The AEC Cross Country Course – A Survey of Riders

The cross-country course at the American Eventing Championship inspired a lot of discussion among the eventing community. This because the course introduced a sort of footing unlike anything previously seen on cross country, included more spectator set-ups than usual, and concluded in a derby field. While much of this was easy to appreciate given my spectator/groom status, I felt the real judges of the course should be those who had actually ridden it. Given that, I surveyed a small group of riders to gain their perspective. Answers in order of ascending level.

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Name: Bette
Level Competed: Beginner Novice
Horse Breed: Deluted German Cart Horse aka Oldenburg

Was the level of technicality appropriate/expected for your level?
I thought it was a bit more technical than anything I’ve seen at BN before. At the same time this is a championship course so it should be harder than BN at normal recognized events. Most of the course was fairly straight forward but I thought the way jump 16-17 was set up (bending line over a mound to a corner) was quite tricky for even Novice let alone BN. My horse jumped it quite well so it rode better than it looked but I still question if it was an appropriate question for BN. [corner shown at 7:25 in below video]

What was the most difficult question on course for your horse?
Evil number 7!!!!!!!! The water crossing was the most difficult for Chimi bc it was very narrow and busy. Trying to fit all 6 levels in a very small space definitely created a challenge for BN and N jump 7 (I think it was number 7 for novice too?) A lot of horses had problems at this jump even if on paper it looked quite simple for the level because all you had to do was trot down a ramp into the water- simple right? Well not really. The difficulty of this jump was the narrow “tunnel” that was created by the Advanced and Intermediate jumps on either side of the ramp. My horse can be quite claustrophobic and asking him to go through two jumps only 10 feet apart (I’m guessing- definitely no more than 12ft but probably closer to 9 or 10′)  into the unknown proved to be more than he could handle. We had a stop at the jumps but once I got him past the two tables he was fine going into the water. Sadly him spooking at the two jumps resulted in a refusal and we received 20 penalties for being afraid of the approach not the actual obstacle that was marked. 😦

If you were to give the footing a grade, what would that grade be and why?
A- I felt that overall the footing seemed to hold. My horse seemed to like it but he is also barefoot and I think barefoot horses do better on the footing arena footing and on the grass. Chimi only slipped once on XC and it was a very minor event. It happened right after we crossed over from the arena footing to the grass before jump number 5. It was quite soggy from the rain the day before and he was charging full steam ahead and I don’t think I half halted him quite like I should of with the change of footing. But other than that I thought the course rode really well especially down the really steep hill where I was worried about him potentially slipping (he didn’t and we actually galloped down the hill too!) They did cover the hill in footing from the day before’s downpour and potential rain in the current forecast so I’m not sure if that helped or if it would of been fine without it. Would the course have ridden just as well if it hasn’t rained? Or would it have been slicker because the hooves wouldn’t of dug in to the ground as much and just skated across the top? (Does that sentence make sense?) I do think the wetter footing allowed for the horses to “grab” at the grass for better traction than they would of been able to if it had been dry

Do you feel there was an appropriate amount of galloping allowed by the course design? 
For the lower levels… yes… or at least out on the course part. Jumps 15-18 were pretty close together but the turns weren’t as sharp as I thought they would be when I walked the course.

What was your favorite part of the course?
All of it except jump 7!

Would you return to Tryon for future horse trials? If not, what changes would you want to see before returning? 
Yes. I do hope they expand the course so you have wider paths especially if you’re trying to put a lot of levels in a small space (I’m speaking about you evil water complex!) I think with the expansion it has potential to feel more like a real XC course than a glorified jumper derby. Only time will tell if they do this (they say they will) but I would go back! Partly bc it is only 20 minutes away 😉

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Photo by Brant Gamma

Name: Allison Sandifer
Level Competed: Novice AMT
Horse Breed: OTTB

Was the level of technicality appropriate/expected for your level?
It was a maxed Novice course, I figured it would challenging.  It was a true Championship course.

What was the most difficult question on course for your horse?
The bank complex to the corner.  I just couldn’t get the turn off the bank that I wanted.

If you were to give the footing a grade, what would that grade be and why?
10 out of 10.  I loved it, Baron rode well off the footing.  He wasn’t bogged down in deep sand and it had great grip in Stadium.  The turf was a little slick but in the worst area on a downhill slope it was well sanded.

Do you feel there was an appropriate amount of galloping allowed by the course design? 
I think so.  I could have done more to get the gallop between the first 5 fences but I didn’t push it.

What was your favorite part of the course? 
Uphill gallop in the back half.  I loved every part of that gallop lane.

Would you return to Tryon for future horse trials?
If not, what changes would you want to see before returning?  I hope they have another event soon, and I will do everything in my power to attend.  It was such a fantastic facility.  I would recommend that they build more parking around the barns and create several more large hand-grazing paddocks.

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Name: Diane
Level Competed: Novice
Horse Breed: Draft cross

Was the level of technicality appropriate/expected for your level?
In some ways I thought it was a little soft. There were no ditches, so no coffin questions. There were no A/B combos. There were only a couple related distances on course. Nearly everything was max height/width and brightly colored and decorated so if that is something your horse backs off at then that would affect the difficulty level. I found it easy to make time on a horse that isn’t very fast.

What was the most difficult question on course for your horse?
The only question that my horse hesitated at was the water. It was a very simple canter in/canter out question, but the entrance to the water was narrow with upper level jumps on either side. The water included a jumbotron, two horse statues, a maze of jumps, bleachers, and a downhill approach. I thought it was a little unfair to the lower level horses. It was a tough question for them to understand. My horse is a xc machine, so if he took a hard look I can only imagine what some greener horses did.

If you were to give the footing a grade, what would that grade be and why?
Ooh that’s tough. I’ll go with a B+. It held up surprisingly well to the downpour we had the night before cross country. They did a good job of laying down footing where the ground was getting torn up. I bought the biggest studs I could find from one of the vendors and had zero issues with footing. With so many horses running over the same track the footing did get torn up quite a bit. I would have been nervous attempting xc without big studs.

Do you feel there was an appropriate amount of galloping allowed by the course design?
Yes, I did. We only had three jumps on the galloping lane after the water, and I was really able to open up my horse’s stride and get up on the clock before the derby field.

What was your favorite part of the course?
Honestly, I enjoyed the whole thing. It rode really well for my horse, other than the water.

Would you return to Tryon for future horse trials? If not, what changes would you want to see before returning?
I plan on coming back for the AECs at Tryon next year. I look forward to seeing improvements on cross county. This was an impeccably run event at a world class facility.

 

Photo by JP

Photo by JP

Name: Doug
Level Competed: BN, T, P, I, A
Horse Breed: mostly Holsteiner Tb

Was the level of technicality appropriate/expected for your level?
All quite good, yes

What was the most difficult question on course for your horse?
In general atmosphere on XC well beyond what is norm, so presented some more challenges for the greener horses.

If you were to give the footing a grade, what would that grade be and why?
8 of 10. Actually got better when cut up, will improve vastly in the years to some. In speaking with Mark Bellissimo they were unable to aerate due to the relatively new root structure. Next year will improve greatly.

Do you feel there was an appropriate amount of galloping allowed by the course design?
In general it was tighter in the derby field, but open on the loops. but again the courses will be vastly different next year. They are doubling the derby field in size and will incorporate the golf course as well.

What was your favorite part of the course?
the finish line 🙂

Would you return to Tryon for future horse trials? If not, what changes would you want to see before returning?
No doubt

Thank you to all of the riders who contributed to this post! If you know/are a rider at one of the levels not represented here and would like to be included, please leave a comment below or email me at brittwgillis at gmail dot com.

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3 thoughts on “The AEC Cross Country Course – A Survey of Riders

  1. I LOVE that you got a variety of levels, riders and answers here. What absolutely blew me away was a freaking CORNER at BN. Seriously?? I know its a championship level course but C’mon, apparently BN is the new novice is the new training is the new prelim. It never ends!

    Overall though, I think the outlook was positive from all the riders. Love that Doug chimed in despite his succinct answers haha. Cool survey!

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