While most events today post the optimum time for event riders to complete their course, there is a simple mathematical equation that can help you sort out discrepancies during your own walk.
Traditionally, riders and coaches used the trusty meter wheel. Meter wheels today have digital displays to keep track of the distance measured. Beginning at the start box, riders track the course distance while planning their desired route. Modern smartphone applications such as CourseWalk App and CrossCountry App will also record and track course distance (if the rider has GPS functioning enabled on their smartphone) as they are walking their course.
Speed is dictated by the USEF’s Rules for Eventing, and the acceptable course distance range is also outlined in the rulebook.
Once the rider has calculated their route and determined the meters of the path they wish to ride, there is a simple calculation to determine whether their route will align with the course designers optimum time. Let’s use Rocking Horse Winter III (held February 28th, 2013) with the Preliminary division as an example.
A competitor has walked the course and determined the distance of their route to be 2854 meters long. The speed as dictated by the USEF for the Prelim level is 520 meters per minute. The course length divided by the meters per minute gives us a number of 5.49. However, this does not give us the correct optimum time. Take the .49 and multiply by 60 (seconds) to find .29 which is the correct amount of seconds. Therefore, optimum time for the Prelim division is 5 minutes 29 seconds.
Looking at the results of the Open Preliminary division, we see that the top three riders in the division finished the course in 5:13, 5:18 and 5:20 respectively, coming in under the time and therefore not incurring any time penalties. Riders must remember to take note of alternate routes and areas to “make up time” in case of run-outs or refusals on course that could affect their time on course.
Many riders may find shortcuts or areas to save time while they are walking their preferred course routes. By measuring the course distance and calculating how their walk route compares to the official optimum time, riders will have the best chance of arriving home in under the time without penalty!