me think "soft."
              The big guy: Lincoln

              Southern Maryland Equestrian

              Comment


              • #8
                RFI, welcome to my friend, Experience.
                Experience is a pretty loyal buddy. He's been with me through the start of my jumping, and helped me along the way. Experience is the one who, when there is NO distance, sort of finds one for me by remembering all the things I have been taught, way back in the recesses of my very porous memory.
                Experience sometimes leaves me in the lurch, but when I really concentrate, Experience comes through and I can really count on him when I'm on an unfamiliar cross country course.
                Experience once let me in on a little secret. He works pretty closely with Observation, and ShutUpAndRide. Observation is a multi-tasker and I use him for lots of things, including riding, but I was a little shocked when Experience told me that. "Really? you use Observation THAT much?" I asked. Yes, he said, it's true. All that jump judging is useful for something, he said. Why else did I make you do it?
                And then I asked him about ShutUpAndRide. That's one of my least favorite friends, but Experience says that ShutUpAndRide has often helped him out of predicaments when he just could not find the thought or memory he was looking for. He's a last resort, but Experience said the one thing he can count on ShutUpAndRide for is action. He always finds something to make me do up there in the saddle, and for that, Experience is quite grateful, since he can't always find the thing I need when I need it.
                In all, Experience told me that analysing cross country courses has to do with what you have remembered about every cross country course and schooling you have ever done, and also what your instructors have told you, and what the BNT's have said when you walked courses like Rolex with them. Experience says you must always be open to learning about such things so that you don't need to lean on Observation or ShutUpAndRide, especially the latter, since he's a bit on the rough side and could get you in trouble, which Experience and Observation avoid at all costs.
                Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Duckz View Post
                  What about the Training division at MDHT II? It says in the omnibus that it's a good move up course...that would make me think "soft."
                  Yes, and it may be softer than MDHT I. But it still has to be "tough enough" to work as a qualifier for Prelim.
                  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).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by RunForIt View Post
                    Here's what I thought would be interesting...for your level of competing, choose a course that represents soft, mid-level, and a "are you ready to move up?" - explain your assessment please.
                    One place to start- how many "questions" does each jump ask?

                    At BN and N, IDEALLY, each jump should ask just ONE question- terrain, OR steering, OR bravery OR size. Of course, in reality there is almost always more than one question. But only one of them should be a "hard" question.

                    At Training, more of the jumps should ask TWO questions simultaneously. For instance a steepish downhill approach to a skinny asks both "terrain" and "steering", but it should be an inviting fence, so it doesn't ask "terrain" and "steeering" AND "bravery".

                    And so on.
                    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).

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by retreadeventer View Post
                      RFI, welcome to my friend, Experience.
                      Experience is a pretty loyal buddy. He's been with me through the start of my jumping, and helped me along the way. Experience is the one who, when there is NO distance, sort of finds one for me by remembering all the things I have been taught, way back in the recesses of my very porous memory.
                      Experience sometimes leaves me in the lurch, but when I really concentrate, Experience comes through and I can really count on him when I'm on an unfamiliar cross country course.
                      Experience once let me in on a little secret. He works pretty closely with Observation, and ShutUpAndRide. Observation is a multi-tasker and I use him for lots of things, including riding, but I was a little shocked when Experience told me that. "Really? you use Observation THAT much?" I asked. Yes, he said, it's true. All that jump judging is useful for something, he said. Why else did I make you do it?
                      And then I asked him about ShutUpAndRide. That's one of my least favorite friends, but Experience says that ShutUpAndRide has often helped him out of predicaments when he just could not find the thought or memory he was looking for. He's a last resort, but Experience said the one thing he can count on ShutUpAndRide for is action. He always finds something to make me do up there in the saddle, and for that, Experience is quite grateful, since he can't always find the thing I need when I need it.
                      In all, Experience told me that analysing cross country courses has to do with what you have remembered about every cross country course and schooling you have ever done, and also what your instructors have told you, and what the BNT's have said when you walked courses like Rolex with them. Experience says you must always be open to learning about such things so that you don't need to lean on Observation or ShutUpAndRide, especially the latter, since he's a bit on the rough side and could get you in trouble, which Experience and Observation avoid at all costs.
                      I love when you answer...BUT, I would suggest that experience is what you have AFTER you need TONS of it (who said this, Jimmy Wofford?). In the meantime, there are folks of all levels going out to compete, trainers and coaches who describe courses as easy, soft, average, doable, tough, difficult "move-up", and no real standard seems to be published to put all the descriptors in perspective. I've listened to different competitors describe the very same Novice course at the very same event here in AREA III as "exciting and I really had to ride" while the other rider said, "it was fun to be out XC, but the course was boring".
                      ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RunForIt View Post
                        I love when you answer...BUT, I would suggest that experience is what you have AFTER you need TONS of it (who said this, Jimmy Wofford?). In the meantime, there are folks of all levels going out to compete, trainers and coaches who describe courses as easy, soft, average, doable, tough, difficult "move-up", and no real standard seems to be published to put all the descriptors in perspective. I've listened to different competitors describe the very same Novice course at the very same event here in AREA III as "exciting and I really had to ride" while the other rider said, "it was fun to be out XC, but the course was boring".

                        Ahh you met the "Friend" we often want to forget - Perception. Perception hangs around Experience and colors how Experience speaks to us. As in when we are moving up Perception says this course is hard or exciting or You had better ride every fence. When we drop down or are riding a familiar level with a different horse Perception will coo in our ear - this is easy, these are boring fences, you can do this in your sleep.

                        How we view a XC is based on our Perception with is made up of our Experience, Observation and current level of ShutupandRide.
                        "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
                        Courtesy my cousin Tim

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          fooler- I love your responses and find them completely accurate- but in the spirit of the OP's question:

                          Prelim- "easy"- I moved up at Greater Dayton (area 8) two years ago. Walking the course there were only two huge (to my eyes then and somewhat to my eyes now) tables that scared me to death. No water on this course. The bank was very unsubstantial and at this trial, did not have a related distance to another fence. The coffin was a full coffin but its situated in an area that helps avoid runouts, and the before and after fences were smaller (T). The corner was not big or wide angled. The trakener was inviting. There was one turning question to a skinny table that looked tricky but rode well. I think there was also a straightforward two stride combo of upright rail fences, second narrower than the first. (I may be mixing up their course from two years running but you get the idea)

                          Prelim- "middle"- Most of the courses I've ridden at the KHP- the terrain there helps invite a flowing forward ride, but the water approaches can be tricky (downhill, or with mounds around them). I have jumped the frog in the water (that was exciting!) The ditches tend to be straighforward (but I don't have a ditchy horse). Several more "rider frightener" tables etc. than Dayton. No exciting banks at the KHP that I've ridden at prelim. Combos still seem to be straight or slight bend, probably the hardest that I can remember there was an upright skinny with a sharp bending 3-4 strides to a corner.
                          I would also put South Farm, Winona, Waredaca (upper end of "middle"), Spring Bay, and Virginia (on the lower level side of the road-also upper end of "middle") in this category. The banks at some of these places have been bounce bank steps or bounce up and over. Several of them also have substantial Weldon's walls. This is the category that epitomizes "average for horses with experience at this level" for me.

                          Prelim- "hard"- Flying Cross last year as the Area 8 Champs, Richland, AECs. These courses will have mostly maxed out fly fences (the ones where you are wondering if they truely measured it for YOUR level), alternated very closely with every other question that can be asked at this level. Jumps into and out of the water. Ditch and brush/wall- sometimes skinny. Turning combos that are almost 90 degress, or combos that require a very steep angle from one fence to the next, sometimes with terrain thrown in also. These are the only courses I've had sunken roads on. AECs had a straight 2 stride corner to corner combo flagged A/B. A downhill approach to a large down bank 2-3 strides to a skinny. Jump, bank down into water, jump in the water. Bounce combinations. Terrain in a coffin. Doing these courses made me feel like Intermediate was doable.

                          Hope that helps. I like the description of how many questions does each fence ask also- I think that helps alot too if you asked yourself that while you walked the course...
                          5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO - you're on course!

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