How to use minute markers
Minute markers are a great tool for event riders to ride to time at a smooth, safe pace on cross country. They help riders pace themselves and know if they are up or down on the clock at each minute on course. They are equally helpful for the rider who goes too fast and needs to slow down or alternatively who is frustrated with picking up time penalties at every competition! We've put together our top tips for how to use minute markers.
How to calculate minute markers
Calculate your minute markers easily and accurately with CrossCountry Pro. Events using the app publish their maps in the week of the event. Simply search for your course and you will see your minute markers on the map. Check the optimum time is entered and correct.
If the event you’re competing at has not published their maps then you can record your course yourself with the CrossCountry app. Hit record as you begin walking the course and the app will map the course with GPS and automatically calculate your minute markers. It will beep when you reach a minute marker. Pause recording if you want to walk different lines
Setting your watch. Count up or count down mode?
Wearing a stopwatch on cross country allows you to check if you are riding at the optimum pace and see how much you are up or down on the clock at each minute. You can set your watch to count up or count down mode. In CrossCountry app you can choose between count up and count down minute markers. Here’s how.
Deciding between count up or count down comes down to personal preference. We’ll weigh up the pros and cons of each. Optimum Time watches are the most commonly used watches in Eventing so we will reference the specific features of the ‘Series 3 Limited Edition’ in this article.
- Count up minute markers are traditionally used by most riders so if you are walking the course with a friend or coach and strategising about minute markers then they are most likely to also use count up minute markers
- You can press start at 10 seconds to go, so you don’t need to fiddle with your watch when the starter says go. To do this, set your watch to Count Down mode with 10 seconds on the clock and it will automatically switch to count up mode when it reaches 0. If your horse gets nervous and taking your hands off the reins at 10 seconds to go causes an issue then you could set your watch with a minute to go and press start when the rider before you sets off
- You can program in the Optimum Time and it will give you warning beeps in the final 30 seconds and at 15 seconds. (See diagram below) If you find beeps in the last 30 and 15 seconds stressful or distracting then don't program in the optimum time
- You need to memorise the optimum time and make a mental calculation for how much time is left
- You know exactly how much time is left on the clock
- You get a final 30 second warning and then it beeps in the final 15 seconds
- You can press start with 10 seconds to go by adding 10 seconds to the optimum time
- When the optimum time runs out the watch starts counting up so you can easily see how many seconds you have gone over
- You may be using different minute markers to your friends/coach who are more likely to use count up minute markers
- If you are recording the course yourself on CrossCountry app, the minute markers will be different to the ones that are initially recorded (they are automatically count up minute markers)
How to remember your minute markers
Now that you have your minute markers.. how do you remember them?
One piece of advice from 5* eventer Craig Barrett is to only pick a couple of minute markers to remember, particularly at the lower levels. “While the minute markers are useful, I strongly believe it’s important not to be looking at your watch at each minute marker at the lower levels. Just pick a couple of minute markers and leave it at that.”
During your course walk, turn on the ‘minute marker reminders’ in CrossCountry app and the app will beep when you walk within a few metres of a minute marker. This will remind you where they are without you needing to look at your phone.
Tap the location button to hear minute marker reminders
Have a practice if you can. Use training days to practice using the watch and the app so you are confident when you get to a competition.
Find a quiet spot before your round and visualise riding the course. Go through each jump in your mind and think about the line, speed and your riding position. Also visualise when you are going to check your watch and what time it should have on it. If you get stuck remembering a fence, simply open CrossCountry app and look at the photo of the fence. This will trigger your memory into what to do as you come into the fence, at the fence and as you leave the fence. Can’t remember where your 3rd minute marker is? Double check the map.
Using minute markers on course
Try to pick minute markers to remember that are not right before a fence, as that is not a good time to be checking your watch. Ideally pick a minute marker that is just after a fence and before a gallop. Or, take note of the time at a fence and check your watch just after that fence. Some riders just like to check when they are half way round. You can work out the half way point by looking at the Time at fence.
Not all minute markers are equal. Look at the map on CrossCountry app to see which minutes will be “fast” (less fences, long gallops) and which will be “slow” with greater intensity of jumps, twists, turns, up or down hill. This will give you an idea of which minutes you can make up time in, and which ones you might get a bit behind.
5* eventer Craig Barrett says “It’s important to only react to the minute markers if you are having a good round. If things aren’t going so well concentrate on getting back to that plan you have made, thinking about the line, the speed, the rhythm and your position rather than worrying about your time.”
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