Tuesday, April 17, 2018

deconstructing the course walk (with technology!)

As mentioned yesterday, I spent some quality time walking the Training course at Fair Hill's recognized show this past weekend. Mostly for shits and giggles, but also for research purposes, to test out some new apps, and bc dammit, I just enjoy walking courses. So there. lol...

elevation profile of the course
The first app is Altitude Profile. It has features that I'm pretty sure are all included in the My Course Walk app (or whatever it's called lol), with the distinction being that it's free.

What I specifically wanted was an elevation profile of a course, plain and simple. There appear to be literally zillions of free apps that do this - this just happened to be the one I downloaded. I'm sure others have more features like adding pictures at specific points on the course, or noting minute markers or whatever, but for my purposes - this elevation profile fit my needs.

course walk meta data. twas a lot longer than the courses i've been doing the past few years!
The elevation profile doesn't need gps or internet connection either, which is helpful. Tho you'll need the connection for gps tracking of your activity. I believe this type of app is popular with hikers, and I liked that it could track my course walk a few different ways.

First - the elevation profile above (which really puts into perspective that final climb at the end of the course....). Second - the gps tracking was pretty freakin accurate too - even catching the bump in my track as I skirted the water instead of going through. And third - you can see the meta data of the walk above - including overall distance, time spent, and average mi/min and mph.

bird's eye gps tracking from my walk. i added the approximate locations of combinations myself. the little bump at 11AB is bc i walked around the water, not through it. otherwise would be a straight line.
I imagine this could be useful to have running in my pocket during conditioning rides too, esp for getting a reasonable measure of average speed. Tho I'll have to see if it can do meters per minute instead of miles.

But anyway, that's all for the future. And again I'm sure there are tons of apps that do the same thing - it's all common in any sort of fitness tracker - but this app was nice and simple and FREE, plus doesn't take up much room on my phone. I'll keep playing with it!

jump one on the course was a simple inviting hanging log. tall but friendly to look at.
The other app I used was CVSimulator, which I recently learned about on Eventing Nation. The app uses your camera to give you different views of a picture based on various vision types. 

In the selection I used, the left side is common vision (C) and right side is deuteranope vision (D) which approximates how we believe horses see colors. Notably: it approximates red-green color blindness.

roll top at 2. max height for the level, but inviting
I was interested in using this app to learn more about how horses read the fences differently from me. So I used the app for all the jump photos for study purposes.

From a user perspective, it's pretty easy to use. But the camera has a narrower field of vision for some reason when multiple vision types are selected. So I had to stand farther off from the jumps than normal to get the whole fence in the frame.

Also these pictures are fussier to crop than a normal picture, just by nature of there being two frames. So if I continue to use this app for blog pictures, I'll have to work a little harder to get the jump more nicely framed vs relying on cropping after the fact. Nbd tho.

pictures don't do this table justice (tho that hay bale helps)
So anyway. With both apps up and running, I was ready to walk the Training course. Had there been a Novice or Beg. Novice course to walk, I probably would have walked those instead. But there wasn't -- T was the lowest level offered at this event. So that's what ya get!

This particular table is maxed out in all dimensions, and could be testing so early on course. It was positioned approximately directly above the 6ABC combo on my bird's eye map above, so you can see that there really wasn't much galloping yet. For me as a rider, that seems challenging because it takes me a while to establish rhythm. But I guess at a certain level you just need to be prepared to hit the ground running. Literally.

these red tables 
It was funny tho - These red tables have always felt like one of the biggest fences on course for BN and N. But yet the T version was maybe a little smaller than jumps 2 and 3 already on course. I guess just making sure horse and rider were really ready for the height right away.

unassuming log oxer
Then riders finally got a chance to gallop a little bit. After a longer stretch, this oxer marked the turn back toward the foundation complex (where the large trees are in the background) - also noted by the little hook around in the upper right hand corner of the bird's eye map. This oxer is definitely T dimensions, but it's not horrifying.

first combination on course at the foundation
This bank combination should look pretty familiar to anybody who read last fall's Fair Hill Cross Country Recap. The roll top to bank up is almost identical to the N version from last year, and is similarly inviting at a compressed two stride distance. Actually I feel like this T version is kinder than the N from last year bc it's later on track for T - jump 6 instead of jump 4.

Of course, this is an ABC combination tho haha. So.... it's sliiiiightly different.

C element of the combination - simple hanging log
It was interesting to me how this combination walked. The A-B line was pretty straight and walked in a compressed two strides. The B-C line was bending left and walked in a very open three strides. Plus the prelim C element was kinda dead ahead, lying in wait to distract the horse's eye haha.

If you got a good shot up the bank it probably would ride fine, and maybe some horses would be comfortable chopping in a 4th stride with a little more bend in the line. Was interesting tho!

bench, yo
Then another gallop into the next field, heading back toward the start gate to a bench. This thing was giant. But also just a bench.

cabin jumping into the next field, beginning to slope down
Then another short cruise past the start gate and into the biggest field toward the water complex. This jump obviously looked giant to me, but would jump pretty easily after the earlier stuff.

Thus beginning that long descent seen in the elevation profile, and the long straight run in the bird's eye view.

chevrons going down hill
First up in that long straight run was the chevrons. This fucker was giant haha. Like basically it's just a galloping ramp. Inviting profile, nice broad takeoff and landing. But esp being situated on a slope, there was a slight drop on landing and that back rail was easily boob height on me.

trakehner doesn't look bad!
Continuing to the end of the long straight path, we arrive at the trakehners. From the approach, this T version really doesn't look much different or more imposing than the N version. That is.....

that last step's a doozy tho!
That is, right up until the last step when a big gappy ditch presented itself. But again it's a pretty level appropriate question. And I'm pretty sure this was the same trakehner on course for the 5yo YEH Championships last fall.

next up, the water! which felt.... a little watered down for T
Then it was a quick right turn on reasonably level ground to a house a few strides out from the water. You can jussssst see the corner on the far side peaking over the top of the house, in front of that yellow truck.

P / 1* corner on left. T corner on R.
Training had a flat entry to the water, and flat exit from the water, with a few more strides to a corner that really looked pretty reasonable. Again, assuming training sized fences aren't an issue for you, the only real question here is getting a straight and accurate shot to the corner.

Oh, and avoiding squashing all the noisy little froggies in the water, haha.

the corner as B
Also notably, this is an A-B combination so even tho the water isn't flagged you still don't really want to be fussing around with it or doing anything to screw up the line to the corner and risk crossing your tracks.

choo choooo!
After the water, the descent continues to a couple single galloping fences. Like this cute train.

another table. i appreciate that those flowers are actually seen as blue by the horses haha
Then another table, tho this one slightly lower in height from some of the earlier tables (still just as wide tho!). After this would be a swinging right hand turn down to the lowest portion of the course before climbing back up to the finish line.

and another table-y thing!
Aside from the combinations, most of the fences were just simple single galloping style jumps. You can see after the landing from this fence, the course reaches its lowest point elevation-wise.

second corner on course
Tho after a long gallop, the course began to climb again, with a 180* right hand turn to a second, larger corner. The face isn't obscenely narrow, but it still seemed like this might be a trickier question just based on its location on course and the somewhat abrupt right hand turn to reach it (which you can see in the bird's eye view approaching 16AB.

half coffin
Then another little quick downhill cruise to the half coffin. I'm about 95% positive I've jumped this ditch on a BN course before, including last fall's run. And that cabin is kinda small. Considering an identically styled cabin was earlier on course already (at fence 8) my guess is this is the N version.

So..... yea. It's a half coffin, sure. And set on a bending line. But this particular construction would not be out of place on an N course.

gallopy brush fence
Then it was a steep climb (seriously, check out that elevation profile!) back up the hill to the last couple jumps. I've ridden that climb a few times now on both Charlie and Isabel, and it isn't really too terribly beastly. Tho this particular T course was much longer than anything I've done (1.6mi) so it's possible that if your fitness isn't great you might be feeling pretty weary at this point.

That might be why the half coffin was so easy, and why the rest of the jumps are more straight forward. This brush fence was a tad upright, but looked like it should jump pretty well.

final fence on course!
Then just as the ground leveled off again, the course finished with a simple house. For some reason, I like that the red color is so..... dull to the horses haha. Maybe bc we tend to think of red as being more of an imposing color? Idk. Maybe that's just me lol. Clearly tho the horses aren't gonna be like, 'whoa gotta watch out for that big red house!'

Other than that, tho, I'm not sure there was much to be seen in the difference from a color perspective on this particular course. Maybe that was intentional by the folks who were responsible for the design and painting of these jumps? Maybe not. Idk. I'll probably keep using the app for at least another couple course walks - just bc some of these pictures were jussssst different enough to be interesting. Maybe. Haha.

The elevation profile tho was definitely useful to have, and felt like it provided a lot more context on each jump and combination based on where it fell on the map. So I'll keep using that.

And of course, walking this T course was interesting to me too. From a general course design perspective (like observing that there were two corners, but no down banks and no skinnies!), but also just getting a better sense of how new cross country questions are introduced through the levels.

The biggest potential issue that I see for us based on our current training? Bending lines haha. Being able to get Charlie to land from one jump in enough balance and control to immediately turn to a second related jump. That will.... take some practice haha. Luckily we're a ways out yet lol ;)

Anyway do you like using any apps for walking courses? Do you use my course walk? Or any other gps or topographical type apps? What about the color app - think you'll download it to play around with seeing how horses see things around your farm?


  1. Ooohhh that vision comparison is super cool!

    1. i really like it, actually! it's fun to play with around the barn too!

  2. I like this course. Definitely level appropriate but nothing particularly difficult. The flow is good, and they give you 5 pretty gallopy fences to establish your rhythm and pace, which is nice. I have to admit I had an "aw, that's cute" reaction to the little ditch under the trakehner, since around here all of ours have HUGE MASSIVE DEEP DITCHES under them. Like big enough for a horse to literally fall into (which did actually happen at the last show...). I have had a combo exactly like that 16AB at Training before too, just with a slightly bigger ditch and house. Thanks for posting this, it's fun to see the courses!

    1. yea it seemed like a cool course - maybe a bit imposing at the beginning for someone new to the level, but probably a pretty nice ride for everyone. also fun fact: a 5yo at last fall's championship actually *did* fall into that trakehner and exploded the fuck out of the whole thing.... twas.... dramatic lol. guess they rebuilt it tho!

    2. I remember hearing about that! Good thing it wasn't one of those stupid 4-6' deep ditches, yikes.

    3. yea seriously! trakehners in general are something i'm kinda itching/dreading to try with charlie. he hasn't been ditchy at all so far but.... idk. maybe i'm kinda ditchy tho haha.

    4. Trakehners are almost rarely a fence that horses take issue with, it's the riders staring down into the ditch that does people in. ;)

    5. i think it's the fact that i've legitimately ridden ONE real trakehner in my entire riding life. hard to believe but... it's true. isabel and i schooled a bunch of faux ones, or "kinda sorta a little bit of a ditch" type hanging log fences, but the only ever real true trakehner we ever saw was actually in competition at our second novice, and i was kinda freaked by it but she jumped it fine (she also was not ditchy). so i think the only reason i care is just bc i honestly don't have much experience with them. will hopefully resolve that this season tho haha

  3. I may never ride Training (or Novice even) but I do like seeing the course like this so cool. Thanks Emma for sharing.

    I do think this course looks slightly soft (as in a few aren't that bad) but i still would pee my pants over any of them LOL!

    1. yea i guess i'm getting so accustomed to these highly technical courses that i was a little surprised to not see a skinny or down bank or something more at the water. but it also certainly didn't look like anything i'll be ready to aim charlie at for a whiiiile yet!!!

  4. This was super cool! Yeah those jumps looked pretty big lol. But the color difference was good to see so we can see how horses see things. I'll have to check that out for sure!

    1. you should totally check it out!! fair hill's jumps are all very naturally colored - lots of browns and yellows - so it didn't look like much. but i'm curious to use it more!

  5. That vision app is interesting. It would be neat to see pics like that of brightly colored and highly decorated stadium course to see just how that comes across to the horses.

    1. yea definitely agreed. i had planned to use the app for course walking at loch moy with brita this past sunday since loch moy's jumps are often more colorful, but i ended up staying back at the trailer on horse baby sitting duty haha (since charlie wasn't there to keep bella company). maybe i'll take pictures of our colorful stadium jumps at home tho too!

  6. Boob height sounds like a ridiculously high jump for me at the moment. I do like hearing about course walks for xc, even though I never am planning on doing any myself. They are interesting to think about.

    1. yea that jump was.... wayyyyyyy outside my current comfort zone haha. like i can appreciate it as an "inviting galloping style fence" for that level but.... yea. the idea of aiming my horse at it right now is indeed ridiculous lol. but yes, still fun and interesting to think about!

  7. I might try the colors one on stadium. I have the CourseWalk app and I really like it. Walking courses at the higher levels is always fun for me. I've had fun walking Rolex when we've gone.


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