Pan Am Course Designer Wayne Copping - The Riders Need to Respect the Cross-Country Course

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Australian cross-country course designer Wayne Copping for the Pan American Games, Toronto 2015 Photo: © Diana De Rosa
Australian cross-country course designer Wayne Copping for the Pan American Games, Toronto 2015 Photo: © Diana De Rosa

View the image gallery of each of the cross country jumps for the Pan American Games, Toronto, 2015. Australian cross-country course designer Wayne Copping built a course that was both testing but focused on keeping the riders safe. “I love that property,” he commented about the location where he had to build the Pan American Games cross-country course. “The layout of the course came quite quickly to me. When you need to get a distance in a small property you need to use all the boundaries. If you do twisting and turning you are not going to get the distance you need. I love to see horses galloping and establishing a rhythm with lots of spaces between the fences, so you can actually make the distance.”

As a result Copping would go the long distance and then turn to again go the long distance giving the course a somewhat serpentine feel but with room for long gallops and easy turns.

While Copping continued to note that the course designer can build measures within the course to unconsciously help the riders, it is the rider’s duty to respect the course and ride it the way it was meant to be ridden. For instance don’t try to do a one stride where obviously two strides is necessary. And don’t go too fast to a fence that required you to take care on the approach. It is those types of mistakes that cause problems such as poor takeoffs and falls.

He further noted that most of the fences he built on the uphill because what that does is give the front legs more room if the riders end up jumping from the wrong spot. “It’s the front legs that will get you in trouble,” he remarked.

Copping tried not to use all the ups and downs. “I tried to keep it as level as possible. There are a lot of steep little hills,” he added.

He also noted how on the turns it was important to think about the incline of the terrain so that horses had something to push against to help them with their turns. Those are just some of the unseen things that course designers can keep in mind when designing a course to either make it a little easier or tougher from the competitors.

Wayne’s plan, like it is for most course designers, was to allow the horses to warm up with more forgiving straightforward fences in the beginning, then facing them with more of a challenge as well as alternating combinations with single fences. Then at the end of the course it’s back to fences that are a bit more straightforward to show the horse has the endurance but not necessarily is being over faced when they are their most tired.

In all, his course was a huge success with minor mishaps generally the result of riders not “respecting the course.”

For competitors to finish the course and get around safely “the riders have to respect the course,” he concluded.