Last year David Taylor, of Keymar, Maryland, realized he wanted to be more than just a competitive eventer. He wanted to give back to the sport but at the time he wasn’t sure how. It wasn't until he read an article on the United States Eventing Association (USEA) website about becoming a cross-country course designer that it finally clicked.
“Cross-country course design has always been intriguing to me, trying to understand why questions are being asked,” said Taylor, an Intermediate level eventer. “I think all riders need to understand this phase better and try to learn why jumps are where they are and why a course takes the shape that it does. This intrigued me beyond anything and was something I really wanted to look more into.”
Taylor signed up for the USEA’s B & C Jumping/Course Design Training Program last February and is now certified to design cross-country courses up to Training level. After the training session, he began apprenticing with whomever he could to further his education. Virginia Horse Trials (VHT) organizer Andy Bowles noticed Taylor’s diligence and invited to him to be the newest participant of VHT’s Course Designer Mentor Program.
“David is eager to gain as much knowledge as possible and is willing to put himself out there and work for it. He has a lot of drive and a lot of passion which makes him a good fit for our program,” Bowles said.
Bowles introduced the Course Designer Mentor Program in 2015 to encourage the development of the sport and provide a valuable educational opportunity for someone pursuing a career in cross-country course design.
“Part of our role as event organizers is to support bringing in new designers and help train them,” Bowles said. “It is an important process to help young designers learn from senior designers. By doing that we develop the pool of designers in this country.”
As the newest member of the VHT design team, Taylor was given the responsibility of designing the Beginner Novice and Novice courses for the October horse trials with guidance from course designer John Michael Durr. He also shadowed Bowles, Durr, and FEI course designer Captain Mark Phillips as they set the one-star and two-star courses.
“David is showing real potential as a designer. He has a good eye and is eager to learn. At Virginia he was very studious and an asset to the team,” Durr said.
Taylor’s philosophy while designing his courses for VHT was to provide a fun and safe test for all horses and riders at the level whether they were competing in their first recognized event or getting ready to move up.
“My goal was to design something that I can get everyone safely around but challenging enough that they would enjoy it. Show them something they may not have seen but don’t ask them a question they don’t know how to answer. It’s supposed to be educational for them. At the lower levels that’s really what it’s about,” Taylor said.
The experience of designing and setting his first proper courses and participating in the Mentor Program has been no less than “intense” and Taylor said he gained a tremendous amount of respect for course designers and the work they do.
Taylor is working towards earning his USEF “r” Eventing Course Designer license which would certify him to design through Preliminary. He will meet several of the requirements through the VHT Mentor Program and looks forward to continuing his education.
“I cannot adequately express my sincere appreciation to Andy for becoming the cornerstone of my course designing career,” Taylor said. “Additionally many thanks to John Michael for sharing his experience with me and his guidance in proper design, and to Captain Mark Phillips for the valuable time spent with a course design greenhorn.”