Early Days

Galway Downs HT Recap – Cross Country

Previous posts: recap through dressage, and recap through stadium jumping.

Saturday night I didn’t sleep well, due to the hip and back pain from the fall. But I had all day Sunday to rest and heal and take more pain meds before our XC start time around 2pm.

This show was the first time I used a meter wheel when walking the course. I was interested to see if I could spare the brain-power to think about coming in under time during our ride.  (Taking a tangent here – scroll down to skip ahead to XC recap!)

A meter wheel is a large plastic rolling wheel that measures distance traveled. It is used in conjunction with a watch on cross country, so that a rider can keep track of speed and time during the ride in order to finish under optimum time.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You find out your division’s posted speed. Mine was 300 meters per minute. (This is considered slow, since most BN divisions use 350 m/min.) You also find out the total course distance (1770 meters), and the optimum time (5 minutes, 54 seconds). The optimum time is calculated by using the posted speed to achieve the total course distance. If your horse is particularly fast or slow, you also check out the speed fault time and time limit.
  2. As you walk your course, you need to make sure to walk it exactly how you’ll ride it – not cutting corners or taking shortcuts. (You have to get creative when it comes to water!)
  3. When the wheel hits 300 meters, you stop and look around and make a note that this location is where you should be after 1 minute of riding (since our speed was 300m/min). When the wheel shows 600 meters, that should be at that location after 2 minutes of riding, and so on. These are called minute markers.
  4. Alternatively, some riders prefer just to check-in half-way. In which case, you pay attention to when the meter wheel hits half of the total distance (1770m / 2 = 885 meters), and you take the half-way point to optimum time (5 min 54 sec / 2 = ~3 minutes), and you make mental note about the location to make sure you’re on track.
  5. When you complete metering your course, check the total meters you rolled out against the posted course distance. If you are way off, you may need to check that you didn’t skip or add an obstacle, or consult with show management about proper course route.
So how does this affect your actual ride? It depends on your watch. 
Many riders use the stopwatch/”chrono” feature of their normal sports watch. They start their stopwatch as they leave the startbox (a volunteer counts you down from 10 seconds), and as they come to each of the minute marker locations they determined form the course walk, they glance at their watch to see if they are ahead or behind of time. 
so fancy
Of course, there is a fancy-shmancy “eventers” watch you can purchase for ~$100. I’m not sure if it tells the time (that costs an extra $50, probably), but it DOES do a series of beeps every minute, so that the rider doesn’t have to glance down at their minute markers. It has an oversized face and large buttons you can press easily even with gloves on.
I was planning on using my normal sports watch, but my barn mate graciously let me borrow her eventer’s watch. It was great.
The point of all this is to be able to adjust your speed to ensure you come in under the optimum time as you get time penalties if you take longer than the optimum time. Technically you want to come in exactly at optimum time; in practical terms this translates into coming in under optimum time but as close to optimum as you can manage. In terms of scoring, optimum time is used to resolve tie-breakers (winner going to whomever came in under, but closest to, optimum time). 
Therefore in terms of strategy during your ride, you generally want to be ahead of the minute markers especially during the first half of the ride. This means that you are going faster than optimum time, and that your watch beeps after you have passed the minute marker location. This is because (a) generally you slow down throughout the course of the ride as you get tired, (b) crossing water typically slows you down, and (c) you want to have some time cushion in case you have a problem somewhere on course. Of course, if you’re well ahead of time, it might behoove you to slow down. If you’re behind, then you may want to pick it up a bit.
Back to the show recap.
I had a leisurely Sunday morning at the show, watching other riders go and walking my course again. After our issues in stadium I will admit to being a tad nervous. The XC jumps are still small enough to take from a walk/jog, but they are solid and therefore inherently more dangerous.
I had taken Hemie for a walk earlier in the day, but he was quite energetic once I mounted up. I had Rick pony us to and around the warm up just to be safe.  
Hemie felt zoomy around the warm up, and my hip was hurting. Soon our trainer had us heading over fences. Hemie felt a little strong and excited, but I just took hold of the jump strap and let him do his thing.

Warm up

He felt a little over-dramatic jumping over the log in the warm-up. Laurie said “Sarah, you are holding him back too much, which is why he needs to put in such an effort to get over the jump.”  Huh. Apparently my “zoomy” to was actually too slow – good thing I have a trainer to tell me how it really is, because show nerves completely muck up my sense of speed.

I tried to have Hemie walk around the warm up but he got too antsy, so we just went ahead and trotted and cantered around the whole time. Finally it was our turn to head to the start box. Wonder of wonders, he walked calmly to the starting area – I could tell he knew we were about to go. Just something in his step and his expression.

Heading to the start box

We got counted down and trotted out of the box, picked up a canter, and Hemie instantly locked on to our first jump. It just so happened to be headed back towards the barn, then there was a U-turn to jump #2. We landed jump 1 and suddenly I found us at a full on gallop. Heading towards the barn.

I tried pulling up into a soft bouncy canter, but no response. All I could do was try to turn towards our jump #2 and hoped that he backed himself off.

We made the turn. He didn’t back off. We jumped the log from a dead run.

Hemie immediately realized that was not the best approach, so after jump #2 he respectfully came back to a nice canter. For the rest of the ride he was perfectly adjustable – galloping when I said “ok” and coming back to me when I sat up and half-halted. He’s a smart pony.

The rest of our round was completely awesome.  I ordered the video but wont have it for probably 2 weeks. In the meantime here’s some photos.

I decided not to school the water before entering at our obstacle flags, since he’s never had an issue and we were having a strong ride. We had no issues so I’m feeling good about Hemie’s cross-country confidence. I did have him trot the down-bank, but next time I wont bother, as he was perfect about it. Unfortunately our course did not have a ditch, but we did have a brush jump (he loved it!).


As to our time on course, we were way ahead. When my 2nd minute beeper went off as we passed our 3rd minute marker location, I realized we should probably slow it down a tad. But not too much, in case we had an issue, and because we hadn’t come to our 2 waters yet. We ended up coming in ~55 seconds under optimum time. 1770 meters / 5 minutes = average speed of 354 meters/minute. So we’re right on for typical BN speed.


We ended up in 11th place out of 14. I had a double-clean XC go and our best dressage to date, so overall I call the outing an improvement in our performance and a success.

17 comments on “Galway Downs HT Recap – Cross Country

  1. Love all the photos! Glad xc went well :)


  2. Sounds like he's really growing up!


  3. Can't wait to see video!


  4. Sounds like a great run, gotta love some good xc!


  5. Cool! Looks like you had fun.


  6. Total badass! You guys look great :)


  7. Awesome! Are you penalized for too fast? We are in Canada…just curious. Good job :)


  8. ** =D ** You are so right, but I wouldn't have thought to put it that way. I'm now so proud of him all over again. He is not only growing up, but genuinely enjoying lots of it.


  9. Me too! Will post as soon as I get it.


  10. It is unlike anything else. It is so exhilarating!


  11. It was so much fun – I hope you get to try it sometime!


  12. Thank you very much! I'm super happy with the improvement.


  13. Hahaha I sure felt like a badass! Thanks


  14. Thank you! Yes, they do not want you to go too fast, so in addition to posting “Optimum Time” they also post a “Speed Fault Time.” You get penalized 0.4 penalty points for each second under the Speed Fault Time you come in at. Many times, this might also get you a “DR” for Dangerous Riding, because you have to be really out-of-control-hauling-@$$ in order to come in under SFT.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: