Wednesday, April 25, 2018

deconstructing the course walk: N @ Plantation

I can't really tell if these course walk posts are interesting to readers when there isn't an accompanying story about actually riding the course. I mean, it's basically just a collection of jumps that are impossible to judge in size and style from photographs.

gps tracking by Altitude Profile app. all fence locations added manually by me in MS Paint and are therefore approximate haha. all the little zigs and zags on the otherwise smooth line are instances where i scooted out of the way of horses on course. the gps is that precise!
With no context or association to real events, it's all just conjecture anyway, right? And I mean, if you've seen one coop you've seen them all.

course meta data, and the app does actually do meters instead of miles!
But.... Well. My blog, my rules haha. And I'm interested in course walking for a few reasons. Mostly, I just enjoy it, plain and simple.

elevation profile
More concretely, tho, I feel like I learn something more about cross country just by walking new courses. And I've also really come to appreciate having a photo archive on this blog of jumps from different local venues. It's quite handy!

comparing plantation's N (left) to fair hill's T (right). plantation actually has a bigger overall change in elevation, but fewer very steep climbs - you can see in the map that the track kinda has built in switchbacks instead of going straight up and down like fair hill did
So anyway. This past weekend I signed up to volunteer at Plantation's USEA recognized horse trial (more on that later). And I had a bit of a hidden agenda with choosing this particular venue at this particular time.

simple start
At some point later this season, I'd like to bring Charlie to a starter trial here. But.... The last time I walked a course here was June two years ago, walking the BN course with Brita.

sizable fence after a long run with an inviting profile
At that particular point, I had taken Isabel novice the previous fall, then broken my leg, dropped to BN, and then run into all that trouble ultimately leading to the end of Izzy's and my competitive partnership.

maybe the biggest fence on course. definitely maximum in all dimensions - esp width
And during that June course walk with Brita, the BN looked freakishly challenging to me, and N basically impossible.

sma, esp when taken from right side
So I wanted to revisit this course. Wanted to get a better grip on my expectations. Was the course really that stiff? Or was my perception a product of extremely low morale at that point?

it's .... just a slope. later in the season that little log to the right will be on course, jumping down the slope instead
After walking the N course this weekend, I'm still not totally sure.

also small. but a bending line a-b combination (albeit very long line) i guess making it N
This early season course was set soft. I'm pretty sure some of the BN jumps were actually intro, and some of the N jumps were actually BN. As far as I can tell, they probably ramp up the technicality with each successive event, culminating in their hardest courses in the fall. This was the first event of the season for many riders, so it makes sense to start easier.

also also small
However I remember some of these jumps from last time (notably, the steeplechase style brush at 11) as being part of what worried me. And now? That jump doesn't look bad.

nice log oxer. we have almost an identical fence at home
Although I also remember N having a jump reeeeally close to the water last time that freaked me out given my history with Izzy. This time there was no jump. Next time tho, who's to say?

straight forward feeder
Basically, by my estimates just about half of the jumps or flagged obstacles on this course would not look out of place on a BN course. Some of them are positioned such that they have N technicality, sure. It's a soft course tho.

down bank looks bigger than it is
Some notables from the course: no jumps near water, and no ditch. Two AB combinations, one bending and one with serious terrain. A couple big jumps early on course, lots of terrain, and a down bank, with a fair amount of room early on to get galloping. Horses looked tired at the finish.

it's the left side. not big.
My general impression tho? It looked totally doable. As in, actually I'm pretty sure Charlie has the tools to get through a course like this right now.

nice roll top
Obviously tho it would still be challenging haha. Jumping on extreme terrain isn't something we've done a lot of, tho schooling drop landings has been a non issue and Charlie did a neat little roller coaster just fine on one of his earliest xc outings. Down banks also need work. Oh, and brakes. Ya know. Small things haha.

this fence scared the bejesus out of me two years ago. looks great now.
But walking this course went a long way toward reassuring me about my impressions of the venue from two years ago. So hopefully if my beloved Ding King agrees to it, we'll be back here at some point in the next few months.

roller coaster - drop landing from the A element
Walking this course was also helpful to me from a quantitative perspective too. Specifically: using the Altitude Profile app to collect data on the course topography and distances.

then steep incline to a small B element
I've sorta known academically from reading past course maps that most of what I've ridden over the past few years in terms of cross country at starter trials has averaged between 1.5-2km. But I have very little sense of what that really means in practice, or what it means to add an extra 500m to a run.

reasonable red table. looks funny through the CVSimulator app!
Charlie's only just now getting back to work after resting from his latest splint injury, so I haven't had a chance to use the app for our conditioning work yet. But I'm really eager to. I'd really like to learn more about the distances we cover, and the relative speed in which we do so.

another good sized feeder, should ride fine
As mentioned previously, I'd like to learn more about riding for speed (as in, can I ride for a 300 vs 350 vs 400 mpm canter?). That's not totally necessary for starter trials tho, since we're not timed, but I'm still interested.

entrance to the water couldn't be simpler
But I'm thinking this app might help be an intermediary in that process. As in, I'd like to use it to measure the actual true distances and changes in elevation of the loops and hills I commonly use during conditioning. Then begin tracking how much time I'm really spending on the work.

small bench
Because again, as is always true for me, the more familiar I can be with a task or activity, the less overwhelming or intimidating it can seem to me. If I can be really good about tracking conditioning and whatnot at home, then when I walk a course like this and collect that meta data on it, I'll be able to easily tell right away if it's got bigger hills than we've done, or if it's longer than usual for us. Theoretically, at least, haha.

small house
Or ya know. Who knows what will happen. Maybe this was all just an academic excuse for taking a scenic walk across a beautiful hillside in Pennsylvania dotted with horses and xc fences. But maybe, just maybe, one day there will be more of a story to go along with this walk ;)


  1. I love these posts! With few venues around I really only see 1 venue's courses and love being exposed to that of different venues. I also really like the "horse's vision" versions of jumps!

    1. Oh yay! And yea I think the horse vision aspect is interesting. Esp bc the jumps that seem to *pop* the most are not at all the ones I would have guessed!

  2. These posts are great. I love seeing different courses. It helps to know what all is out there.

    1. Definitely - that’s exactly how I feel. The more I see from different places, the more familiar it all starts to feel

  3. I really like seeing how the elevation profile compares to the course. It's an aspect I hadn't thought of for XC - but think about all the time in endurance - and it's eye-opening so far as knowing how much horse you should aim to have as you tackle the course. I'm very good at maintaining a horse through 30, 50, and 100 miles with that kind of data, so it shouldn't be a far leap to apply the same general concept to this!

    1. Yea the elevation thing is REALLY interesting to me too and I’m super eager to start mapping out our home routes more thoroughly. Bc I think I’ll learn a lot more about what we are actually doing and actually capable of that way.

  4. i am not a fan of plantation. And you are correct they start out soft and by the October 31st starter, guessed it. My reasons for not liking it? the Intro drop was bigger than the BN. And they had flags in the wrong direction in several spots. I said something and got shut down for it said it was my imagination. Um no. That down bank you have a photo of. THE TALL ONE On the right was our drop down. BN went up and over it the other way. Now color me puzzled on that why would we have a drop like that and BN have an up bank?? Hate the place due to my experince there (AND also the fact i fell off in stadium and my first thought was GOOD i dont have to ride that damned cc course) HA HA HA but yes i can see where it would be fun for you to go and have fun on Sir Charles :) And i do like the fact they kind of start out soft in the early part of the show season. Cause that is a tough course just in the terrain in my mind.

    PS You should totally go school there after the (June??) starter trial. It is a blast to school.

    1. Yea I’ve heard a lot of similar sentiments about the venue. I’m gonna give it a shot tho, I think. Hopefully at the June starter!

  5. to michelle's point above, i wouldn't compete here. mostly for safety reasons. but i'd totally go schooling here! they have ONE day on a monday and they have lots of jumps so you can pick and choose a bit more.

    1. yea i've heard similar concerns from others, but i'm not sure i've seen anything with my own eyes that would constitute a deterrent on the grounds of safety. certainly not this past weekend, everything looked really really good.

  6. I really like these sorts of posts as I'm dipping my toes back into the eventing world after being out of it for a decade and a half. It's good to read just to have an idea of what I should be considering when I go out and finally do a coursewalk again.

    1. getting familiar with the course walk process was kinda a surprising experience for me. as evidenced by the fact that i fell off at my second ever horse trial when my horse spooked at a bunch of stuff i hadn't even noticed on the walk... there's definitely an art to it!

  7. I do like things like this, but it's also your blog so absolutely your rules! I think it's great to go over all of this and be prepared. It helps a lot! I know if Amber and I every get back at it we're absolutely going to need something to help track our fitness! I'm just not good with that sort of thing - same with distances. No idea lol

    1. yea i mean... i think we can all definitely go overboard in tracking every last little bit of data. as a data professional, i kinda always come back to the same questions: why? and for what? how will this data change my behavior or perception of our work? will it result in me making riding choices to hit certain quantitative metrics, vs focusing on riding the horse i feel beneath me? it's hard to say.

      being totally honest, the fitness necessary for an ottb to comfortably get around beginner novice is.... not exactly extraordinary lol. simultaneously tho, i think there *are* things to be learned from some of this ride meta data. maybe an app won't tell me if my horse is truly on the bit or working from his hind end (my feel or my instructor should tell me that) but it *can* tell me how quickly we are able to navigate a certain distance in varying terrains.

  8. I like posts like this also! I'm not much into tracking data (I'd lose my mind), but enjoy when others do :) That specific N course looks (mostly) doable!


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