Course Builder’s Update from the 2020 PFI3DE

Mike Pendleton and Miss Lulu Herself, owned by Bonnie Stedt, over one of the new frangible tables at the Plantation Field International

The dust has settled and in spite of all the controversy around the name of the event, and the possibility of cancellation due to Covid-19, the event itself went extremely well.

This year was a budget year for the Plantation Field International. Obviously, due to the US Equestrian Federation’s Covid-19 protocols you don’t have the spectators. You don’t have the VIP tent – you don’t have a lot of what used to be part of the production that was Plantation Field. Some of that production previously brought in income that was then used to pay for the cross country course.

Also, you don’t need a fancy cross country course if you’re just jumping horses , as opposed to impressing spectators. Horses are just as happy to jump last year’s fences, or old fences, as new fences. It’s the spectators that want to see new fences and a new environment; you’re trying to make it more about entertainment with spectators as opposed to simply preparing horses for the next level. So this year’s courses were based on last year’s track, and we didn’t have to do any major improvements. We have done a massive amount of dirt work here over the years, so we already have all the ditches, banks and water in place and didn’t need to do anything like that.

Frangible Fences

Thanks to grants from the USEA Foundation and the Frangible Fence Fund, we were able to build nine new fences. In fact, the only new fences on course this year were paid for by that grant. It’s made some  different kinds of fences that probably wouldn’t have built without the grant. I think the grant, unknown to anyone, has fallen on the best year possible: first, builders and designers have had more time our hands than we usually have. Also, we’ve been able to think through how to use the hardware (click here for a gallery of frangible fences built thanks to the fund). We’re all resistant to change until change is thrust upon us. Having more time certainly helps ease the transition of using new equipment in a new way. Also, it really was a stimulus both for horse trials and builders: it put work in front of people that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

A Catalyst for Change

I’ve always said about cross country courses, if you want to make a change, you need to have a catalyst. Once you put nine new fences out there, that meant that this went here and that went there, so it was surprising that nine fences total, which is three per level – which would only be three out of say 35 fences – is a small number, it’s a bit of a chess move.

When you move one fence and space becomes available on part of the course, all of a sudden you’ve really changed the course by about 30%, by only building three new fences, by the time you get those new fences to fit in to the old track. It brought change that cost the organizer very little. The two things, having the budget decreased by Covid but having the new fences funded by the grant, really came together at the right time.

It was a beautiful weekend, with the temperatures around 60 degrees. The footing was perfect, the weather was perfect, and the horses ran well. It was a great weekend.