Australian event rider Warren Lamperd is a UKCC Level 3 coach for British Eventing and BSJA.
Following the announcement last year that British Eventing is to trial the use of stopwatches for cross country at grassroots level – BE80 to BE100, Warren shares his views on the pros and cons of stopwatches.
“I think it is important to start this article by saying that I don’t believe there is a definitive answer to this question, there are strong arguments for both sides. The answer probably has more to do with [emember_protected custom_msg=’This content is only available to Members, to read more of this article please Join HERE or if you are a member please LOGIN‘] what you are trying to achieve. Like so many things it is important to be clear about your aims before you go cross country so you could use a watch accordingly.
The skill of cross country riding is to be able to make time, jump clear, and look after your horse. This has short term and long term implications, particularly these days where you can compete on a regular basis throughout the year. The whole package must incorporate the horses jumping technique and the riders’ technique as these equally affect the horses’ ability to go cross country and remain sound.
It is important to develop the skill set that allows you to feel your horse, appreciate the speed at which you are travelling, and understand the tempo you need to approach various fence types at. Ultimately the way of riding that uses the least energy and is quickest is to remain at a relatively constant speed in balance and learn to let the horse jump out of a rhythm.
Assessing a course is an important skill too. You might be able to ride at a set speed but number of jumping efforts, concentration of jumping efforts, course terrain and location of jumping efforts in relation to this, ground conditions, is the course twisting through woods or relatively open and temperature are just a few examples of things that have a big influence on the ability to ride quickly around a cross country course. A good rider will be aware of all these things and, while riding to a plan, will be able to adjust that plan to suit the situation.
Speed work in training is a good way to develop a feel for the speed you are travelling. I would suggest you consider the points from the previous paragraph and consider how to incorporate these into your practise. I have found that the actual speed of say 570mpm on its own isn’t that fast. Start throwing jumps and combinations in and you’ll see things change quickly.
Everyone gets it wrong. No one should be vilified for making a mistake. We learn from making mistakes and recognising them while if we get it right it is confirmation that we are learning. If you make a mistake once, learn from it. Twice you need to think a bit harder but if you keep making the same mistake someone needs to pull you up and point it out. Hence the card system in operation with BE. Ultimately it has to be remembered that the welfare of the horse is paramount.
At three day events, CCIs, there is enough time to walk a course and measure the minute markers around the course. With this information you are able to monitor your speed as you travel making adjustments if you are up or down on the time as well as incorporating the effect of a concentration of jumping efforts or terrain or both.
At one day events, CICs, you have the course length and time allowed, so you could guess at halfway, but the reality is you are only riding to see if you make the time with a watch. The obvious manifestations of this are riders galloping to the finish because they are down on time or riders walking through the finish because they are up. In either case the horses have been ridden irresponsibly but the counter is how are riders supposed to gain the experience that gives them the feel without getting it wrong sometimes.
I think there are merits for riding both with and without a stopwatch. Ideally you would probably do both to develop different skill sets. At the end of the day they have to be used as a tool that can be combined with all your other skills. Riding to a watch is dangerous if you ignore or can’t feel other things that are going on. Ride like this for a whole season and you’ll probably have a broken horse at the end of it.”
Sarah Carless Reporter at Large.