What is it about some of these tried-and-true competitions/venues that seem to want to put a championship cross-country course in front of competitors no matter when the show is held? It used to be that there were certain places where a rider knew the course, knew the venue, and knew that it would be a familiar test and would choose that for the purpose of early-season outings, debuting greenies, or just regaining a horse or student's confidence. Those courses may change and evolve over the seasons, but the level of expectation would never be so drastically altered to where a horse or rider might suddenly be asked to face a question or obstacle that was not consistent with the rest of the jumps. Now, it seems like even the most trusted of competitions are surprising competitors and most of the showing masses right now HAVE NOT been training with big name riders in warmer climates for the past 3 months. Heck, I have friends who didn't even pull their horses out of the pasture until early February, but all of a sudden, the lower-level tracks have become more of the "experience necessary" or "not a move-up" caliber. It's MARCH, people!
|Novice fence #17 at Poplar Place Farm. It is nice that|
their course photos capture the fences as set for competition
so a rider can get a sense of what to expect on show day.
I was scanning the ERA web site last week and I noticed that they had some updated XC course descriptions listed and I simply clicked on them out of curiosity (not that I'll be riding at Belton, Somerley Park, or Withington Manor anytime soon). I was shocked at how honest and forthcoming some of those write-ups were. One was even so detailed as to describe how a Novice (BE level.....our USEA prelim) corner question had been rebuilt or represented so that it would pose a different challenge or offer a more fair option: "Intermediate: Suitable for a first time Intermediate providing the combination is fairly bold. As above, the bounce has moved. The second element of the brush complex has been moved to improve the distance. Novice: Suitable for a first time, bold but straightforward and educational. It has two corners on a related distance but there is an alternative. The water jumps are white and need riding." Several of the entries even linked to a more thorough description with maps or photos.
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. I always sort of get the sense that venues like to keep their courses "secret" and throw in the occasional wild card jump or question that just seems to be an attempt to weed out the unworthy and applaud the lucky. Ultimately, if you enter a competition, you better be prepared to bring it at whatever the respective level. But, on the other side of that coin, perhaps the venues could bridge the gap for the potential entrants to make things more transparent in order for a more successful effort by horse and rider. I'm not saying that every venue for every event needs to give a detailed description of their XC course months in advance. But, it would be nice if everyone could at least take the time in spring and fall to articulate to the possible competitors what the courses will offer and allow everyone to make an educated decision based on their level of experience, preparation, and their goals before sending a check and pulling up at the stables.
And, as a side rant, what is this with all the accessories and decorations at BN/N/T? I think the artistry and creativity of the dressings are fine and valuable at the upper-levels, but when the real question a horse faces isn't the type or height of fence they are jumping....but rather the number of lobsters thrown all over it or the dog hiding in the cut-out underneath....then it seems a bit unfair to me. Why not save that money on the fancy LL dressings and toss in another few prizes for the top-3 placers? What's wrong with brush, wood chips, and stone as "decorations"? Let's keep it realistic and don't ask my pony to know that the gardening tools scattered all over the top of the 3-foot table he's already facing won't jump up and grab him as we sail over; therefore, he decides to take a closer look at the spade. Just let us worry about jumping the 3-foot table, please. That's enough for me.