First, while it's fresh on my mind I'd like to go over some highlights from the round table discussions with some of the clinicians. The clinicians were Leslie Law, Sharon White, and Lauren Lambert.
I asked a question about level creep, as I've seen a ton of discussion about it online in various forums. Level creep is where course designers are trying to make courses more interesting, or trying to accommodate people looking to move up by adding smaller versions of more advanced questions. Drops into water, baby coffins, corners, etc. I was pretty surprised that none of the clinicians had ever heard of the term. My theory is that most of them deal with riders going above Novice and their horse/rider combinations are so experienced schooling before they compete that it isn't even noticed.
They all thought that riders should be prepared enough before their level that new questions shouldn't be an issue. An example would be finding a drop into water at Novice (a recent hot topic on the COTH bulletin boards) While the rules seemed clear at first that this was not allowed, and actually pretty uncommon, a few course designers believe it is legal and will put in a small drop at Novice level.
For the clincians, if you have not schooled a drop into the water you have probably schooled a water entrance and a drop separately so it should be no big deal to add them together. You shouldn't be going Novice any way having a horse that doesn't do those two elements apart. If you anticipate having an issue you should school through the water first to get the feet wet then drop in.
If you do have a stop at the water, don't represent to the drop! You already have 20 penalties and are out of the running anyway, so take the time faults, school through the water, and then represent to the drop. It's worse to represent again and get eliminated and teach your horse he gets to walk off the course.
On a side note, some of the clinicians were a bit fuzzy on this, one felt you you would get in trouble for schooling as it was unsportsmanlike but would do it anyway for the horse, the other knew that it was allowed as long as you didn't go through your flags, and the other put so much work into training before hand they had never considered it.
All three felt that it is difficult as a course designer to decide between giving a lower level rider a fun ride out, and prepping a rider planning on moving their horse up. They all suggested knowing your course, and researching ahead of time to make sure there were no surprises.
Another interesting discussion was about air vests. Air vests have become popular options, and many upper level riders are sponsored by vet companies or chose to wear vests. I've seen quite a bit of discussions of the research behind them as all research is done by the company and is kept private and not done by an independent body. The riders were all ambivalent about the vests. They felt that the vests probably kept your safer but maybe not, and that the vests restricted movement after they went off or if they went off on accident. Leslie Law said he didn't wear an air vest, and believed it created a false sense of safety with a rider more likely to ride a horse into the ground then attempt to roll free. He said he would rather step off a horse and jump free if he felt it was going to rotate and eliminate himself then ride it to the ground and hope that it got its feet back and he could continue on.
Other topics were feed (personal preference), fitness (not really a big deal until you hit Training and Prelim), gadgets (either the more the better or none at all), and nosebands.
The riders believed in schooling without or with a loose noseband at home as many issues were training issues, then using whatever the heck worked in competition.
That's it! Stay tuned for more tommorow!