Course designer Michel Vaillancourt has got the course ready for the first day and first round for the show jumpers at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games. He’s built an inviting course that must be completed within 80 seconds if riders want to incur no penalties. Vaillancourt took a few minutes before the class began to go over the course noting, “The first course being technically the first qualifier for the individual finals on Saturday had to be probably the easiest course. However, the horses still need to be challenged to a certain point to prepare them. It is the softest test that we will see all week but I think this course will make the riders feel pretty good. We expect to see a lot of clear rounds.”
U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland echoed Vaillancourt saying, “it’s a very straightforward course designed to give the horses and riders confidence.”
Vaillancourt explained that as a course designer he needs to have a sense of what level of riders he is working with and this course “will give us a better idea of the caliber of riders and horses.”
The course begins with an ascending oxer (#1) followed by a vertical (#2). This is followed by a huge turn to perhaps the first real question on the course. “The riders can choose to go straight,” commented Ridland who added that some may choose that option or to do more of a bend first jumping the square oxer (#3) to an oxer-vertical one stride combination (#4ab).
Vaillancourt noted that this second line may prove to be a bit trickier for the horses then the first line since they have a choice because of that.
Arching right the next jump is off a curve and is a colorful square oxer (#5) with two huge chairs used as the standards or wings for this fence. Since that is off the eye the riders can prepare for this fence as they turn the corner.
Then again they have another line which begins with a combination vertical to vertical (#6ab) followed by another square oxer (#7) around the corner to the far side of the ring right in front of the grandstands where the spectators might be a distraction for the horses. Ridland felt that combination might cause some problems but even that he felt was a fair line for this first round.
The first fence #8 is a wall and Vaillancourt felt there might be some issues there. “We will see how the wall backs off some horses,” he noted. That is followed by yet another combination (#9ab).
With just three fences to go the riders then turn the corner to perhaps the highest jump on the course. This airy vertical has a cowboy boot as its left standard (#10) and the airiness of the fence could cause some problems. Vaillancourt referred to that as the “hairy cowboy fence.”
From here the horses turn right down the final line which begins with a Liverpool that might get some horses looking. “The natural slope of the ground goes down there,” explained Vaillancourt, and because of that the riders have a bit of a choice and will either look to get 6 or 7 strides there.
While the course meets all the requirements in height and width, Vaillancourt emphasized the fact that they “did not feel the need to go any bigger. It’s a normal one rounder that simply helps to place the orders of the horses and riders.
Any combination that goes clear starts off with a score of 0 and so there could be a number of those with that score. The next round for the team medals is on Thursday and the scores count for that but when they get to the finals those who qualify start off with a zero score.
This round is not a speed round,” Vaillancourt noted. “They just need to get within the 80 second time allowed, which they have plenty of time to execute the course within,” he concluded as he set off to go watch how close the riders rode the course to what he expected.