Some of you have asked what this CCI* competition is that Kyle competed in last weekend. The CCI stands for Course Complete International and it is run by FEI rules, the international governing organization of equestrian sports. The one star is run at the preliminary level although the show jumping is bigger, up to 3'9". You will hear them talk about the
traditional/with steeplechase or the without steeplechase format. The traditional format cross country day is a 4 phase competition that actually has been referred to as speed and endurance day.
Phases A & C are called roads and tracks. Phase A is designed to warm your horse for phase B which is steeplechase and phase C which immediately follows B is designed to allow the horse to recover before the rigors of phase D the cross country. Between phase C & D there is a 10 minute vet box where the veterinarians check the horses' vital statistics and check for
soundness when they first come in the box and before they are allowed to start cross country. To give you a little better idea of all that is involved here are the speeds and distances.
A: 3,520 meters this is 2.2 miles or more than twice the length of a Beginner Novice cross country course. The speed is 220 mpm which is a trot, followed by a brief canter to get ready for steeplechase, and then some walk thrown in. After completing phase A there is 1 minute to check equipment before starting phase B.
Optimum time on A is 16 minutes
B: Steeplechase is 1,920 meters or 1.2 miles run at 640 mpm. Basically it is as long as a Novice cross country course run at nearly twice the speed of a Beginner Novice cross country course. The course this weekend was a figure eight course with 4 jumps on it, but you jumped fences 1 & 2 twice for a total of 6 brush jumps that measure 4'7" in height with NO warm up fences!! Because the course is open and the fences are big and sloping, it actually is fairly easy to make the time. You want to finish as close to the optimum time as possible (without going over) so that you don't waste any of your horse's energy while not accruing any penalties.
Optimum time on B is 3 minutes.
C: The second roads and tracks starts immediately as you go through the finish flags of B. This is a longer distance but slower time: 4000 meters, 2 1/2 miles, at 160 mpm. Where as phase A was between 4 - 4 1/2 minutes/kilometer, phase C is 6 minutes per kilometer. Near the finish of steeplechase there is an assistance area where you can give the rider a drink, give the horse a quick splash of water if needed and CHECK shoes.
There is a farrier there to quickly replace any lost shoes (you bring extras) if necessary. If the weather is hot they will also add a 5 - 10 minute box near the beginning of phase C to work on cooling the horses. Due to cool temps, that wasn't necessary last weekend. The plan is to walk the first kilometer or so which will take longer than 6 minutes but once you pick up the trot you easily make up the time because horses easily trot at a pace 4 minutes / kilometer.
So at 6 minutes/kilometer, that would get you into the vet box 1 minute early which will allow you an extra minute in the vet box. You don't want to get in earlier than that because you would be going too fast and wasting your horse and, especially on a cool day, if you get into the vet box too early the horse may cool down too much and you'll have to warm the horse up before they start XC. Again, that would be a waste of your horse.
Optimum time is 25 minutes.
10 minute box: The vet watches you trot through the finish flags to make sure the horse is sound. The rider gets off and the vet techs immediately record the vital statistics TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration). Because it was a cool day, and Jethro came into the vet box with good stats, we simply loosened his girth, put a halter on over his bridle and covered him with a honeycomb cooler. Of course, we checked the shoes again. We did splash off his neck and chest but it really wasn't necessary. There were 3 of us in the vet box and while Jane walked Jethro. Kyle and I chatted about how the course was riding and how Jethro was feeling.
After approximately 5 minutes in the box they were ready to watch Jethro jog again. This being Jethro's first CCI, he didn't know that he still had cross country to come. So as I jogged him, he was very mellow. When I jogged him back he caught site of someone finishing XC and he perked right up. By now it was 3 minutes to go so we tightened the girth & I gave Kyle a leg up because he was getting antsy standing around with nothing to do.
One final thing to do before he went over to the start box: "grease". The horses are greased down from the forearm & the stifle to the fetlock. You hope you don't need it, but the theory is that if you hit a fence, the grease will help the horse slide over and help to avoid a serious injury or fall.
Phase D - Cross Country - the cross country at a CCI, especially one that is a championship like this one was, is bigger, longer and more technical than the average horse trials course. The course was 3925 meters which is 2.45 miles and 3/4 to 1 mile longer than the average horse trials course. The speed is 520 mpm and the optimum time was 7 min and 31 sec. When Jethro saw the start box he seemed to think WOW, we get to jump more.
The normal horse trials course is 5 - 5 1/2 minutes.
After D box: after completing D the horse is again checked for soundness and checking the vital statistics. The horses definitely came in here hot, sweaty, and blowing. It definitely required a lot of washing, scraping and repeating the process. After about 10 minutes the vets check you again and if they feel the horse is cooling off well enough you are the released to go back to the barn. If not you continue to work on cooling the horse until the vets are happy that the horse is ok.
So when you add it all together Kyle and Jethro logged 8.35 miles. They started phase A at 9:32 and finished cross country at about 10:34! I hope this gives you a little better understanding of what a CCI full format competition is. As we all say, "this aint no dressage show"! Although a better dressage score definitely would have helped :)
The full format CCI is educational for both horse and rider. If the rider has done their homework especially with the conditioning they have a great experience. The steeplechase gets both the horse and rider thinking "forward" they come out of the D box with increased confidence and in Jethro's case, much more rideable.
The full format is no longer run above the one star level, but I think it is absolutely an essential part of the horses' and riders' education, not to mention it is a real rush! For those who don't see themselves ever being at the one star level, they now run full format competitions at the Training level.
If you're interested in seeing pictures go to www.xpressfoto.com and click on Hagyard CCI & Team challenge. Kyle's number was 42.